by Hemantha Warnakulasuriya
President of Greece Karolos Paoulis told me “Your Excellency, today the Minorities are more powerful than the majority. Every nation emerging from internal strife must accept this 21st century reality.
We are very a happy with the reconciliation strategies adopted by your country, but we believe that much has to be done to win over the minorities. We, as nation failed in our efforts to reconcile the warring groups. Sri Lanka could learn from our example and ensure that our mistakes are not repeated”.
I had relinquished my tour of duty and met the President to bid farewell to him. But, even today, those words echo. I believe we must learn not only from the mistakes of other countries but also from the other side of the divide, if we truly believe in national reconciliation.
Having listened to hundreds of speeches, delivered by Very Important Persons and being bored by the shallowness of the verbiage, couched in diplomatic parlance and being far from the truth and reality, when a speech which rings true and is delivered with acumen, crafted with consummate skill, engrosses your mind and spirit, the words echo in your ears and transgress the ambivalent superficial shallow tirades you have heard day in and out. Against this the candor your conscience vibrates with love and spirituality.
mp3 Audio – Speech By George R. Willy P.C
The speech delivered by Mr. George R. Willy P.C., at the reception hosted by the Sri Lankans in Houston, to welcome President Mahinda Rajapaksa, comes closest to one who believes the ultimate ‘Nirvana’, for the long suffering people in Sri Lanka, of whatever ethnicity they belong to, are mainly and solely dependent upon national reconciliation.
The speaker, who introduced Mr. Willy, addressing the most affluent segment of the Sri Lankans in Hoston USA, said “most of us have arrived in the US and have heard and fulfilled our ‘American Dream’. There are a few who have reached much loftier heights than the American Dream. Our key note speaker George R. Willy P.C. is one of them. He is one of the most sought after immigration lawyers in Houston and has been a long term adviser to President Clinton.
He was Attendee, White House Briefing and Consultation on U.S. Policy in South Asia, 1994; Attendee, White House Briefings on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Visits to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, 1995; Participant, White House Consultation on Immigration Reform Legislation, 1996; Attendee, White House Briefing on Administration Policies affecting Asians during the White House Celebration of the Asian-American Heritage Month, 1997 Participant, Round Table Conference on Asian Issues with President Clinton and Vice-President Gore, 1997.”
Every Sri Lankan must read his speech. He said “Welcome Your Excellency to the great city. If you can ignore the Oak trees and the mocking birds, you could easily mistake this for Sri Lanka. It is in Sri Lanka that I was born and my mother and the parents of my wife, Shanthi and our grand fathers and great grand mothers are all buried under the sacred soil of our Motherland .
Your Excellency, I grew up in Jaffna and moved to Colombo when I was only ten years old. My wife is from Badulla and grew up in Diyatalawa, where her Dad was a well respected Captain in the Army. I have smelt the sweetness of Margosa trees in Jaffna and tasted the Red Jambu fruits that left red stains on my white shirt. I walked to school in Colombo. I know the lure of Jak fruits ripening on the trees as the crows begin to break them open.
I have seen white colour pandals during Wesak and shamelessly ate food at the Dansala meant for the poor and I have heard chanting in the Kovil and inhaled the smell of Jasmines and josticks. I have heard the bells of All Saints’ Church, as I have assisted Father Herath during mass.
But since I left Sri Lanka, in 1975, there has been such pain, such sorrow and such agony. The mighty Mahaweli Ganga, that usually brings its sacred water to the paddy fields spat out blood of both, the Sinhala and the Tamils. From up here, in the United States, I have watched the land of my forefathers descend from paradise deep into hell. No one can say with certainty who is to blamed for the time for blaming is long gone.
Your Excellency, you are probably descendent from Dutugemunu and my people from Elara. Remember how Dutugemunu fought Elara from his elephant Kandula and killed Elara. Dutugemunu of course is still remembered for uniting Sri Lanka for the first time. He is also remembered for something else.
After defeating and killing Elara he built a monumnent for Elara out of respect of his worthy opponent. He ordered all citizens of the land to stop and dismount and pay respect to Elara. In so doing, he not only showed what a noble man he was, but also proved to be a great politician. He knew that he had to rule the Tamil people too after the defeat of Elara.
Your Excellency, faith and fortune and your great political skills had placed you at a unique point in history. Children, in the years to come, will read in their history books that a great leader, a great warrior, by the name of Mahinda Rajapaksa finally defeated the rebellion after nearly 25 years, when several before him failed. They may even say that you are Dutugemunu of the 21st Century.
But if you want to wear Gemunu’s mantle, Your Excellency, you will have to build a monument too. That monument does not have to be a Dagoba or a building, it will have to be a new policy that by law will be enforced. Do not make the mistake that sparked the 1958 riots, do not hold back Tamil youth who want to get into Universities, do not make the Tamils 2nd class citizens. Respect their religion and respect their language.
There is something about the Tamil people you need to know, Your Excellency, to them their language is God. There are only a few cultures in the world with such devotion to their language. You were trained as a Lawyer and in your early career you were a formidable defendant of human rights.
Now, you have the popularity, you have the power of a hero like Julius Céasar returning from Rome after his conquest. No one can deny what you are. Ask the Parliament for some entrenched clauses, you and I read in Law School, then we have to study the Soulbury Constitution. If you need my help, I will give it free, like the many in audience would.
The Tamil people are naked and hungry, looking at you to assure them that there is a place for them, Make sure that they have one. You killed one Prabhakaran, but do not let another grow. You can’t prevent another one with swords and guns. That you only can do with your heart and wisdom, compassion, truth and justice which you learnt from Buddha. Those are the only weapons you will need.
According to the Dhammapada, the Buddha said “hatred does not cease by hatred at any time”. Hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule, that’s what the Buddha said.
Your Excellency, as you leave this fair city and return to Sri Lanka, promise me that the ten-year-old boy, walking to school tomorrow, in his white shirt, will have no other red stain than from the Jambu fruit, That the morning crow will not open anything other than the Jack fruit, that there will be nothing else hanging on the Margosa tree, other than the fruits that smell sweet.
Your Excellency!, return us to our paradise, return us to our paradise. Thank you.
The thunderous applause that reverberated across the length and breadth of the hall continued nonstop and would have been heard in the high heavens. It would have rudely awakened the mocking birds sleeping in their nests. The words were loud and clear.
There are many Sri Lankan Tamils who would want genuine peace and reconciliation not by hounding the much loved war heroes before an international war crimes tribunal, as proposed by the West, whose reconciliation is based upon hatred and revenge and the biblical message of ‘tooth for a tooth and eye for an eye’, which will further widen the ethnic divide, and would bury all those Sinhalese and Tamils who are fighting a lonely battle against chauvinists and aspire for a genuine reconciliation and long lasting peace like Mr. Willy.
The solution should be based not by resorting to the age-old blame game but by following the Dhammapada and the noble principle ‘Nahi Verani Verani Samamnthi’dha Kudachanan’ as proposed by Mr. George Willy PC