Sri Lankan society needs to be more open to avoid any future conflicts

Breivik’s trial in Norway

Update: Jackpoint has a interesting post on local media comparing Breivik and the LTTE

I watched parts of Anders Breivik’s trial in Norway. Quite honestly, I haven’t seen anything like it before (It was a Norwegian equivalent to Prabakaran, seated next to his lawyer, being heard in a Sri Lankan court). This was a far-right extremist man talking complete non sense, he said he doesn’t recognise the legitimacy of the Norwegian judiciary, and everyone in the room seemed to take him seriously. Even the judge asked him if his objection of her hearing him, because she’s a friend of a relative of a former Labour party leader, was a formal objection. Many people I’ve spoken to in the UK couldn’t understand the reason for him being arrested. The Norwegian Police could have just shot him dead in Utoya island after he killed more than 70 people (77 people to be precise, getting the number of dead correct is very important in Norway because each person is viewed as an individual with family, friends & aspirations). They chose to arrest him and the government promised a fair trial.

Contrary to American response to 9/11 the Norwegian Prime Minister Stoltenberg promised to answer ‘hatred with love’.

“We are still shocked by what has happened, but we will never give up our values,” Stoltenberg said. “Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.” Norway, he suggested, would not seek vengeance as America had done after the 9/11 attacks.” We will answer hatred with love,” he said. (The Guardian)

Norwegian Society

Many of us don’t understand this ‘liberal bullshit’. The values of the Norwegian society could be partially understood through the following excerpt from the same Guardian column.

Frank Aaberot, who was in Britain attending a watercolour course at the time of Breivik’s attack, was struck by the reaction of his classmates. “These liberal Brits immediately said, ‘Why didn’t they shoot him? Why didn’t they shoot him?'” he remembered. “As a Norwegian, I immediately thought about the relatives and the survivors, all those things were at the top of my mind. I noticed, immediately, this British-Norwegian contrast.”

So Norwegians think differently. In a CNN report, a Professor from the Norwegian Police University College speaks about bringing the far right debate, that has been confined to exclusive chat rooms, to broader day light and let the mainstream media scrutinize the validity of far-right ideas rather than letting extremists support each other and increase their degree of bitterness. This is crucial, people need open and honest debates where different ideas and schools of thoughts are challenged so that they can develop a constructive view on different issues. To me, it’s simple and basic truth.

Sri Lankan story:Separate Tamil State

Now transfer to Sri Lanka. Many Sri Lankan Tamils(in Sri Lanka) support the formation of a separate Tamil state, most don’t care but many do.Why? mainly due to being historically marginalised. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the truth behind the claims of being ethnically discriminated previously. Does discrimination exist today? I don’t know. Some say it does, others say it doesn’t.

Another obvious reason is economic, when you’re not doing well economically you look for scape goats and some who struggle to make it in life blame discrimination. Again, I’m not denying that some people could, genuinely, be in economically tough situations due to ethnic/political reasons, I just don’t believe everyone who claims to be poor due to political marginalisation is really poor due to the reason they claim.

Back to the point

Anyway my point is, have you heard anyone publicly say on mainstream media that they support the formation of a separate state post-nandikadal demise of the LTTE, I haven’t heard it. Does that mean the ideology was completely eradicated with the LTTE? No. I believe it just exists/spreads behind closed doors. In schools, in universities at family re-unions, on the internet people discuss their ‘dream’ of a separate Tamil homeland. What does most of the country(i.e the rest of us’) do? we ignore it and pretend as if it doesn’t exist. Sometimes we are so paranoid, the word ‘Eelam’ can be a cause for extreme emotions and an outright rejection follows(most likely based on the same pure emotions or irrational beliefs we hold). Hardly anyone rationally and intellectually challenges the idea of a separate state.

The ‘racist’ Unitarians

There’s another section of our society. The so-called ‘Sinhala Buddhist extremists’. Usually those who want Sri Lanka to remain as a unitary state are confined to this category by the usually ‘pro-western’ ‘intellectual elite’. These are people who are usually not afraid to voice their support for the status quo in terms of concentration of power in Sri Lanka. There’s hardly any debate on this topic.Hardly anyone challenges the claims made by those who support a unitary state. There’s hardly any scrutiny of the idea. Those, who support it are sometimes rejected as ‘hardliners’,once again, without ant rational argument supporting the claim.

The Federalists

Also, we shouldn’t forget the idea of a ‘federal’ Sri Lanka, rejected by many as a western conspiracy against Sri Lanka. We don’t have open debates with those who support the idea of federalism. These federalists too are called ‘traitors’ and ‘sell-off’.

The Problem and a possible solution

A big problem in Sri Lanka is the social unrest that’s existent but non-existent, today. The majority is silent with views of its own. This extends beyond the politics of  the ‘ethnic problem’. People want to speak out against certain economic conditions they perceive as making them poor, If unaddressed this could lead us to another socialist revolt. Historically, Sri Lankans have strong opinions on many issues, some are well thought through while others aren’t.Unfortunately our governments and our society have suppressed their views with force and have rejected the people holding the views, rather than challenging the ideas rationally. We need to open up our society. We need to respect each other’s views and challenge each other rationally, if we don’t agree with them. We cannot have a uniform society but we’re in desperate need a society that doesn’t pretend to be uniform by suppressing dissent, if we are to avoid future conflicts.

If we had openly debated after the first JVP revolt, perhaps we wouldn’t have had another revolt in the late ’80’s. I’m saddenned that we still haven’t learnt from the past. I hope, at least now, we can learn from Norway and save any future conflicts in our country.


2 comments on “Sri Lankan society needs to be more open to avoid any future conflicts

  1. Pingback: Four arrested with ‘LTTE video’ in Trincomalee. What happens now? « votejehan/jehanlive

  2. Jack Point
    April 19, 2012

    For debate to take place there needs to be a medium through which it can take place. The media in SL all, more or less, tow the line. If someone says something controversial they are immediately called a traitor, terrorist etc etc.

    There was a little debate on the internet, but then the state sponsored nutcases (and some other loonies) drove out the moderate voices.

    There is however discontent and people are beginning to take to the streets, which is quite dangerous.

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This entry was posted on April 16, 2012 by in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .