I have never known a world without Sri Lanka tearing itself apart in civil war. I was born in Colombo in 1984 to a Sinhalese family, but I was raised on values that sought nothing but peace between the warring parties.
My father often tells me the story of how he went to the house of his Tamil friend to to collect toys they had to leave behind when they fled (they eventually settled in Canada, and I visited them when I was on exchange in Toronto). My younger brother’s BFF is a Tamil Sri Lankan he met at his Perth kindergarten after we migrated here (we call the two of them Romeo and Juliet). The little girl I sponsor through World Vision is Tamil, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I know that the actions of the Sri Lankan government has never been perfect (I personally believe they were behind the killing of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga earlier this year), but the news that the Tamil Tigers, the terrorist organisation said to have pioneered the tactic of suicide bombing and had for months kept thousands of the people it claims to be fighting for trapped has human shields, have been defeated by the Sri Lankan military is heartening.
However, some of the events surrounding the escalation and (I hope) end of this war leave me more worried for the future.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the end of the war. Given the decades of conflict, this is understandable. There has been so much pain; so much loss. The alleged sectarian violence in Sydney over the weekend is a strong warning that tensions left behind by this decades-old conflict are still hot.
But a lot of the opinions are not helping.
Of particular noteworthiness are the condescending (and hypocritical) opinions from the spokespeople of developed countries who, even a few months ago, acted as if they didn’t know Sri Lanka existed.
The civil war has raged for three decades. The estimates of the casualties are unfathomable to me. But aside from Norway in the early Naughties, most countries have barely batted an eyelid over the (then) ongoing conflict.
Then when things got more newsworthy over the last few months, every next post-colonial hack semed to have something to say.
ABC News reported that British Foreign Minister David Milliband wants greater scrutiny placed on Sri Lanka’s military and its conduct of the war:
“The position of the UK is always that serious and credible reports of war crimes should be investigated,” he said. “Serious and credible allegations have been made against both sides, and they should indeed by investigated.”
And so they should be. But will “serious and credible reports of war crimes” made against the Coalition of the Willing in the War On Terror/Iraq be investigated?
In short: Un-effing-likely.
I’m not saying that this is a Little Red Hen situation — that no one’s bothered to help before, so shut up and put up. But misinformed drivel that merely repeats age-old and debunked propaganda does nothing more than inflame the ignorance and hurt that has kept this conflict burning for longer than I have been alive.
There is a lot to be done from this point onwards to heal the wounds this conflict has caused Sri Lanka. But I know there’s so much partisan hurt among so many (particularly diaspora) that I worry the hate won’t go away as quickly as the end of the war came.
But for now, I suppose, I guess I should be happy the war is over.
And so this is Xmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Xmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight
— John Lennon