“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” In Sri Lanka it was due to the absence of good governance that brought about two uprisings in the south and the one in the north that led to the civil war that lasted for three decades. For over five decades in the post-independence history of Sri Lanka civil minded people did nothing for they could do only a little; except for now and then and here and there brave men and women prove that civilization is not dead yet, who mobilized the people under the leadership of a true Buddhist Monk that resulted in a change of government in 2015. Now a golden opportunity exist for the nation to regain its ‘Paradise Island’ status; the best way to start the process is for the people to remember those who lost their life in the civil war.
Sri Lanka in the 1950’s called Ceylon was a leading nation in Asia. Under democracy had the rulers who were Buddhist followed the teachings of Lord Buddha, it would have prospered retaining the position at the top, behind only to Japan. But due to shortsighted policies followed by the past leaders the nation was ruined as the people disintegrated to groups based on ethnicity and religion; any dissent from people was met with state terror unleashed on unarmed people that resulted in the 1958 riots, which affected the youth most and responded by taking arms against the state that resulted in three separate insurgencies against the government by the youths. The last insurgency by the Tamil Youths began following the riots of July 1983, who fought to liberate from state terror their people in the north and the east of the island. Armed tri-forces of the state were used to suppress the youth and it developed into a civil war. In 1987 Indian Peace Keeping Forces were brought in and a devolution package was hatched up in a rush between the government of India and Sri Lanka. As it was not implemented properly and therefore did not meet the demands of the Tamil Youths and the battle resumed. This state of affairs went on for years and finally after having boxed in the people into a small area of territory near Nandi kadal lagoon, on 19 May 2009, the tri-forces with military assistance from many countries effectively defeated the Tamil uprising and the guns were silenced ending a civil war that had defined Sri Lanka’s history for three decades. During the final stage of the war around 35,000 Tamil civilians taken hostage by LTTE crossed over to Government controlled areas through the Nandi Kadal Lagoon after the Sri Lankan Army successfully entered into the no-fire zone and took control of the final Sri Lankan security forces killed the entire top Tamil Tiger leadership in a ferocious battle on May 18, 2009 and their bodies were discovered in Nandi Kadal lagoon.
The civil war was very costly for the little island nation, killing over 100,000 people mostly Tamils between 1982 and 2009. Almost half killed were civilians emphasizing that “not everyone who died during the civil war were armed fighters”, while the rest included armed combatants, state tri-forces soldiers, police and Indian soldiers. Between 1990 and 2009 between over 75,000 people again mostly Tamils were killed in the country during various armed conflict, this includes “State-based” conflicts, those by the Government against the rebel groups on three occasions twice in the south and one in the North that engulfed the east and into a bloody civil war, “Non-state” conflicts, those conflicts that did not involve the state, but between the rebel Tamil groups, as well as “One-sided” violence, that involved deliberate attacks against civilians perpetrated by all armed forces including the Indian IPKF, Sri Lankan tri-forces and the police.
When considering the immense nature of this historic tragedy that was one all-encompassing event stretching across South to West from the late 1970’s and North and East to the rest of the country to a civil war ending in 2009, and beyond with negative peace years that ended with the change of government in 2015. Actually it was a “whole” made up of many sad and sadistic pieces where a former UN official had claimed that up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final stages of the civil war; representing the largest loss of life in a single location in so short a time period in the history of the Civil War and was the scene of a particularly brutal chapter in the history of this island nation.
We owe it to the death to take the nation forward and all Sri Lankans irrespective of their ethnicity or religion should remember the victims of this historic tragedy for paying with their very own lives to give us living a better life. It is time for the state to declare 19 May – the day guns were silenced in 2009, as the single Remembrance Day each year for the whole nation to pay respect for the dead and strive for the new constitution to come into operation on that day in 2017. This day to be made as the National Remembrance Day with a public holiday to enable the whole country to observe over riding the present Independence Day.