There are tanks on Galle Face Green. This either means we’re attacking Africa, or it’s interdependence day. That is, the anniversary of the end of war. I was reading an article on Groundviews by Kusal Perera hopelessly disparaging the current ‘regime’ and saying that the core issue has been unsolved this past year. It was a bit long and I skimmed, but I don’t agree. It makes it sound like everything’s a mess and it’s not. I think Mahinda Rajapaksa has solved the major issue in Sri Lanka and I thank him for it. The war is over and for this I give him due props.
All my life this war has been such a drain on Sri Lanka physically and emotionally. It went on long after the 1970s era revolutionary reasons died, fueled into some giant military-industrial beast. Whereas the government largely evolved from its riot-sponsoring blood on the streets days, the LTTE never was anything else and they never stopped blowing up buses, humans, and for lack of an apoliticized term – terrorism. Something like half of all suicide bombings since 1980 have been LTTE. This is including Palestine, Iraq, etc. And we’re a small country. This has sucked.
They blew up the President, the Airport, the Central Bank, and, inexplicably, Inland Revenue. They shattered windows on schools, hotels, and generally ran amuk, crippling the country into a grinding endless war that we thought would never end.
You can also say that the government did a bunch of shafty things, but on the scale of the world’s biggest suicide bombers? Not so much. I realize this in a few paragraphs glosses over a litany of sins and countersins but, with all due respect, I’m tired of it.
What To Do
We’ve been reciting this story for years and concluding each time with a resigned ‘what to do’. In his own bloody and ruthless way Mahinda Rajapaksa did something and he ended this war. Groundviews et al continue about democracy and pluralist society and stuff, but most people I’ve talked to around Sri Lanka don’t understand or care about those words. Not because they are stupid, but perhaps because they are smart. We asked some (Muslim) IDPs around Mannar if they cared about democracy and they said literally ‘no’. They wanted a road and they wanted stuff. I have roads and stuff so fair enough.
People do understand that the war is over. Colombians do understand that they can send their kids to school without fear. Jaffna people do understand that petrol doesn’t cost Rs. 3000 a liter anymore. Former IDPs in Vavuniya do understand that they’re not in camps anymore or in ditches, pissing in plastic bottles to avoid getting conscripted outside. Are people happy? Fuck no. I called people from all these places yesterday and they’ve got any number of problems. Jobs, dignity, getting the kid to school. But these are normal problems. Which is new.
Normal Levels Of Suck
For the first time Sri Lankans are free to have normal problems. For the first time my friend in Colombo is able to stay out past 6PM without freaking out. But he still can’t find a girl. For the first time people in Jaffna are not under economic blockade and they can buy torch batteries and go to Point Pedro beach at night. But they’re still getting undercut by Muslim and southern traders and have to compete. For the first time parents in the East and the Wanni can send their kids to school without fearing they’ll get recruited into a suicidal army rather than a job. But they still can’t find jobs.
I called people from all these places yesterday and they weren’t generally happy, but they at least had the war off their shoulders. They were operating and had a fucked up yet somewhat stable environment within which to deal with their issues. That is, things weren’t blowing up on the streets and the kids weren’t disappearing. Which is damn nice, in the sense that not getting punched in the head constantly makes drowning easier.
Cost And Crow
God knows these are big things, but only inhumane ignorance would deny the cost. Thousands of innocent people died, thousands of soldiers sacrificed and we bombed and blockaded the living shit out of a part of our land that was trying to break away. But they didn’t. The country didn’t split, it didn’t remain in terrorist limbo, the war was fought ruthlessly and to an end. Mahinda Rajapaksa ended the war. And things are getting better. Things have got better. So I thank him for that.