05/20/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Criticism and sadness amidst Sri Lanka’s celebration

by Melani Manel Perera
Some people wonder how celebrations can take place after so many civilian casualties. Others say that LTTE violence was caused by an oppressive system. Still more believe the country betrayed its Buddhist principles by opting for war.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Government of Sri Lanka decreed today to be a day of victory over the Tamil Tigers. This has been met by enthusiastic crowds celebrating the end of the war but also by criticism and fears for the future.

Crowds have invaded the streets of Colombo and other major Sri Lankan cities following the announcement that rebel forces were finally beaten and President Mahinda Rajapaksa publicly joined in the celebrations last night. For many he is Raju, the king and national hero who freed the country from a war that lasted 26 years.

But amid the deafening cacophony of happy voices, some criticism and concerns are being heard. Here are some that AsiaNews collected.

Sardha Kavirathna, Buddhist teacher and mother of three

“As responsible citizens we must make a clear choice and rebuild unity among the people. It is just too much to celebrate this event now. I am a Buddhist woman and look at our teachings. I have not found a single word in the Buddha that encourages murder. This is the victory of murder. I wonder how, as Buddhists, Sri Lankans can laugh and rejoice over the death of hundreds of innocent civilians. How can we consider ourselves heroic if we kill and use force to impose our power?”

Fr Thomas Kochchery, Indian Redemptorist priest and human rights activist in India

“What victory are we talking about? For centuries the Tamil have been oppressed, treated as second-class. What has happened to them now? Have we solved that problem? The LTTE fought for Tamil liberation because the Tamils were never granted equal citizenship. A greater terrorism and violence has been inflicted upon the Tamils. The LTTE’s violence was just reprisal against this structural violence. This is the victory of the greater terrorism, that of the Sri Lankan government. Even without the LTTE, violence will be back unless government violence ends.

Herman Kumara, general secretary of the World Forum for Fisher People

“Sri Lankan society is moving towards destruction, giving room to unacceptable, unethical and anti-democratic practices. The population does not realise what is happening. This is my predicament now. When will people come to grips with reality? The LTTE was not the cause of the problem, but a consequence of an oppressive system, the expression of hatred for the system. Its violence isolated it from southern society and justified its destruction. They believed only in weapons, not the people.”

“People in the north should be entitled to use the natural resources of the region. And until that happens there will be no peace in the country. For this reason we must quickly make sure that the people of the south and that of the north engage in dialogue to deal with their problems.”

Chinthana Fernando, public official and a new father

“People are like crazy. What are they celebrating? The killing of a few hundreds LTTE fighters and their leader? That is war’s victory. Who can prove that their death means the end of the LTTE? Now there are more Tamil Tiger supporters around. How many of them are in the capital Colombo right now? We cannot easily forget. . . . Everyone knows that the Tamil are a tightly-knit community, unlike the Sinhalese. All this emphasis on celebrating is no good. President Rajapaksa should explain right away what are his intentions vis-à-vis the Tamil living in the Diaspora and take steps for their resettlement as he promised. This is the only way to take care of the Tamil population. They are suffering in refugee camps and must be allowed to go back to their land. Otherwise the next uprising will occur in the relief centres set up for internally displaced people.”

Fr S. Maria Anthony, Catholic priest

“The war is over, so is the fighting. But victory celebrations are entirely out of proportion and are a humiliation for Tamils. In his Address to the Nation President Mahinda Rajapaksa was careful in his choice of words and expressed great concern for the suffering of people. Street celebrations have been excessive and should respect for Tamil feelings. Now I wonder whether the government will be able to do the right thing and recognise Tamils’ legitimate rights. For this to be done everyone must be re-educated about the nature of the nation.”

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