In this time of the Covid pandemic that affects us all in equal measure, regardless of race or creed, need to recognize that there are ties that bind us as Sri Lankans, which should not be ignored as there have been victims on all sides of the conflict. They all have their right to remember. In this context last week’s destruction of the memorial erected in Mullivaikkal for the people who lost their lives where the last battles were fought and also the disappearance of a new memorial plaque that was to be erected and taken to the site a few days previously sets a vicious cycle in motion. The thwarting of the people’s desire to mourn together is a manifestation of continuing enmities that will be exacerbated until a new path of reconciliation is taken. If democratic spaces are blocked then the tendency is to seek non-democratic spaces. The National Peace Council appeals to the government to bring healing to the minds of the people by its actions to facilitate the commemoration of their loved ones.
In the aftermath of World War 2, when the UN was being established, its architects noted that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission established by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2010 recommended that a separate event be set apart on National Day in which all those who lost their lives in the war would be remembered. The National Peace Council regrets that this very important recommendation of the LLRC to heal wounds of war and win hearts and minds has not been followed even ten years after the publication of the LLRC report. The victory celebration for an internal conflict is never going to heal any wounds unlike a war between two countries. We never celebrate the day that the JVP insurrection was over.
We recall that in January of this year a similar memorial to those who lost their lives in the war at the University of Jaffna was also destroyed. The university authorities responded positively to the pressure from the students and ensured that the monument was rebuilt with the participation of students. While we advocate the collective memorialization of all who lost their lives in the war, we affirm the need for the government to erect a suitable monument in Mullivaikkal with the people’s participation to enable the people of the North and East to remember and mourn their loved ones who lost their lives at the end of the war. Sri Lanka must demonstrate its capacity to move beyond the thoughts and actions of the past not only out of magnanimity, but out of necessity as a functioning democracy.
The National Peace Council is an independent and non partisan organization that works towards a negotiated political solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. It has a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka in which the freedom, human rights and democratic rights of all the communities are respected. The policy of the National Peace Council is determined by its Governing Council of 20 members who are drawn from diverse walks of life and belong to all the main ethnic and religious communities in the country.