War or peace: Lets face reality
by Y. Ravindra
The cessation of hostilities between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam enabled me to travel to Jaffna, which one and a half years back I wouldnt have even dreamt of doing. I was able to visit many places; Kandarodai - the place where the stupas are situated, Nagadeepa (Nainathivu), Karainagar and also I was able to see the Jaffna Public Library which was torched by UNP inspired thugs. The irony of the situation is that the UNP after aggravating the conflict by inspiring their goons to torch the library and by initiating and supporting the anti-Tamil riots of 83 are now advocating peace.
Jaffna, the cradle of Tamil nationalism is no more the place it had used to be. It is in ruins. It looks not like a modern city but like an archaeological site, with remnants of destroyed buildings everywhere Even the Palmyrah trees have not been spared, with the top portions being blown off Chavakachcheri, the biggest town after Jaffna and which saw the heaviest of fighting between the Army and the Tigers is the worst affected. Along the A9 and everywhere you go, you would see boards warning about the mines which lay buried. This war had brought destruction, loss of life and also has changed the way the people look at life. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to Jaffna and see for myself the real situation that exists there. I saw how much the people had suffered. What happened to my country, once regarded as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean?
I am neither a historian nor an expert of this conflict, which had claimed around sixty five thousand lives destroying the very foundations of life. Also, I am not an LTTE sympathiser nor am I an UNP supporter. However, having been there and seen the suffering I feel that I have learnt a lot more than those armchair critics who in the comfort of Colombo scream out their lungs in favour of war. Do they give a damn to the sufferings of the masses? Have they seen the destruction this war had caused? Okay, lets have war, but who is going to join the forces and fight?, their brothers? their children? my foot. Ask them how many of their family members have joined the forces to fight for the country. Those who died were the poor boys and girls of both sides of the conflict. The farmers son, the toddy tappers son, the fishermans son, those are the people who got killed not them. Even the Tamils, who could afford have already either left the country for good or live in the comforts in Colombo. So, is it justifiable for us to shout for war in the comfort of our homes, when so many have died. We have so many pro war/anti peace parties e.g. JVP, Sihala Urumaya, NMAT etc. How, have they contributed to the war effort? If they were so keen on continuing the war, why didnthey ask their supporters to join the army when it was facing severe manpower shortages - to defeat the tigers? They shout about the exploits of Prince Sapumal (Sapumal Kumaraya), and try to emulate him not by deeds but by empty rhetoric. They are blind to the fact that Sapumal Kumaraya himself was a Tamil. The only thing they do is arouse communal tensions in peaceful parts of this country by their wanton acts and justify the LTTE claim that Sinhalese are racists, thereby furthering the cause of separatism. Their actions speak volumes of their utter stupidity. Remember how they pulled down the CWC flag hoisted at the CWC headquarters and raised the National Flag. Why pull down the CWC flag here in Colombo? Why not go to the Vanni and pull down all the LTTE flags, cut outs etc., and hoist National Flags? This illustrates their cowardice.
While I was in Jaffna I saw posters of a young girl and a man pasted in every nook and corner. Being unable to understand the language I asked a Tamil person who they are, and he told me that the girl was Malathi, the first female to sacrifice her life and that the man was Thileepan who fasted unto death in search of freedom. And the reason for the posters: they are commemorating them, their Heroes. I was shocked and sad because I remembered Corporal Y. G. Gamini Kularathne. Do you remember him? Some might but a majority would not. To hell with pasting posters and commemorations, but do we remember the day he sacrificed his life to save the Elephant Pass Camp, to even silently say a prayer for him No, we dont. The pain of losing him (and many other such valiant soldiers), would only be felt by their immediate family members, not us. We dont give a damn do we? That was the deciding factor of this war. That was the reason why the Tigers were able to capture in less than one week the areas in Vanni, which took us a period of over one and a half years to capture sacrificing thousands of men (on the whim of a self appointed, Armchair General), it was the reason why they were able to capture Mullaitivu, Killinochchi and also Elephant Pass. And now the tigers - who are outnumbered 10:1 against the army - control a vast area (from Omanthai to Muhamalai and a vast area in the East)? Is it a mind-boggling phenomenon? I dont think so, because the reasons for these reversals are there for all to see. The difference was the way we treated this war.
In the first place, did we really fight for victory? No, we never fought to achieve victory and the politicians and the Generals never really wanted victory anyway. To hell with the damn war, that was our mindset. Musical shows went on till the wee hours of dawn, politicians threw grand parties for hundreds of their cronies, the high ranking officers enjoyed the fruits and spoils of the war and operations were launched not to win the war but to win the political games back in Colombo (a classic example being operation Leap Forward where the government leapt over the issue of the deadline for the abolition of the Executive Presidency as promised by the President in writing). That was the way we fought. Even the minister who wanted this country to be put on a war footing was ridiculed. But they, they fought for a cause. For them it was a war to break free from Sinhala racism and hegemony. I dont want to judge whether their contention was right or wrong or whether the methods they used to achieve their objectives were justifiable. And you may call them by whatever name you like - brainwashed cannibals, fanatics etc.
But, nobody can dispute the fact that they were focused towards their objectives unlike us (we were not focused at all aryway). To them those who died for their ideals are martyrs. They still revere them, even after many moons have passed since their deaths. But we call our dead men who had died because of a senseless war. For us this war was senseless, for them it was not. They regarded it as the fight for their rights.
The bitter truth is that the LTTE controls around one third of Sri Lanka now. It may be illegal but they have their own public transport system. Courts, Police Stations etc. Why the hell do the so-called Patriots claim that the UNP government is trying to divide the country? The country is at present divided (and it happened long before the MOU) and only through peace can we regain our country, and any person with an iota of a brain would agree. If you dont, just get on the road and travel to Jaffna and see for yourself whether I am right or wrong. We have lost the war. Twenty years we fought (without proper direction) sacrificing so many lives. Yes, we won some battles, we had our heroes, but we lost the war. Sad indeed but the TRUTH is that we have lost the war. The best thing for us to do now is to join hands for the sake of peace, because this is the final chance we have to rescue our country from further destruction. Never think that the Yankees or Poms would come to help us if war starts again. Theybe too busy with their own unscrupulous agendas and since our country does not have oil, they wouldnt mind if the country is destroyed or not. It may be hard for some people to forget everything but Sri Lanka has seen enough of bloodshed. the fields of the North and East are soaked with blood, the blood of our brothers and sisters, be they Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims. We just cannot go back to war and sacrifice young lives again. Enough is enough!
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