Time for new consensus in Sri Lanka
Five different types of conflict are taking place simultaneously, and they overlap: Exploitation of racial, caste and religious prejudice, the conflict of modernization versus maintaining a traditional society, an entrenched culture of violence and impunity, conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. All five conflicts are part of one political system and a single history. Trying to isolate any one of these conflicts in an attempt to find a solution only creates more confusion, greater violence and frustration.
@ Source article by Basil Fernando
posted on February 8, 2008
All people in the country — Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others — are more worried than ever about the future of democracy. Clearly, everyone wants a new nation, and everyone is fed up with the style of the one that exists. However, there is confusion about what the new nation should be, creating conflict and even bloodshed. All the pain, confusion, conflict and loss of life have led to a deeply felt realization that old politics and governance have failed and there must be a search for something new. This is an irreversible, widespread consciousness that the old is dead, although the new has not yet been defined.
People have realized that they live within a rogue political system, that the country is ruled by deception, and that robbery and leadership go together. What will the new Sri Lanka be, however? This is the quintessential question that bothers everyone, even if it is not so openly asked. How will the present confusion, conflict and bloodshed end? It is no longer possible to ignore this question; at the same time, it is difficult to answer. Many are struggling to contribute to the problem from their own point of view, but some points of view have contributed to greater confusion and even to bloodshed. To sort out these different points of view and create a new consensus is the task faced by everyone.
Five different types of conflict are taking place simultaneously, and they overlap. The first arose with the introduction of adult franchise in 1931, which initially contributed more to the exploitation of racial, caste and religious prejudice than to the development of consensus among different groups toward a dynamic system that would satisfy everyone.
There is also the conflict of modernization versus maintaining a traditional society. All nations face this, and each must find its own formula to resolve it. Another conflict exists between democracy and authoritarianism, with the 1978 Constitution taking a decisive turn toward an authoritarian model of governance, which in subsequent decades the people have found to have contributed to chaos in the country.
An additional conflict is between the aspirations of all marginalized groups — workers, farmers, educated young people coming from previously poorer sections of all communities, women and minorities — who have faced extreme forms of repression, such as killings after arrest, forced disappearances and torture. The maintenance of torture chambers, and a police and military culture in which restraints on the use of force and proportional punishments have been abandoned, has created an entrenched culture of violence and impunity toward all communities.
Finally, there is the most obvious conflict of all between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which at the present moment has disintegrated to such an extent that the violence disregards even the rights of civilians.
All of the above five conflicts are part of one political system and a single history. Trying to isolate any one of these conflicts in an attempt to find a solution only creates more confusion, greater violence and frustration. All of the failures in the five areas of conflict mentioned above need to be taken together, and a much more comprehensive and richer dialogue needs to take place to achieve greater consensus.
A suitable political model for a future Sri Lanka can emerge from the search for a genuine consensus. This process will certainly have drastic consequences for all political parties and all political leaders, be they traditional parties or new ones with a radical orientation. There is no way of escaping this task of building a new consensus based on the admission of past failures and a comprehensive overview of all five conflicts that the country is facing.