National Peace Council
The government held the 65th Independence Day celebration in Trincomalee in the former war zone of the East to emphasise perhaps the territorial unity of the country that had been secured after the ending of the war. The historical significance of this national day should be that it represents the collective effort of the country’s diverse peoples, including Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims to obtain their freedom from foreign rule. In his speech on the occasion President Mahinda Rajapaksa emphasised the importance of inter-community and inter-religious harmony and said he would not tolerate any breakdown in the bonds that bind the different communities together due to action by extremist forces who would do worse to the country than the terrorism from which it had emerged. The National Peace Council welcomes this commitment by the President and hopes he will follow up his words with action to prevent the deliberate spreading of communal and religious hatred.
In addition, the President delivered a part of his speech in the Tamil language, giving due recognition to the Tamil-speaking communities and to the status of Tamil as one of the two official languages of the country. While welcoming these personal contributions of the President to national harmony and integration, the National Peace Council is believes that the government needs to do more, so that the President’s words and actions do not remain as tokens of goodwill and reconciliation. We believe that the government could have done much more to make this national day celebration an occasion for national reconciliation. We note that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommended that a separate event should be held on national day to commemorate all those who had lost their lives in the cruel conflict. The LLRC also recommended the singing of the national anthem in both of the official languages, Sinhala and Tamil. It is regretful that neither of these occurred for the second year in succession since the LLRC report was published.
We are encouraged, however, that the Minister of National Languages and Social Integration, Vasudeva Nanayakkara recommended to the government that the singing of the national anthem should be in both languages on the occasion of Independence Day being held in Trincomalee, in the predominantly Tamil speaking part of the country. It is unfortunate that the government failed to proceed with this recommendation in the face of alleged constitutional obstacles and opposition by ethnic nationalist sections of the polity who do not stand for reconciliation but for suppression of the minorities in the name of ethnic majority supremacy.
The National Peace Council believes that the constant invocation of the war victory despite nearly four years having elapsed since the war’s end, a war victory tarnished with humanitarian law violations and costing the lives of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, shows lack of consideration for the feelings of the Tamil people while promoting jingoism and narrow ethnic communalism among the Sinhalese people. This now stands as one of the biggest obstacles to national reconciliation that encompasses all sections of the population.
NPC appreciates the President’s commitment to preserving the sovereignty and independence of the country. But the best answer is to re-establish the unity of the communities is based on a Sri Lankan nationalism rather than ethno-religious nationalism. We call on the government and all Sri Lankans to contribute to heal the wounds of war by acknowledgment of wrong and validation of painful loss and experience; and justice that enables the realization of individual and community rights, social restructuring and restitution. This strategy will contribute to the core of a national reconciliation process in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Sri Lankan population to devise a structure of governance and power-sharing suitable to it.
(Text of Press Release Issued by National Peace Council)