- By Dr.Shanthikumar Hettiarachchi
- Sunday, 07 July 2013 00:00
- Originally published on http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/19076-a-study-on-the-art-of-coexisting.html
Post-war reconciliation – Part II
I discussed last week in Part I (30.06.13) about the possible role that two sides of the conflicted parties in a post conflict situation and what path they might adopt towards a sustainable reconciliation process. Evidence shows that groups or countries that have been through conflict indicate areas of unresolved social, political and ethnic rifts. Al-Qaeda’s deposit of hatred towards the West was reciprocally responded with the old rhetoric of Crusades of the high Middle ages to late Middle ages with the incumbent US president’s assertive declaration that the perpetrators represent the ‘the axis of evil’.
The United States and its civil war residual displeasure over federation of States has had a blowback effect with the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma. The Catholic Protestant massacres of the old the Reformation period as if re-inacted in the heightened manifestation in the IRA’s 30-year-old urban war against its ‘oppressor’. Congo’s political turmoil spilling into the Hutu-Tutsi ethnic cleansing, the infamous disruption of lives in the Balkan states (Balkanisation), the shameful apartheid of South Africa, the calcified and the bitter relations of Israel-Palestine. Even though this is a limited list of conflicts around the world and I wonder whether any of them have been fully and definitively resolved or the communities reconciled with one another. Some of them are still ongoing conflicts and peace building efforts towards an honourable resolution are yet to be achieved in some conflict zones. However, the proposed measures adopted have been provisional and working in progress. It is not a situation of ‘you give us reconciliation’ or ‘ we give you reconciliation’ because healing of memories is a long path. This exactly is how Sri Lankan ethnics need to view and form their attitudes towards each other and institutionally function if they are willing to embrace reconciliation as a key option for social cohesion and co existence.
The answer is simple. In Sri Lanka it seems that is no other option. Then a series of questions might be asked? What about self governance? Self rule? Or political independence? There is enough evidence in South Asia itself where such have been experimented and they all remain extremely volatile models of governance and polities. The path of reconciling is easy said than done, there are many preachers and less practitioners from the North to the South.
Coexistence is a result of a social behavoir that is compelled by the natural diversity that a country inherits from its historical exigencies and the current levels of social mobility. Coexistence is a classical mechanism and the best way to cope with diversity in moments of difficult living. Governments and agencies attempt social engineering to deliver their policies, yet people at the ground level act in many different ways politically and socially.
There are two movements right now operating across the country. First, the political parties all over the country act as if they are aware of everything that is happening in the cities, towns and villages. The three-tier system of governance (Central with the Executive and legislature, Provincial with limited powers and the local government) that demands a lot of resources have functioned for a long time with ups and downs (right now the viability of the second tier is being debated). The first and the second and to a lesser degree the third tier are more concerned about what form of governance should be adopted in the country. Hair splitting arguments are proposed by them, “No to 13th”, “No it has to be 13+”, “there is no necessity for 13th as it was imposed by a foreign body”, “no we must go for a 19th amendment” while some others say No to everything above and propose a new constitution where they wish to abrogate the Executive constitution and to restore the supremacy of the National State Assembly (NSA).
The second movement is the ordinary people from all walks of life who are least bothered about who governs what and not quite understand what 13, 13+ or the 19th are going to be. They hardly knew whether any 13th exists, but wish mostly to coexist with other ethnics. They wish a decent life with their families where they can live without fear anymore, and able to move and work in any part of the country. They courageously coexist (very formidable sign of reconciliation), live and work together in metropolitan Colombo where the majority is in fact a minority now. The movement that is concerned about models of governance is yet to listen carefully to the second movement that demands from all of them to change their political behaviour. The process of reconciliation is also very much a need between these two groups, the impatient political parties and the general public who are not listened to. The life of the political parties depends on this association or disassociation and dissatisfaction. The Sri Lankan ethnics are willing to coexist while the decision makers are unwilling to make provision.
This nation in her post-conflict era must take serious decisions before it is too late. It cannot have a repeat telecast of Egypt, cannot have another Syria, where other peoples wars are to be fought in this nation’s backyard. Peoples’ sovereignty is what must be preserved and all reconciliation efforts too must be geared to that paramount core of democracy.
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