Whether the items collected from people and taken to the North for distribution among troops and the displaced persons would meet their full requirements or not, the concept of peace and reconciliation sought to be promoted by organizing the ‘Brotherhood Train’ deserves appreciation. According to the sentiments expressed by the organizers of this project, the desired purpose is to encourage the forces in pursuing their aim of eliminating terrorism and to express solidarity and sympathy with those displaced by the ongoing armed conflict.
This indeed is a rare occasion when contrasting feelings indignation and compassion found articulation. The anger engendered by the continued rejection of the appeal to the LTTE to renounce violence and return to the negotiating table has motivated most people to strengthen the hands of the forces that carry on their campaign sacrificing life and limb while the misery of those caught up in the crossfire has aroused their humanitarian feelings and prompted them to show their concern for these people.
This gesture of goodwill from the people in the South to their fellow citizens in the North is indeed timely to assure the war victims, most of whom belong to the Tamil community, of the southern compassion and their moral support in facing their tribulations. Some of these victims may not be impressed by these conciliatory moves or convinced of the genuineness of concern because the past years of continued political and armed conflicts have driven a wedge between the southern and northern communities. The Eelam dream held out to them by the LTTE has hardened the attitudes of some of them. Clearing of doubts and bringing about better understanding of aspirations of both communities therefore are essential at this stage.
The leaders who organized this project have made the objectives and aspirations they seek to achieve and attain clear in their pronouncements on the occasion of the ‘Brotherhood Train’ taking off on its journey. What they want to construct is a new Sri Lanka where people belonging to different ethnic and religious communities could live in peace and harmony enjoying equal rights and opportunities. This indeed is the declared objective of most people, political parties and other civil organizations in this country. The knotty question however is the path to be followed in achieving this objective and the possible methods that could be adopted in clearing the hurdles that obstruct the movement towards this ambitious goal.
Obviously, there are parties and groups holding on to extreme views and policies on various issues connected with the problem. On one extreme is the LTTE with demands for full implementation of various past agreements including the Rajiv-JR Accord and maximum power devolution based on a traditional homeland concept and on the other extreme are parties that resist granting of any power that would damage the unitary nature of the country’s constitution. They not only hold these views but claim them to be policies about which no compromise is possible. If parties cling on steadfastly to their policies in this manner no headway could be made in solving the problem. It is indeed these attitudes that obstruct the conclusion of the APRC process. This shows how difficult it is to reach an agreement although most parties glibly declare that a lasting answer to the present conflict lies only on a political solution.
Courageous steps are therefore necessary to overcome these obstacles and reach the ideal of a nation of unity in diversity. The organisers of the ‘Brotherhood Train’ could play a vital role in achieving this ideal if they choose to pursue their declared goal with determination. The support and cooperation of all political parties and concerned organizations is necessary in this task. As the religious leaders who held a conference in Anuradhapura on Sunday pointed out the needed political solution cannot be found by the efforts of one or two political parties. The implementation of any decision on the issue cannot be proceeded with unless the main parties agree to support the required constitutional amendments in parliament, they point out.
However, if elections are going to be held soon as speculated, any prospect for our political parties to come together to formulate a political solution to the national problem will disappear. Their rivalries will get further sharpened making it impossible to come to any agreement that will pave the way for solving the problem. The issue of the armed conflict in the North and the subject of the required political solution will come up as contentious issues for debate among parties in their election campaigns. It is no secret that it was this practice of using the national issue for partisan gain at election times that caused the aggravation of the problem to tragic proportions. It has therefore become necessary for all parties that genuinely love this country to agree to a postponement of elections thus enabling them to reach consensus on the national question.
Source: Daily Mirror