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It was yet another period of dark days in the history of Jamaica, where gobbled and devoured political parties along with other interest groups were instigating and fueling brutal civil war. The people in the country had no escape but to pray for their last moments of life to be lived in peace. Both political parties were using gangsters to spread their violence throughout the country. Similar situation erupted in Guatemala and many other countries in Latin America, in many contrivances attempting to destabilize the countries towards securing hegemony.

There were two prisoners who happened to represent the rival gangs but sharing the same cell, struggling to find a solution to the brutality. Consequently, they thought music would heal the wounds, and bring harmony. None better than, Bob Marley, the legendary, who was then exiled in London, could help in this, they thought. It was the beginning of what later became a historic and outstanding “One love Peace Concert”, held in April 1978 at the national stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

Both political party leaders, Michael Manley (PNP) and Edward Seaga (JLP), were invited to the stage by Marley to hold their hands together. The path-breaking scene delighted many around the world. The wave of the moment had reached the deepest of the deep in human life and urged for true peace. After he had infused his feelings into the words, “none but ourselves can free our minds.” Marley left us with gigantic collection of records of healing through music and open discourse.

Is there any possibility for our countrymen and women to organize such a concert? Can it strengthen the bridge of peace? Will our university students take a lead in reconciliation discourse to re-design the student- movements? Will those true assets of this country work towards the erasing of impulse of disunity? Will all student leaders get together to take the pathway of performance for solidarity?

The discourse after the affray at the University of Jaffna is alarming and threatening the future of this country. The danger in this kind of situation is that it can easily diffuse among others if there is inadequacy in action by the officials and the people in general. The Eastern University is one of those where such elements can easily wreck the fragile peace.

Hence, it is time to re-engineer the student movements before they are high- jacked by political parties. The strategical political ethos played by the Tamil National Alliance is indicating that they are seizing this opportunity towards political advantage. This was very similar to what their predecessors did by moments before the birth of Tamil New Tigers and other armed movements in the area.

Spoiling the student mind is the fundamental requirement to plant the seeds of extremism. This is what, we have been experiencing at least since the 1970s in this country.

Just seven years after the end of conflict, what we are observing about our politicians is similar to their predecessors’ actions and attitudes. Both, Sinhala and Tamil political parties rushed to comment on the situation at the university without even knowing the exact details of the event nor more importantly the root cause.

The science of it is very simple here. Sri Lanka finished the ground battle seven years ago. That meant we have a generation which is just seven years old, who have not experienced the war. The harvest of the long term plan of re-engineering the nation will be theirs if we as Sri Lankans work together.

Unfortunately, Mr Gajendrakumar and Mr Premachandran, both hailing from Jaffna, have been describing the situation in the University by bringing up the cultural issues into the fore. Therefore, they argued that North and East, have their own culture which must be respected and there is no need in adding the Sinhala cultural values. The question here is not what they are attempting to establish through this vicious argument, but what induces them to think so, and how it can be negatively affect our students.

Fortunately, most of the university academics think and talk rationally and they don’t want the bloody conflict to return. It is learned, that one of professors of Tamil origin was insisting to fellow colleagues to consider the demand of the Sinhala students to have the Kandyan Dance. None of the politicians were highlighted such measures to bring about commonness but are rather indulging in stoking the flames of extremism.

What we are witnessing is extremism disguised as “nationalism”. It has further evolved as Anti-Tamil Nationalism or Anti-Sinhala Nationalism. None of them will untangle the convolution, but this has further distorted the complexity. Later some parts of this has been decorated as “cultural nationalism”.

In their recent book, On Nationalism, Romila Thapar, A. G. Noorani and Sadanand Menon, comparative historians and distinguished thinkers, have grasped the nationalism concept in the context of Bharat which can be a useful account to understand the rhetoric of nationalism in Sri Lanka. Like in many other countries, in Sri Lanka, religion has played significant role in constructing and de-constructing the perception of politics.

Our yesteryear discourse on “nationalism” is based on political vulgarism which has filled us with distorted deceptive opinions on the events rather than infuse the true principles of nationalism. It has been either systematically or incautiously erasing the core notions of the original concept and replacing it with what late Elie Wiesel called, the ‘perils of indifference’. It has been deeply divisive. It has led our countrymen to kill each other in the name of “liberation”.

It is time to take out the mask, in which the students can play a remarkable role. Public education system is the key to achieving this shedding of lies and infusing true values.

Be united! Take responsibility for this land and make sure that the safety of each citizen is protected! Demand for individual freedom collectively! Develop the discourse that can win the hearts and minds of all, because we are a deeply wounded nation. Find a way to eradicate the seeds of doubt and mistrust. Then all of us would definitely find the way to change the corrupted system which screwed and cynically manipulated the power of the powerless.

Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at ilangamuwa@gmail.com

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5 Comments

  1. Sri Lanka has many ethnic communities with prodimanance of budhism. The Buddhists tenets are, unfortunately, not followed by the government as well as fanatics. The Tamils and Muslims live in perpetual fear of the natives. The civil society should pressurise the government in following the basics of humanity proposed in budha thought.

  2. Patriotic Sri Lankan says:

    To: Sheshu Babu

    It is the LTTE terrorists who massacred over 47,000 (mainly 35,000 Sri Lankan Forces, Police Force and Civil Defence Force members) during over 26 years of war waged by the LTTE, when taking into consideration the total who perished in the war on all sides were 84,000 ( of which around 35,000 were LTTE terrorists themselves). Therefore the natives or the Sinhala Buddhists were living in perpetual fear of the LTTE terrorists along with all the other minorities too like the Muslims, Malays, Burghers etc. and even Tamils too since the LTTE terrorists used to attack villages and massacre especially Sinhala villagers and in some cases hacking them to death using axes. Muslim villagers were massacred too in this way. Claymore mine attacks, IED device blasts and massive bomb attacks were used too to massacred Sinhala civilians as well as others such as Muslims as well as Tamils too. Even 1,200 Indian Peace Keeping Force members were killed by the LTTE. Over 2,000 Tamil armed group members who were aligned with the Sri Lankan Government against the LTTE was killed by the LTTE too. My estimate is that over 3,000 Tamil civilians too were killed by the LTTE

    Over 65,000 Sinhala and Over 75,000 Muslims were ethnically cleansed from the North in the 1980s and the 1990s by the LTTE terrorists.

    Sri Lanka is a small country, smaller than the Republic of Ireland. Yet recent arrivals i.e. Tamils are demanding over 28% land area, over 66% of the coastline and over 66% of the vast ocean resources or the EEZ of the island for themselves although they are only 11.2% of the population. The Sinhala Buddhists who have an over 2,600 years Sinhala Buddhist civilization in the island are disregarded and their rights are not talked about or discussed. Everyone in Sri Lanka suffered due to the war and this should not be forgotten. Sinhala Buddhists and the other minorities suffered too as shown above. We are happy this conflict is over and Sri Lanka should be left alone to carry out its own reconciliation and those external forces who supported the LTTE and perpetuated this war should leave Sri Lanka alone to get on with living in peace and harmony and develop at long last.

    • Sheshu Babu last para: We are happy this conflict is over and Sri Lanka should be left alone to carry out its own reconciliation ……………….

      Sheshu Babu attributes the conflict to LTTE. From day 1 of independence in 1948, politicians created and used a language divide. Depriving Tamils of their fundamental rights was taken for grants. In 1983 LTTE came into being because of the obdurate refusal by successive governments to address the grievances of Tamils. The civil war ended in May 2009 and up to now there is no serious effort to resolve the 67 year old issues. How on earth can Sheshu say that Sri Lanka must be left alone to carry out reconciliation?

      • Patriotic Sri Lankan says:

        Sir, you have been lying from day one. Prior to the conflict commencing, all socio-economic indicators showed that the Sri Lankan Tamils were the most well off group in the entire island, just above the Sinhalese even. The Tamil language was an official language of the state from 1956 and from 1987 onwards a national language alongside Sinhala. The truth is you Sri Lankan Tamils do not have any more grievances than anyone else.

        However, please remember that there was and is a Sinhala Buddhist Civilization in the island from at least 2600 years ago and there are many, many, many archaeological sites and historical artefacts to prove the case all over the island. Therefore please remember that the native Sinhala have fundamental rights to live in this entire island in peace (both due to our historical right to do so and due to we being the majority of people living in the island) without being hacked to death, bombed, massacred or ethnically cleansed, which the LTTE terrorists were very good at carrying out at very regular intervals. Also please remember there are other minorities such as the muslims, malays, burghers, veddhas and Indian Tamils and others too who have a right to call this island their home and live in peace, harmony and develop peacefully.

        If you cannot live and let live in peace with all the other people in the island I think you have psychological problem for which I have no genuine answer to give you.

  3. Your dare spirit of making Tamil life ashtray will cost a lot.