23 July 2013

Never again!

Thirty years is a long time in the life of a generation.  It is short in the life of a nation or a community.  We live, however, not in that long time-span but the short, where memory matters and matters of memory, in marriage with prejudice and skewed by selectivity that prompts exaggeration and dismissal, weigh upon us, our actions, our politics, hopes and despair, and realities uncomfortably lived through. 

Thirty years ago, almost to the day, Sri Lanka was engulfed in darkness.  There was black smoke. There was black intent, black hearts, black invective and red blood.  Whereas the black was tied to Sinhala, although that particular tag is only part story, the red was Tamil. No two words about it.  It was not the bloodiest day in the history of the country, nor indeed the post-Independence period, and indeed the blackness was inflated in the telling, but it was blackness that prompted inflation, no two words about it. 
What prompted and what followed have made the large part of political conversation since and perhaps will continue to feed debate and discussion.  Sebastian Rasalingam writing about ‘Black July’ and police inaction says ‘what actually happened is less important than the emotional truth of the pain’.  He calls for investigation, even if it reveals little.  The purpose, he says, ‘is to put history right and not to punish anyone’.  He observes, ‘The country has been punished enough for many decades of horror since 1983. It is time to forget, forgive and move forward, rather than continue to use July 1983, or May 2009 as `beggar's wounds' to attack and criminalize Sri Lanka’.

It is easy to say, of course.  Reading of event and history is political.  There is very little that an individual can do to change such things.  There is a lot that an individual can do to make sure that new texts amenable to such reading do not get written.  There is a lot that governments can do. 
In July 1983 the state failed.  The people, by and large, did what was possible but when states fail, things collapse, things get black and the black gets blackened further. Red results. 

We can talk redressing grievances and giving ear to aspirations. We can about modalities of delivery on the same.  There can be argument and debate; the playing out of political equations over time given the impact of tangibles and intangibles.  There are the can-be-done and the will-not-be-done. 
Regardless of all this, the basics must be set in place. Law and order.  For this, the independence of the judiciary and a corruption-free police insulated from political interference are non-negotiable.  This constitution does not provide for this and worse, rebels against such containing mechanisms.  The only thing certain is that the people cannot depend on the government. 

In 1983 some 300 plus Tamils were killed.  Houses and businesses were torched. Tamils fled to the North. Many left the country.  The one redeeming factor was that good people stood up and defended their neighbors.  Protected them.  Against massive odds. And this is the only option that can be counted on to prevent repetition. 
Thirty years passed.  July 1983 was not repeated.  And yet, no Tamil feels completely safe.  Thirty years is a short time in the life of a nation.  Much has to happen for ‘safe’ to return to all our lives.  In the end it will not be ‘every man for himself’ that will stop repetition, but everyone for neighbor.  It is the ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ that will count.  It will be sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta (May all beings be happy) and the prerogatives thereto that will count. 

We proved we are not incapacitated.  We have to prove that we will not permit incapacitation.  We can capitulate. We can overcome.  This nation is ours to lose, ours to win; so too our humanity – ours to lose, ours to win.


sajic said...

'blackness inflated'? I'm not sure. Scar tissue may cover but the wounds still throb. And still, no Tamil feels completely safe; and now no Muslim either.

Feizal Mansoor said...

The blame has been laid squarely on the government of the time and it is wrong to blame the general populace for what occurred. If anything at all, unlike in other places in the world the majority of the majority rallied around and protected their friends and neighbours from the government pogrom. If one takes the disputed LTTE figures of more than 8000 people dead, it still speaks volumes of the protection of the majority of the minority by the bulk of their fellow citizens. For too long have the Sinhala people been condemned for what was done by a misguided group of Totalitarian power junkies who should have known better. For all the alleged brain power and academic acumen in Jayawardene cabinet, for several days in Sri Lanka it was the writ of the mob that rule not the President's.

Rifkha said...

Agree with Feizal Mansoor,!

.. // ‘The country has been punished enough for many decades of horror since 1983. It is time to forget, forgive and move forward, rather than continue to use July 1983, or May 2009 as `beggar's wounds' to attack and criminalize Sri Lanka’// Absolutely ! Reminiscing such unfortunate incidents forever and (falsely) accusing an entire community is not right and it is one of the main obstacles for peace and reconciliation. It only keeps sowing doubts and questions in people's mind and it's very unfortunate to see even the next generation being brain washed by certain groups that are hell bent in tarnishing the image of Sri Lanka in order to get their malicious objectives fulfilled.

Ananda Ariyarathne said...

Malinda, the point you have raised is very valid.And Feizal, I agree with you also and respect you for being fair.
In this country we have one people divided by different cultures.We are the same people.
But we have to honour realities also.When the independence came, the problem also came.It was different recognising an outside nation as the rulers.naturally Singhalese being the majority, had more representatives in the Parliament. Not only Singhalese people but also the Tamil people also were misled.
As it was convenient for politicians who capitalised the sentiments,there was no opportunity for both kinds of people to come closer to each other.This who issue cannot be discussed in few words.Anyway, Why cannot all understand that this life is short and what is important is happiness and not to intimidate each other.
What we have to do is to change our attitudes.Of course the Government has to be fair.This goon culture of some unfit politicians have to stop.Then the Law and Order will be in place as Law Enforcers will not have a need to take sides.If what the President said once can be implemented to the letter all will learn to live in harmony.He said in this country we have only two kinds in this country.Those who love this country and those who do not. Let the government be hard and pass laws to punish anyone who is proved to be spreading discontent using ethnicity.At least, ten years hard labour.But give everyone equal opportunities and no favours.This country is too small to be fragmented but large enough for all to live happily.

Walter Rajaratne said...

As many astute contributors to these pages in the Daily News have observed, the Indian Centre may have its own political imperatives but Indian intellectuals know better. They are astute enough to know the dangers of overkill with regard to the 13th Amendment, and the granting of police powers etc., even though "self-appointed political analysts" here would say that India is ready to invade anytime if we do not do what they insist India is constantly telling us. -

I am compelled to copy paste a para from Rajpal's editorial column today to draw your attention to how he turned 180 degrees, after switching back to Lake House. The pundits he mentions are Dayan J, whom he audaciously gave a special column at his paper when he was the chief at Lakbima. He either little knew what the rogue DJ was up to or played, paid and lamenting today. He puts DJ at the forefront of "Indian Invasion" phobia.

Even if we let Rajpal go scot free as a journalist, would you let the Rajapaksas go the same way for appointing DJ to Geneva at a crucial time that saddled the entire Sri Lanka with worst damage of giving one third of SL on a platter, what Tamil terrorists could not get in the battle field.

All what Sri Lankan patriots could hope is to send the real traitors (Rajapaksas to The Hague.