• Strengthen Reconciliation Without Sacrificing National Security

    This past month, I spent most days traveling around my District of Hambantota. I wanted to take some time to talk about a topic that I heard many villagers express concern about – that the country is not as secure as it used to be.

    Of course, those of you reading this may immediately assume this is because the area of Hambantota is the former President Rajapaksa’s stronghold and that it is no surprise that they would support the policies that were carried out during his tenure. But their concerns weren’t being expressed by a blind loyalty to my Father or me. Their concerns were tied to recent actions by the current Government.

    Recently, President Maithripala Sirisena distributed land deeds to families in the North. This is a welcome move, and it is heartening to see President Sirisena continue the work of former President Rajapaksa. In October of last year, then President Rajapaksa handed over land deeds to 20,000 people in the Northern Province.

    Positive steps are being taken toward strengthening national reconciliation, but the concern of the people I spoke to was that not enough is being done to also strengthen national security. For example, the Government has started eliminating high-security zones. Handing back private lands to their owners is important. But the question is whether the Government intends on eliminating all high security zones in regions that were dominated by LTTE activities not too long ago?

    Then earlier in March, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said, in Parliament, that the Government is considering lifting the existing ban on Tamil diaspora groups, perhaps forgetting that the ban was first imposed because there was evidence of these groups working to revive the LTTE. It is quite puzzling as to why the Government would consider such measures. It seems that the present Government is blind to the continuing threat of LTTE remnants, even when an organization such as the European Union has reimposed its ban on the terrorist group. Amidst all this, the Government is more concerned about things like banning full-faced helmets. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so worrying.

    These types of policies and actions are only creating a feeling of fear among people. People are afraid that remnants of the LTTE could be given the space to become powerful again. Although we are nearing the six-month anniversary of the end of the war, people haven’t forgotten how we all suffered under brutal terrorism. And that fear is filtering down to other sectors.

    The latest Reuters report says that although the market was able to end an 8-month low this week, “political uncertainty” is still a factor.

    “Analysts expect the market to continue its negative trend with low activities through mid-April ahead of a long traditional Sinhala-Tamil New year holiday and amid political uncertainty,” the report stated (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/31/markets-sri-lanka-stocks-idUSL3N0WX46S20150331).

    And the future doesn’t seem too promising: “Analysts said concerns that the government’s decision-making process would slow down weighed on sentiment after President Maithripala Sirisena formed a national government incorporating the main opposition party in a bid to push through reforms and preserve political stability.”

    We’ve seen this dangerous situation before in our history. Political instability —> economic instability —> increasing unemployment —> youth unrest unrest —> conflict. Seeing yesterday’s protest by university students makes you wonder if history is about to repeat itself.