10th anniversary of the end of the three decade long war that pitted the Sri
Lankan state against the LTTE passed by uneventfully and without mass mobilization
of people to mark the day. The period of May 18 and 19 in which the final
battles of the war were fought has been one of contestation within the
country. There are those who would celebrate the war victory and those
who would mourn the heavy human toll that occurred at the war's end.
Since the change of government in 2015 the middle path of marking the day as
one of remembrance was adopted in which both aspects were taken into account.
the past two years, however, with relations within the government souring
between the President and Prime Minister and their associated political
parties, the trend was to give more emphasis to celebrate the war
victory. If the war victory had been over a foreign country then a
celebration would be appropriate. But Sri Lanka's was a civil war,
an internal one within the country, in which those who fought and died lived in
the same geographical space. There has always been a political motivation
celebrate the war victory. This is to highlight the achievements of
the political leaders who were in power at the time the war was
is no question that to the vast majority of Sri Lankans the end of the war was
the best thing that happened despite the heavy price extracted from a minority
of people. This year at the 10th anniversary, this triumphalist tendency
would have gained in strength for the reason that decisive presidential
elections are around the corner. Now as the time for elections comes,
those in the forefront of saying that the country is in danger of being divided
through constitutional reform of all things, and their services are needed
again are on the ascendant. The recent Easter Sunday bombings and the
sense of uncertainty that grips the country, has given a boost to this sentiment.
But if this focuses only on security issues and not on political reform it will
be counterproductive to the interests of national unity and reconciliation.
to the Easter Sunday bombings the government was dealing with the problems of
political grievances and human rights violations that came from the period of
the three decade long war. But now it has to contend with a problem that
is unfolding and its ability to engage in political reform is likely to be
limited. The most important challenge is to ensure that in dealing with
the present problem of Muslim extremist violence that the larger Muslim
population is not alienated. The actions of the anti-Muslim rioters who
killed one person and burnt down 500 or more properties could drive disaffected
members of the Muslim community to the extremist camp. This is also what
happened in the post-July 1983 period when there were large scale anti Tamil
riots in many parts of the country, including the capital city of Colombo.
Easter Sunday bombings will make the challenge of addressing post-war
reconciliation issues more difficult. In the aftermath of the bombings the
priority is to ensure that further attacks do not take place. There is now
heightened prejudice and uncertainty is all sections of the population and in
all parts of the country. There is a build-up of anti-Muslim sentiment
due to the bombings and to political rivalries in the face of upcoming
presidential elections at the end of the year. Ethnic and religious polarization
is likely to escalate in this context and efforts to engage in political reform
that promote ethnic, religious and minority rights will become more difficult
is a widespread belief fed by mostly by the electronic and social media that
the Easter Sunday bombers are not a fringe group of Muslim extremists but have
significant support from the larger Muslim community. There is
misinformation that large stocks of swords have been recovered from several
mosques. But in reality there were swords found in only two mosques as
stated by President's Counsel Ali Sabry speaking to the media along with other
prominent Muslim leaders including former minister Mrs Ferial
Ashraff. The suicide bombers themselves came from only three
families. This suggests that those who planned the bombings and carried
them out were few in number and the whole of the Muslim community cannot be
blamed for the acts of a few.
No-Confidence Motion in parliament against Minister Rishard Bathiuddin is
another example a partisan political action. The selective use of the
No-Confidence Motion against some Muslim politicians who side with the
government as against other Muslim politicians who might be friends of the
opposition only serves to create further polarization and mistrust amongst the
communities. The tendency is for most people to look at one-sided
accusations and to believe them wholesale. It is unjust to accuse people
about charges without having sufficient evidence to back them.
these uncertainties parents countrywide are still weighing the wisdom of
sending their children to school for fear of attack by suicide bombers.
There is a need for rational thinking. The army commander has epitomized
this good sense. He has asked the president to caution the media not to
be alarmist and given specific examples where they exaggerated incidents and
gave them a twist. This is a time of introspection for all Sri Lankans
and especially for the political leaders on both sides of the divide, who
failed to see the signs of things to come, and for whom ethnic and religious
identity, money and votes mater more than protecting the national interest and
the human rights of all the people.
who organized the anti-Muslim riots were especially oblivious of the larger
national interest and humanitarian considerations. People living in the
vicinity of the riots have confirmed that the outsiders led the attack. The
victims have also stated that some of the mob attacks were reported after
curfew was imposed. The police have arrested many suspects. The truth
about the organization of the riots can be ascertained from them.
For Sri Lanka's future stability to be ensured there is a need to ensure
that the culprits and masterminds behind the recent riots be apprehended,
exposed and held to account swiftly by applying the Rule of Law without any
political or other influence.