Getting on with nation-building
The hope in all fervent hearts in this country is that a nation-building process would be pursued in a spirit of earnestness from now on. Hopefully, the mesmerically heady celebrations among some which greeted the end of the war would now be brought to an end in view of the need to forge ahead with the task of making Sri Lanka whole and prosperous. The crushing of the LTTE terror machine, understandably, brought relief to most Sri Lankans but now the ‘season’ for constructive nation-building has arrived and we hope Sri Lankans would work as one to bring collective unity to their motherland.
First, we need to realize that nation-building does not only refer to a process of physically re-building this country. Nation-building certainly involves repairing, reconstructing and resuscitating damaged physical and material resources but it also means, very significantly, the rebuilding and rehabilitation of lives. It also means bringing the communities of the land together and giving everyone the sense that they are at home in Sri Lanka and that they enjoy equal rights. In other words, nation-building is all about building a united and contented citizenry. The task goes well beyond repairing, reconstructing and expanding physical infrastructure; very important though these tasks may be.
These deeper dimensions in nation-building need to be borne in mind because of the prevailing misconceptions on what needs to be done next in Sri Lanka. We as a people are notorious for our politicking and currently this country seems to be suffering from an excess of this debilitating malaise. Clearly, all could not be considered to be well among us because besides our decades-long problems of poverty and underdevelopment, we are also up against the gigantic challenge of bringing normalcy into the lives of tens of thousands of people who have been displaced by war. The IDPs need to be resettled in their former habitats and provided the means of leading a normal life, and there is no denying that this challenge must be met satisfactorily. The worst thing that could happen to this country now is for some misguided politicians and public persons to engage in divisive politics and thereby take this country on a course that would revive old enmities, reopen healing wounds and stoke fresh disaffections and divisions.
All this has a marked bearing on nation-building and peace in Sri Lanka. Clearly, the state cannot consider its task to be complete until the needs of all our communities are met and finding a durable solution to our conflict which would satisfy the just aspirations and ideals of all, is a foremost priority. Such a solution is central to nation-building because we may not have peace, contentment and unity until this goal is reached. And this goal is yet to be even visualized by some political parties in Sri Lanka which are linked to the government.
Fortunately, the government seems to think differently. Recently a minister clarified over a TV channel that although the National Freedom Front considered the APRC a ‘defunct’ body, the government did not think so and remained committed to a political solution.
This is heartening news because it is difficult to see the divisions in Sri Lanka healing completely until the political aspirations of all are met. It is only to the extent to which one’s essential needs are met by the state that he or she would consider himself or herself part of Sri Lanka and look upon the latter as his or her motherland. The logic here is simple and could be grasped without a splitting of hairs.
Fortunately, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a seasoned politician, has a sound grasp of these realities and apparently has a clear perception of what needs to be done. He has not only spoken continuously of the need for the communities of this country to forge ahead as one but has underlined the need for a political solution. However, he would need to accelerate the APRC process which seems to be lumbering on without having any substantial positive outcomes.
It should be also clear to the government that a considerable amount of material assistance is needed to fend for the huge number of persons who have been uprooted by war. True, our sovereignty needs to be jealously protected but this country cannot be ‘an island’. Nor could we court international isolation through a policy of mindlessly confronting organizations, such as the UN, which cannot be simply wished out of existence.
We need the international material and financial assistance to fend for our needy, who, unfortunately, increased after the war and we have no choice but to constructively engage sections of the world community to obtain the necessary relief. Fortunately, the government has a better understanding of these vexed issues than some of its supporters who are under compulsion to tamely placate their constituencies.
So far so good, we may say. The state has done well to assure the UN that it would forge ahead with resolving the issues of ‘the post-conflict’ phase. We urge the state go steadily ahead with this process because the state’s burdens would only multiply in the event of the state getting into a condition of deadlock in its relations with sections of the world community. This situation, the people of this country cannot afford to be in.
We deem it our duty to also mention that a constructive engagement with the relevant organizations, such as the UN, is not tantamount to compromising our sovereignty, as some local sections are tending to believe. A constructive dialogue between two parties essentially brings about mutual understanding and both sides ultimately gain by it.
Why then should such a situation raise unfounded fears among some? We believe that this is basically a time of test for the government and its diplomats based abroad, who are charged with safeguarding the state’s vital interests. They need to equip themselves with the finest diplomatic skills to take Sri Lanka on a constructive path and we only hope they would concentrate on fine-honing their skills, for, deft diplomacy has brought impressive results for Sri Lanka in the past.