Remembrance Day for Victory Day deflects from triumph to rapprochement


Gnana Moonesighe

"It is the gentle law of men
To change water into light
Dreams into reality
Enemies into brothers"
Paul Eluard

The name change from Victory Day to Remembrance Day to commemorate the same event reflects a change in approach to May 19, 2009 - to the end of the three decade war. Remembrance Day evokes a sense of pathos and perhaps a desire to reflect even as Emperor Asoka did at Kalinga. His victory gave him no joy; he could only see the disarray on the battlefield; the dead and the mangled. It made him reflect; it changed him and made him look up to the Buddha’s teachings for solace. It gave this country Buddhism through the children of Emperor Asoka who brought the word of the Buddha here.

It seems much more appropriate to call this day and the days before that where young men and women lost their lives in battle Remembrance Day and not Victory Day for rejoicing over victory leaves some as winners and some as losers. In war except in the pyrrhic sense there can be no victors, no losers.

Remembrance Day is held to unite the nation; to be an inspiration for nation building; to place the nation on the path to ascendancy and not to split into tribalism; to mend a splintered nation to come together in a firm bind of a national identity. Most of all Remembrance Day should bring the message of PEACE to the nation, establish a sense of morality which will help all differences to be resolved through dialogue, compromise and accommodation all of which can be moderated through the instrumentality of the Rule of Law.

Remembrance Day is held to pay public obeisance to all those who died in the war and those who had been disabled during the course of the war. It is also an occasion to see that we do not allow conditions to deteriorate to the extent that war becomes inevitable. A re-look at the causes of the conflict that resulted in the war need be undertaken by all sides that engaged in the war. No one party can be expected to make a success of the process. This President has taken great strides in working on the reconciliation process with constructive action. Appreciation without reservation should be the response.

Remembrance Day compels us to be introspective and to ensure that those who died did not die in vain. They who died fighting for the nation and those who died for what they thought was a reasonable cause, all died because a few steps were not taken to compromise, to be more accommodating and or because some took hasty steps thinking they had the moral right to engage the nation in armed confrontation. If reason had prevailed many would have lived, and many would have been spared the trauma of the war, of dislocation, of loss of livelihood, of basic needs for daily living.

It must also not be forgotten that the dead have left in our care their loved ones who no longer have a bread winner, whose children are destitute and need the active involvement of the nation to bridge the gap. Remembrance Day brings all these issues to the forefront and demands attention and resolution.

It was with a sense of great tragedy that one watched the disabled soldiers in their wheel chairs participating in the parade, downed but not out. That spirit we must nurture and keep fired with the care and benefits that we endow on them for a good quality of life.

It would have been an act of appreciation to have given better coverage on TV of the people who came to be a part of the Remembrance Day parade to remember those who died to secure the future for us all. It would have shown the country that people care for the veterans who died; that the sacrifice they made is appreciated; that we are indeed a nation of grateful people. This will inspire the troops in their commitment to their duty.

This President has made the difference. Instead of making it an occasion to create more ethnic tensions and security alarms, he had followed his words with many actions of appeasements. In his Remembrance Day address to the Nation he said that while prominence was given in the past to the development of physical resources there "was no importance given to the process of reconciliation among communities." He said that "the reconciliation process includes investigating the truth, carrying out justice, eliminating the fear and mistrust and building trust among communities and rebuilding physical resources which were devastated by the armed conflict". It is a noble path to tread on.

This Remembrance Day became a day to express our gratitude to the dead and living among the forces, a day of reckoning and contemplation. As the President said,"….. with the experience of the war, we must understand the requirement of priority for the reconciliation process."

Such a line of thinking among the leaders is indeed a good start for peace and an appropriate message on Remembrance Day.

May those who died rest in peace and those left behind be encouraged to remain in peace as well.

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