Our preparations for Geneva

946826684glBy K. Godage

Former Ambassador

I was happy to read that Mr. Lalith Weeratunge and Dr. G.L. Peiris would be going out to Geneva to brief missions of countries in the HRC, whatever briefing/ publicity we can give to what we have achieved so far and what we intend to do will not be a waste of time.

This approach is certainly what is called for, not sending a large delegation during the Sessions to lobby delegates as we did a few years ago; most countries decide on their positions on Resolutions such as those relating to countries such as ours, before the Session commences. Former Ambassadors such as Jayantha Dhanapala. Pallihakkara, Nihal Rodrigo {who is an Advisor to His Excellency] and Bernard Goonetilleke would bear me out.

I have often wondered as to what the government’s strategy is to counter these anti-Sri Lanka Resolutions. In the first instance, as the government is already doing, we need to continue to reach out to the Tamil people in a meaningful manner and encourage the Tamil people to reach out to the Sinhalese and Muslim communities. The Tamil community in particular, along with all other communities of our country must continue to enjoy the hard won freedom in every sense of that word; they also need to feel secure and have opportunities to pursue livelihoods of their choice; another important value for the Tamil people in particular is Education, in this regard I am, aware that those who take the trouble to find out about the progress within the country are more than happy with what the government has done since the war ended, to improve the education facilities in the region. In this regard I would urge the government to continue its good work in spite of attempts by pro LTTE elements to divert its attention and create a rift between minor communities and the government.

The government, I presume, has prepared Documentaries that can be shown to the international community. Such Documentaries, perhaps prepared by foreign companies under our supervision of course, would have greater credence and acceptance. We should also establish a Reconciliation Commission which should be headed by a committed person such as Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, the Advisor on Reconciliation to the President, who is well informed and has worked tirelessly to challenge the baseless accusations made by the pro LTTE individuals and organizations. We should without further delay also establish a local commission with three retired judges of the Supreme Court to inquire into what happened in the last days of the conflict, when we saved the lives of over three hundred thousand civilians.

We could then without doubt, give the lie to the horrendous charge that 40,000 were killed in the closing stages of the war on terrorism. Let us call upon those who are making this wild accusation to come up with proof before the Commission, giving the names of those whom they claim were killed. We could also commission an independent body, comprising respected Sri Lankans from a range of professional fields, to document the history of the war and record the deaths that have resulted from targeted terrorist activity – this needs to include the support lent by any organisations and certain countries to the terrorists, which has enabled them to continue their war against the State. Continue reading

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July ‘83 and National Reconciliation

869508809DI-P13--31-8-(p)-ksnSome decades ago I quoted Santayana’s dictum that a people who cannot remember its past is doomed to repeat it. I cannot remember the exact words. Shortly thereafter President Jayewardene repeated the quotation, and it was much in vogue for some years. Now, in writings on July ’83, the idea that a people who cannot remember its past is doomed to repeat it has been powerfully revived, though the quotation has been forgotten. A convenient and convincing illustration for that idea has been found in the ongoing racist anti-Muslim hate campaign and anti-Muslim action, which some weeks ago led to widespread fears of a repetition of the July ’83 pogrom, this time against the Muslims. All that can be seen as the consequence of a failure to remember the past, specifically the horrors brought to us by racist anti-Tamil action, particularly in July ’83.

I now want to make what seems to me a crucially important clarification of what Santayana probably, or almost certainly, had in mind in making his dictum. An erudite philosopher, Santayana could hardly have been unaware of the fact that a people often remembers its past selectively and with distortions to suit its present and future interests. I suppose that is what Henry Ford had in mind in declaring, “History is bunk”. Some would argue that all history is purposive, not an unbiased record of what really happened but future-oriented interpretations meant to serve the interests of a people. However, it is incontrovertible that some things did actually happen in the past, and commonsense tells us that our interpretations can be right or wrong to varying degrees. So, what is important is not just to remember the past, but to try to remember it as it actually was, not as we would like it to have been.

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