|Sunday, 20 January 2002|
|Please forward your comments to the
Editor, Sunday Observer
Snail mail : Sunday Observer, 35, D.R.Wijewardana Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 1 429239 / 331181
Fax : 94 1 429230
A new spirit
With no less than three Ministers at the frontlines in the North overseeing the Government's initiative to relax economic and security controls in the war zone, things have not only gone smoothly, but also the Government has clearly demonstrated that it is serious about making peace.
As Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has stressed, the Government has initiated these measures as steps to build confidence in the Government's intentions. The care being taken to ensure that the lifting of the economic embargo is implemented efficiently goes far in building such confidence.
Not only is the country at large made aware of the Government's serious intent, but the target population, the Tamil people in the war-affected areas, concretely feel the benefits of these measures and will appreciate it. The LTTE too will take note of the Government's clear intentions and so will the international community.
The Prime Minister is taking care, however, to reassure Sri Lankans in general that the interests of the country as a whole remain paramount. In his speech to the UNP's 47th annual convention, Mr. Wickremesinghe stressed that the unity of the country and the identity of the Sri Lankan nation were the ultimate goals of the peace-making effort.
In doing so, the Premier did not hesitate to acknowledge the errors of the past even during previous United National Party regimes.
Such an acknowledgement, coming just as the Government was reaching out to the leadership of the Tamil community to make peace, is perhaps the best indication of this new regime's readiness to engage in constructive dialogue. It is an important for the self-esteem of a society to be able to frankly admit its civilisational failures. The very admission then becomes the foundation for a new respectability, an upholding of all that is best in that civilisation.
If Sri Lanka has been vilified for the misdemeanours of some sections of the population, for the failings of its political leaders, then, the emergence of new leaders, from both major political parties, who are prepared to be self-critical, is a major asset in the recovery of our island civilisation with its glorious religious and cultural traditions.
There is a long way to go, however. What we see today is yet another effort towards that recovery. The national as well as international environment may be more conducive than ever before for this initiative to succeed.
But unless great care is taken to ensure that all measures initiated, all decisions taken, are full and efficiently implemented, the process cannot go very far. Too often have good, well-intentioned decisions in Colombo been ignored or poorly implemented by a lethargic and un-inspired officialdom at the grassroots level.
Confidence-building measures can founder under the combined weight of bureaucratic lethargy, war-ravaged infrastructure and sheer obstinacy due to outmoded ethnic attitudes and suspicions.
Hence the deployment of senior government ministers at the very frontlines in the North to ensure that this time round things will work.
It is to be hoped that both the public service as well as civil society will take note of the Government's firm intentions and enter into the spirit of the moment - a spirit of peace-making and reconciliation. That is how the whole country can go forward into the new century.
Produced by Lake House