I should be on Al Jazeera this week, on The Stream. I’m a UK expert, commenting on the phone-hacking scandal. Just kidding, but isn’t it funny that Sri Lanka experts are usually sitting abroad? Not that I’m an expert, I’ve made clear my dubious nationality, but I guess I do live here and don’t have enough money to fly out, which is a sort of citizenship.
Their topic is Sri Lanka post-war. I think this topic is borne more out foreign misperceptions of Sri Lanka. For a long time Sri Lanka was defined only within the war frame. Indeed, many local people/publications (like Groundviews) have trouble adjusting to a post-war mindset. They’re still all war all the time while the average Sri Lankan is like, ‘breakfast?’ Have a look at a word cloud of Groundviews current feed.
This is two years after the war, but war and conflict still dominate the conversation. Contrast that with the Daily Mirror,
which seems to be nestling the barren Ranil’s teat this week, funny since the paper is owned by his family, or – long sentence here, stick with me –
The Sunday Leader, which – despite being the main opposition paper – mentions the war none at all. Neither of the newspapers do. As you can see from my word cloud, I also don’t. We’ve all kinda moved on.
Where The War Is Still Important
Seriously, it’s over. The war is over and the only people that can’t really accept it are either abroad or facing abroad. Take Groundviews, they mention Sri Lanka constantly because it’s targeting an external audience for whom here means something else. The newspapers reference Sri Lanka not much at all, it’s simply assumed that the reader is ‘here’.
There are people who supported the war and those who opposed it. I opposed it, but now that it’s over, I’m glad. Not like happy that people died, but happy that people aren’t dying anymore. Some people really can’t give up. Take Sanjana’s TED talk (he runs Groundviews). It opens with the bloody brutal war and says there is still ‘structural violence’ underpinning everything. Well, really? What is structural violence? Hacking at parking pillars? For most Sri Lankans I know the war was there but life was shaped by more mundane stuff, like love, food, the usual.
What’s Important Now
Me, I was into technology and randomness and I’m getting back into that. I think average Sri Lankans were into eating more than dried fish and putting their kids in school. So they’re getting back to that. Does our government suck? Yeah, but it’s not some military dictatorship. When the people got pissed about a new pension plan taking their money they protested and the government backed down. When the Sunday Times published that land was being sold to the Chinese, the government backed down. The system does move, but it’s not motivated by war crimes or democracy or the same things that motivate international observers. It’s motivated by daily life, not yesterday’s death.
The war is over. It was a bad scene but people are moving on. Tell your friends, better yet, just keep living.
Addendum for comment
I forgot the point here. They questions Al Jazeera asked were as follows. Please answer them for yourself, or think of better questions.
- Is Sri Lanka recovering from a prolonged civil war?
- Are Tamils being integrated into mainstream Sri Lankan society?
- Tamils allege they are still being discriminated against.. is that true?
- Many human rights groups also say the war may have ended, but the condition of Tamils hasn’t improved… is the Sri Lankan government following through on its initial promises to rebuild ties with the Tamil community?
- Many Sinhalese commentators say the Tamil community in Sri Lanka is ready to move past the war, but the Tamil Diaspora is very keen to keep the separatist movement alive?
- To what extent were Tamil aspirations hijacked by the LTTE?
- Did the LTTE eventually end up undermining the Tamil cause?