Wishing you a peaceful Aluth Avuruddha

Be it the Roman, Christian, Sinhalese or Tamil /Hindu New Year, it is a day for joy, good wishes and hopes. For Sri Lankans, in the past two decades, be it in January 1 or April 13/ 14, they have been occasions mainly for expressing hopes for peace in the coming year.

Today, is not a day for in-depth analyses and deep introspection. The mood right now is to express hopes and good wishes for peace and not let analysts or skeptical journalists be spoilsports.

After long years, this new year, the hopes for peace are strong as never before and let us not raise ‘tragic events of the past’ – as Velupillai Prabakaran said the other day. Paradoxically, Prabakaran, known to be Lanka’s warlord, is considered the harbinger of peace this year and those anxious peace activists waited with bated breath for his declarations on peace on TV last Wednesday.

Since the Ceasefire Agreement was reached on the birthday of the man who preached peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind, there has been a steady rise in the euphoria for realisation of peace. There were candlelight demonstrations, singing and holding of hands on the streets, cycling parades etc. led by the sophisticated elitist young men and women. There was even a cycle parade that went all the way from Colombo to Jaffna.

We are told that many such peace demonstrations will be there in the days ahead. We wonder whether the Avurudhu cycle races, where young men and women of the less sophisticated classes vie for fame and glory, too will be dedicated for peace this year.

Velupillai Prabakaran the warlord appeared on TV as a man of peace. He said he was for peace, subject of course, to certain provisions. Cynics said it was old wine in new bottles. This is not the right time to discuss the pros and cons of such allegations. The mood right now is to give peace a chance. Didn’t he even apologise to the Muslims for having ordered evacuation of the Northern Province in 24 hours? Shouldn’t he have apologised to the Sinhalese too – 25,000 of them too being kicked out with the Muslims? Prabakaran may have had his reasons. Give peace a chance and let us debate it when substantive negotiations begin.

What is the alternative to a negotiated settlement? Isn’t it joyful that there have been no killings since December 25? True, but today is not an occasion for vivisecting and debating politics. It is a day of serene joy to those who are of religious bent and others who are devotees of Bacchus. Let today be a day of peace and joyous cries of ‘Peace’ rent the air.

The road to peace by no means is paved with roses. As the Bible says: ‘Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and a few find it’. In contemporary Sri Lanka, the road to peace is the A9 Highway and we all know how difficult it is to traverse it such as the point at Omanthai. But we should be determined to travel this straight and narrow path undaunted by the obstacles and wild animals that frequent it.

The Norwegians who are our guiding light know how hard it is to journey on the road to peace. Ten years ago they negotiated for peace talks between the two historic enemies – Israelis and Palestinians that culminated in that memorable scene on the lawns of White House with Prime Minister of Israel, Itzak Rabin and Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat shaking hands with President Clinton presiding. Rabin was assassinated and poor Yasser Arafat is today locked up in a room surrounded by Israeli tanks, gunmen and gunships while the Johnny-come-lately, Secretary of State Colin Powell is trying to broker a peace deal. Perhaps, the Norwegians should attempt to broker another peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis. It will do wonders to the confidence of those Sri Lankan cynics who are doubting the peace loving intentions of Prabakaran and the Norwegian prowess as negotiators.

Perhaps the Norwegians should seek advice from the Indians about the LTTE and the Sri Lanka government. Poor Indians, they learnt bitter lessons in Sri Lanka about Third Party negotiators and peace agreements. The Indians having helped the LTTE to become a fighting force, given them all possible assistance, brokered a peace agreement had the Tigers mauling them and finally assassinating Rajiv Gandhi who virtually nurtured Prabakaran. Now, even after 12 years, the LTTE is not leaving the Indians alone. They want to be welcomed back and for their translator Balasingham – a kidney patient who looked to be in the pink of health on TV – to be nursed in India. Such are the travails of peacemakers.

So, on this day as the Koha strikes his melodious notes and wakes us up, let us resolve to hope and work for peace and give peace a chance.

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