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Let us seize the fresh opportunity for a new and better era
Date: 20 May 2009
Scenes of jubilation and euphoria have pervaded the streets of the capital Colombo, and many other parts of the country, as the Sri Lankan President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Mahinda Rajapaksa travelled to Parliament to officially announce the government’s triumph over terrorism and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The people of Sri Lanka, for whom this day has been a long time coming, cooked milk rice and fed each other in the city centres and suburbs. Firecrackers, raucous cheering and merrymaking have been the order of the day, even as the Sri Lanka Army announced that it had identified the body of LTTE Supremo Vellupullai Prabhakaran.
As one nation, Sri Lankans all over the island have saluted the President, Defence Secretary and the three Armed Forces Commanders, for their stellar leadership and single-minded focus to see this battle against terrorism to its bitter end. Although they may not be as prominent as some of the other protagonists in the war against the Tigers, Sri Lankans cannot and should not forget or denigrate the sacrifices made by the valiant soldiers in the parched battlefields of the Wanni. It is to these young men and women, who have died in the name of our freedom, that Sri Lanka and her people owes the greatest debt.
Sri Lanka is no longer at war with herself. A 26 year old bloody civil war has finally been laid to rest, and those who threatened our peaceful way of life with violence and hatred, are vanquished.
It was a day that few of us who have lived under the fierce yoke of terrorism believed we would see in our lifetime. It will be a joy to wake up day after day, for the next few weeks, and realise our beloved nation no longer has the threat of separation hanging over it. It will take some time for the dust to settle on this celebration, and perhaps even more time for us to allow it to properly sink it.
One thing remains clear: in a world that is fighting a unified battle against the forces of terrorism, one small island in the mighty Indian Ocean, has proved that it was up to the task of freeing its population from the grip of terrorism, where larger, more mighty nation states have failed. This achievement not only underscores the immense skill of our political and military leadership, but also stands testimony to Sri Lanka’s will power and potential to do great things as a citizen of the world.
The end of war which has plagued Sri Lanka for almost three decades, should also put an end to terrorism and conflict being cited as reasons for any failure in delivering equitable and rapid development, and private sector adopting a “wait and see” attitude.
Once the celebrations and tamashas end, there is much work to be done: to rebuild the lives of the people of the north and east, to rejuvenate the national economy, to strengthen the democratic process and perhaps most importantly, to find a just and durable political settlement to the ethnic question, that will be acceptable to all citizens of Sri Lanka. As President Rajapaksa explained in his address to Parliament yesterday, this solution needs to be a homegrown one, which encapsulates the hopes and aspirations that are unique to the peoples of Sri Lanka.
In the midst of the noise of celebration at this victory over terrorism, it is also important to reflect at this time, on what this war has cost us. The massive loss of life and the shedding of innocent blood over nearly three decades, the brave and valiant men who gave their lives for this hard-won freedom and the root causes of a militant uprising.
As we compare this victory to that achieved by the Great Sri Lankan monarch Dutugemunu against the invading Chola King, it is equally important to reflect on the other noble traditions highlighted in his story. Let us remember King Dutugemunu’s magnanimity and humility in his great victory, his dignified treatment of the vanquished enemy and draw strength from this ancient tradition.
Let us remember that a death is a death, and resolve to end the bloodletting in this great nation forever.
May Sri Lanka forge ahead towards peace and prosperity with the same zeal with which it waged war, with a genuine commitment to usher economic prosperity to all and win the hearts and minds of all Lankan communities.
This is Sri Lanka’s new lease of life. It is our wonderful, new opportunity to start over with a clean slate, and set our country on the right path. Having won the war, it is time now, to win the peace and usher a very prosperous and successful country on to the future. Let’s get on with it.