Cost of the War (to come)

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2017-11-15

The war might be over, but the conflict is far from over; this has been the case for the ethnic antipathy that we Sri Lankans are far too aware of. The conflict has transformed through the years, shifted focus, found new enemies and have fought many unnecessary skirmishes and wars. We have since forever indulged in warfare and strife over the survival of our race and now in addition we are fighting over our religion, and the recognition it has to receive through our Constitution. Yet, it remains a question as to the practical application of that religion in our lives and how much our race plays in our daily activities. The answer is most probably none; yet, here we are still fighting.

Leader of the House and Minister of Higher Education and Highways Lakshman Kiriella recently revealed a report from a Parliament Research Unit that calculated the total cost of the 33-year terrorist-military conflict in Sri Lanka to be around USD 400 billion. According to the report, both factions - the Sri Lanka Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam- have borne USD 200 billion each.

Despite the recent public exposure, this information has been available before as well. India's former National Security Adviser and Foreign Secretary, Shivshankar Menon publishing his book Choices: Inside the Making of India's Foreign Policy in 2016 says that the internal war that ended in May 2009, had cost the country around USD 200 billion.

Without taking into consideration the opportunity cost of the war, Menon claims that between 1983 and 2009, around 80,000 to 100,000 people including combatants from both factions, have lost their lives, Among them were 30,000 to 50,000 civilians, 27,693 LTTE cadres,

23,790 Sri Lankan army personnel and 1,155 casualties from the Indian Peace Keeping Force. Menon also reports that the final stages of the war had created a little over 300,000 internal displacements and left around one million land mines scattered in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, due to which a process is ongoing to clear certain areas of land mines.

Menon's observations have perfectly described the grim truth: "Sri Lanka's democracy was flawed by disappearances, killings, torture, detention, and widespread human rights abuses committed by all sides in the war. Civil-military relations were skewed, Sinhala society was militarized, and the brutalized remnants of Tamil civil society were leaderless, without direction or hope. Nor was there any sign of an attempt to come to terms with the legacy and result of the war, to undertake real reconciliation."

This notion of being equally responsible is gibberish to our nation, where we have become complacent due to years and years of experiencing collective responsibility. This is the reason why we have not seen capable leaders who can champion to take our nation forward, let alone a specific community. The leaders we rally behind end up either power hungry demagogues or corrupt despots who do not amount to anything.

In this scenario, we have been given the golden opportunity where all stakeholders of the system have agreed for a constitutional change that allows devolution of power in the country.

All those who have opposed it have now agreed to this notion and have unanimously participated in this process of making a change. Yet, we have now witnessed the arrival of radical left-wing groups who oppose this process. Regardless of geographical terms and other differences, we have seen these radical political parties raising their heads through acts of borderline terror-inducing in both the North as well as the South of the country.

And even an amateur political observer will be able to gauge that given the opportunity; these groups could seek to destroy any potential move that is made for the benefit of the country. We are addressing the threat these groups have posed against the constitution-making procedure. These groups who churn out lies, false and inaccurate information on a daily basis should see a political defeat very soon. Otherwise, they will stand to devolve the last surviving hope for our country.

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