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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2642

Post-LTTE Sri Lanka will welcome help but resist prescription

By Malinda Seneviratne

With the end of the war and the defeat of terrorism in Sri Lanka, the focus has shifted to the issue of a ‘political solution’. Sure, we get the usual rant from the British press about non-existent war crimes, rants that are given dignity by ill-informed politicians in Britain and elsewhere in the Europe, all of whom seem to have little to say about 'Abu Ghraib', a place that silences into embarrassment the loquacious tongues holier-than-thou brigade of the world. We know they are a little peeved about being brought down to post-empire dimensions and that the hot hair inside their inflated egos was let out and so on. We also know that Britain and the USA are more than fixated with non-existent things, such as weapons of mass destruction and who knows, even Osama bin Laden.

So let’s forget these spoilt brats who simply cannot accept the bitter truth that they are nobodies who became some bodies and are now almost nobodies again in the new world order. Let’s focus on 'political solution'.

Two weeks ago, Sri Lanka was lectured to by the likes of Miliband: 'Declare a ceasefire; let the world’s most ruthless terrorist go free'. Sri Lanka, not being a colony, didn’t bite. Today’s lecture from the self-appointed pundits on everything and then some (when they are not begging the world to give them the right to walk in free and walk out with whatever they like, as they used to do) is an old mantra: ‘Political solution, meaningful devolution of power’. This they do without even having the courtesy to articulate grievance that corresponds to these 'recommendations'.

There is a time and place for everything and the time for talking about 'long-standing grievance' and 'solution' is not now and the place is not Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka there is a more urgent issue: improvement of facilities in welfare camps housing IDPs, reuniting families, clearing of landmines and resettlement.

'Solutions' are for people. 'Solutions' are about problems that are felt, articulated through democratic avenues, listened to and debated. Delivery comes last. The West is famous for doing the bull in a China shop number. The problem is that they leave a lot of garbage around for other people to deal with at the end of the day. The West is fascinated with the 'here' and the 'now'. Not so Asia, not so Sri Lanka.

We have for years had prescriptions shoved down our throats by people who had never said ‘hello’ to us, never understood who we were or even wanted to, and who cared little about the after-effects of the drugs prescribed. This is why this conflict dragged for 30 years. Indeed it would have dragged longer had we swallowed their Save-the-Tiger plan.

Problems are made by people and they are solved by people. We do have a problem. Tamils, whether it is the majority or a minority of that community is not very important, believe that there are citizenship anomalies in Sri Lanka and that the constitution is partly responsible for this.

Years ago, I argued that significant sections of the Tamil polity had been put under house arrest, decapitated or slaughtered by the LTTE and that until such time the Tamil polity is resurrected, no meaningful dialogue is possible. Consequently, I argued, it is meaningless to talk 'solution'.

Today, ironically, the Tamil polity’s resurrection-possibility has been considerably enhanced by the resolute stand taken by the Government of Sri Lanka against the LTTE. Is dialogue now possible? No. Not yet.

We are talking of over 200,000 people living in welfare centres. We are talking about people who cannot yet go back to their villages because landmines have not been cleared. Then there is the question: go back to what? Desolate landscapes? Non-existent livelihoods? Ruins of schools and hospitals?

I want all those who from their comfortable living rooms give 20 second sound-bytes to the media regarding expediting the formulation of a political solution to the conflict (some may argue, logically, that the problem was Prabhakaran and the LTTE and that the two have been castled) to put themselves inside the skin of an IPD and respond to the question: ‘what is your problem?’ I am willing to wager that nine out of ten such people person would say 'lack of toilet paper!'

Face it folks, we are nowhere close to thinking 'political' solution. We have to first make sure that no Sri Lankan citizen is in a transit facility. We have to make sure every child has a decent education, that every child is vaccinated against diseases. We have to make sure that our hospitals are equipped with personnel and facilities to treat the sick. We have to make sure that people have livelihoods, that they recover control over their lives and secure once again a dignified existence.

We recovered from a devastating tsunami and we will recover from a terrible war as well. We proved that we have most of what it takes. Help us if you want, but don’t dictate to us because that will only postpone the eventuality of a sustainable solution to the most burning of our problems. A case in point is the Indo-Lanka Accord. Thrust down our throats, it didn’t help anyone. Except of course the politician. A certain degree of power was devolved to the politician. If 'devolution' seeks 'self-determination' then we have to go to the concept of ‘grama rajya’ (i.e. devolve to the unit of village, not province).

The political process begins with people having lives that can be called lives. Anything that is enforced before that is an insult to our people. It is when all our people have their dignities restored that we can sit and talk about our problems.

And remember folks, those who have the right to decide what our future is going to look like are the men and women who obtain a harvest from the good earth, those who risk lives to bring home the wealth of our seas, those who produce, those whose sweat enriches our sense of who we are. It is certainly not some ill-informed European who cannot get used to fact that he/she no longer calling the shots.

So, if anyone is interested in a political solution for Sri Lanka’s problems, let him/her first understand that there is a difference between helping and in purchasing his/her version of what Sri Lanka ought to look like by dangling Euros. Resolution is at the tail end of a thing called 'Process'. The political process of healing this country begins with attending to the problems faced by IDPs. Their resettlement in their original homes must take place soon, but not before necessary security clearance has been obtained and not before those areas is cleared of landmines. Next comes democratization. Once there are elected representatives there can be dialogue on political issues. And when this happens grievance will have to be framed sans rhetoric and outrageous aspiration and buttressed by historical, geographical and demographic fact. That’s a road map for all you bleeding-heart problem solvers.

It is clear that a sustainable solution to Sri Lanka’s problems will necessarily be homegrown. Everyone who sincerely has Sri Lanka’s interest at heart must recognize this. If you want to get involved, read the process outlined above and figure out how best you can fit the larger scheme of things. You can wreck national reconciliation and the process towards a lasting peace of course, but don’t expect us to say 'thank you'. We are long past thanking people for robbing us. Tomorrow is a day we are not looking forward to. It is going to be an interesting journey. You are welcome to join us, but not to trip us. We will not smile and say 'it's ok'. Not anymore. And this, we say with sincerity and with utmost humility.

- Asian Tribune -

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