Even though the armed conflict in Sri Lanka between the LTTE and the Government officially ended in May 2009, remnants of that war still clouds the island’s present. Signs of subtle yet intense militarisation inside the country as well as mounting international concern regarding human rights violations committed during the period of war testify to this. What are the challenges currently facing the country? What are the available courses of action to prevent a relapse into conflict a few years down the line?
There have been a number of views on this, expressed by different individuals. Professor Rohan Gunaratna’s is certainly a much-heard voice – locally and internationally - on the Sri Lankan conflict and the LTTE as a terrorist group. He is currently the Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technology University, Singapore.
As he does as the keynote speaker of the recent seminar on 'Defeating Terrorism: Sri Lankan Experience', hosted by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence, Professor Gunaratna identifies three challenges for today’s Sri Lanka in the video below:
- to develop a Tamil leadership in the North and the East;
- to improve state reputation suffering as a result of LTTE propaganda;
- to promote reconciliation and relationship building among all the groups in the country.
Professor Gunaratna flags two positive turnings after May 2009:
- the rising economy;
- the booming tourist industry.
The former President Chandrika Kumaratunga emphasises the significance of promoting inclusive practices that respect the diversity of each different group at the recently held Justice Palakidnar memorial oration. She observes that though the state has won the war, "it has not even begun to win the battle for peace." For peace, a democratic and pluralist state is needed. And peace is the only way to honour the cost of blood and tears we have paid as a country – South as well as the North - for this end to war.
As a state, it is important to care about our international image: as people who have suffered more than enough from nearly a thirty-year long conflict, it is even more important to mainstream reconciliation and initiate concrete socio-political reparations that are acceptable – and indeed welcomed – by the communities at the ground level. It is necessary to go beyond talking about cohesion and a united Sri Lankan identity merely for political propaganda, and take concrete steps towards promoting a truly pluralist state. As both Professor Gunaratna and Ms. Kumaratunga notes, this is indeed a milestone for Sri Lanka. However, it still remains to be seen whether the current government will indeed choose to walk towards peace.