Opinion: A country divided



Thisanjali Gangoda

Thisanjali Gangoda

Thisanjali Gangoda is an applied conflict management major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

After 30 years of ethnic warfare, Sri Lanka has accomplished what the entire Western world is attempting to do — eradicate terrorism and end violence. However, the island nation has not been celebrated or acknowledged for this feat and instead has come under intense scrutiny from the international community for human rights violations and a call for independent war crimes investigations. With elements of hypocrisy, anger and distrust in the midst of this controversy, many Sri Lankans feel attacked and unwilling to carry out post-war reconciliation efforts between the ethnic Tamils and Sinhalese people.

?Why should we answer to the U.N. and global leaders when they were not there for the fight? What do we owe to the Western world that brought conflict to our land in the first place??When conversations about the end of the war arise, this is the sentiment held by many a Sri Lankan. Growing up in the United States, a world away from my family in Sri Lanka, I have a vastly different outlook on the war.

At first, I was defiant in acknowledging other perspectives. From the moment I heard that the war in Sri Lanka had “ended”, I felt frustrated and powerless to the plight of the mostly Tamil and Sinhalese civilians trapped in the northern region of the country. For the past 30 years, the international community and I watched as violence had a stronghold in every corner of the country. We watched on as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Sinhalese-dominated government failed to find peaceful common ground. Yet as the war came to an end in May 2009, the international community didn’t hesitate to chide Sri Lanka for its war practices and human rights abuses.

?I think that there is great hope in bringing the nation together, and the moment is right now. But time and again, I have watched as international leaders decide to take matters into their own hands, with little consideration of the input of country nationals.

The international community is quick to judge and hold parties accountable for atrocities and devastation caused by war. This is indeed a vital factor in restoring peace to the nation, but what good does it do when post-war reconciliation and restructuring is facilitated or forced by foreign entities? Does it empower the people of the country or detract from self-determination and the spirit of revolution?

Post-war processes in Sri Lanka are fragile, and there needs to be a time for the country and the people to heal. While there is celebration for the ending war, there must also be internal reflecting and questioning of the direction of the country. Many people in Sri Lanka are eager to move forward and brush over the past while the government wants to hold on to the glory of the war. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is using his power and influence to move the country to a totalitarian regime, crushing the foundations of democracy and civil liberties.

With increasing government limitation and oversight of the work of independent advocates for peace and social justice in Sri Lanka, the conditions of the country have worsened. The government refuses to initiate independent war crimes investigations and have used hostile language against the U.N. and outside “interferers.” The role of the international community has become muddled and unpleasant, as their demands of Sri Lanka only cater to those in power.

I am tired of the Western elites attempting to superimpose their vision of peaceful living on countless nations such as Haiti, Burma, Sri Lanka and now Egypt. International cooperation and support is essential to maintaining diplomatic relationships. However, there are fine lines to be to drawn between international aid and neo-colonialism.