On the path to reconciliation
Daily FT Editorial
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who has been tasked with spearheading the reconciliation efforts of the Yahapalana Government, said last week that reconciliation will only serve to strengthen national security rather than compromise it.
The former Commander-in-Chief made this remark at a special press briefing held in Colombo to present the recently approved National Reconciliation Policy to the media. The document was put together by the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) under her chairpersonship and was approved by Cabinet early this month.
While Kumaratunga’s comments may seem obvious on the surface, it cannot be denied that reconciliation is fast becoming a bad word in the country’s sociopolitical lexicon. The ongoing chorus of misinterpretations of the Government’s reconciliation drive has only made matters worse, what with a sizeable segment of the population being constantly manipulated by sections of the media and politically motivated individuals into thinking that reaching out to the other side is tantamount to treachery.
Cartoon googled and added by TW
In this backdrop, the Former President assured journalists that the Security Council continues to meet regularly with the participation of the President, the Prime Minister and the tri-forces commanders to discuss matters relating to national security and, contrary to alarmist statements made by parties with vested interests, there is no problem whatsoever in that regard.
She said what reconciliation does is prevent future threats to national security from cropping up. If we don’t do this now, warned Kumaratunga, there could be another war in the future.
She’s right, of course. Only true, meaningful reconciliation will ensure that there will be no opportunity for separatist causes and prevent another Ealam being demanded. True and meaningful being the operative words. Achieving that is, needless to say, easier said than done, and the Government’s sincerity and commitment in this regard will make or break the reconciliation process.
A new constitution with the right legal framework to enable inclusivity and peaceful coexistence will go a long way in achieving lasting peace in this battered island nation. But the promise of a brand new constitution, one of the key campaign promises of this Government, is beginning to look increasingly like yet another carrot fed to the voting public, what with an alarming number of vocal SLFP members in the so called National Unity Government going on record saying that their party will not be in favour of any amendment that requires a national referendum.
Former President Kumaratunga, however, dismissed these pronouncements as personal opinions of some party members as opposed to the official position of the SLFP – a party she once led and seemed destined to lead forever. At the press conference, she told this newspaper that she doesn’t know “why such individuals talk like that” and said she had protested their position.
The Reconciliation Policy document contains many salient provisions that, if successfully implemented, can help Sri Lanka win the peace. It will mean taking some unpopular decisions that will no doubt draw the ire of the very vocal chauvinistic forces of the polity. It is up to the Government to take a stand, rein in the dissenters within and walk the talk. The country’s future depends on it.