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Opinion: A year on, Sri Lanka suffers

Celebrations in Colombo marking the anniversary of the end of war are festive, but miss the point.

The question posed in the aftermath of war remains: What can be done to best assist post-war reconciliation and healing? Unfortunately, this question has been met with insufficient answers.

This week, the diaspora-based Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) met for the first time after holding delegate elections in early May. Their goal is to create a homeland for Sri Lankan Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Their vision eerily echoes the nationalist and exclusionary politics of the 1976 Vaddukottai Resolution, which called for a separate Tamil state but pointedly excluded Up-Country Tamils and Tamil-speaking Muslims.

More to the point, as TGTE discusses its aspirations abroad, those displaced within Sri Lanka — including Muslims, Up-Country Tamils, and northen and eastern Tamils — are eager to reassemble the pieces of their lives into some sense of normalcy and peace. That process is taking place within a unified but diverse Lankan polity that the TGTE has yet to acknowledge.

The TGTE has not been able to accept the multiculturalism that has defined Sri Lanka since pre-colonial times. Rather, TGTE's separatist demands — not to mention their former links to the LTTE — only further the government’s justification for extending emergency rule.

The diaspora must reflect upon the long-term value of post-war tactics. Furthermore, Sri Lankans of the diaspora must initiate critical dialogue and sustain solidarity with people living in the country. Until then, their visions will be perceived as disengaged from reality and impractical for those living in Sri Lanka — where the true struggle lies.

An activist recently said, “History is neither the rule nor the law but a series of struggles. And it is up to us to be on the right side of the struggle.” For him, the struggle of activists and actors invested in the future of Sri Lanka is with the people and to remain accountable to all Sri Lankans, ensuring their dignity and safety.

After reviewing a year’s worth of marginalization, elitism and intimidation, I wholly agree. For a country whose history and present are marred by illegitimacy, violence and fear, it is imperative that Sri Lankans abroad and at home reach beyond the past and across all
boundaries that limit their potential.

Editor's note: The author, a member of Lanka Solidarity, has chosen to write anonymously for security purposes.