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Military Victory: Is it worth the price?

By Fr. Alex Dassanayake

The long protracted ethnic war has brought about such an amount of death in our country that one can hardly imagine: so many valuable lives lost — the, flower of the nation both in the South and the North, destruction of valuable property through bomb blasts, aerial bombings, land mine blasts and shootings, both on land and sea; thousands of widows and orphans, the maimed and the homeless; those who live in refugee camps for ten, fifteen years, undergoing untold sufferings and ever living in fear of fresh attacks.

Untold sufferings and destruction

Also thousands of those who leave the country for safety — thus families broken, children separated from their parents, husbands from their wives; painful brain drain when promising qualified young men and women leave the country in search of better pastures — what a loss for the country ! tremendous financial losses on the attack of Katunayake Air Port and the Anuradhapura military air port with almost the entire fleet of air craft destroyed; the attack on the Galle harbour and so many naval boats lost in sea attacks; so many innocent civilians, victims of attack on buses and in their villages. Thus we are a morally and economically a battered nation

As a result of all these the tremendous burdens laid on the poor masses of the country due to the rocketing price of essential food items and other goods, more than double the price added to these the exorbitant rise in electricity and water bills; the daily escalation in travelling expenses — all these, disproportionate to the income of the people no wonder there are so many strikes by organized groups, but the voiceless masses of the poor suffer in silence. What then is the future of our nation? There would be an under-nourished and both physically and morally weak generation of Sri Lankans; the situation of the poor people in the North is much worse than that of the South. Will not the Rs. 2.8 billion on SAARC not add extra burdens on an already over burdened people.?

While the poor people are undergoing untold difficulties and burden on burden laid upon them, there is a jumbo size cabinet and over hundred Ministers and so many other Advisors and high ranking Officers who enjoy all the perks and do not seem to make the sacrifices that the poor have to make — rather they seem to feed on the poor. the rise of fuel prices and the essential goods don’t seem to affect them.

Further they are well protected and provided for and hundreds of security personnel deployed for their security, bullet proof vests and vehicles available to them while the poor masses are exposed to insecurity.. Have they not been elected by the vote of the people to be their servants. Can a poor country like ours afford to incur such heavy expenses on those in power?

Do we have democracy?

Democracy exists where all people have equal rights and are treated equally, when all enjoy basic human rights, when all citizens are allowed to exercise free use of their vote to elect a Government they want, no one is to be deprived of their right of franchise or compelled to vote for some one whom they do not want. However in recent times we have seen so many election abuses, state resources being abused, obstructing others or rigging votes threatening even the officers on duty; some parties using arms while others are forbidden by law. We can therefore truly ask “is there real democracy in our country:

Further, the frequent harassment meted out to Media personnel has been very harmful for a democratic country like ours: abductions, disappearances, assaults, arrests and murder of several media personnel in recent times has brought the image of our country very low before the international community.

It is the essence of democracy that anyone has the right of free expression and offer positive criticism, but today anyone who speaks or writes criticising the policies and actions of those in power are immediately branded as “traitors”, “unpatriotic” or pro L’FTE and soon put within bars and harassed.

Giving a deaf ear to sound advice

Many knowledgeable persons and Inter-Religious Leaders and the Inter-national Community has repeatedly appealed to both those in power and the LTTE to put an end to this meaningless and bloody war and sit down for peace negotiations but all these have gone unheeded. Before International visitors those in power state emphatically “We are for a peaceful political solution to the ethnic conflict.” But at home, warfare and gun culture reigns. This is indeed a very pathetic situation.

Unfortunately this war is paving the way to the destruct-ion of our beautiful country and its many resources, trees have been felled to clear the battle field and to build bunkers; the railroad tracks have been removed to construct bunkers and check point barriers.

It is being proudly stated that the Eastern Province has been liberated and a Provincial Council established. It is no secret how this has been achieved and the recent events show that terrorism has not been completely wiped out of this region — a helicopter carrying VIP’s for a State Function was shot at, poor civilians travelling in a bus along the Buttala road had been shot at and a few killed while several others wounded; in other places several people abducted and not been able to verify by whom and so many other disturbing events taking place in that region.

While terrorising media personnel who report about the security situation and other crimes, the magic spell is cast on the people in the South by such statements as “the war will be over soon” Kilinochcbhi is now in sight” “the LTTE is much weakened” “our gallant soldiers should not be demoralized”: with these the war goes on and it is evident that before the end of the war there would be a terrible blood bath on both sides — loss of many more valuable young lives. Can we afford such a sacrifice or is the price of such a victory truly of worth.

Let both the Government and the Opposition and also the LTTE work in a responsible manner, having the welfare of the people at heart and reduce the burdens of the poor people, and work selflessly for a genuine and lasting peace. Let this be the prayer of every true Sri Lankan.