The impact of the conflict in Sri Lanka on day to day routines might be hardly perceptible at times, but time reveals evidence of it across society. As might be expected, the people’s government perpetually seeks dominance in both the military fight against the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) as well as in the rhetorical battle between ideologies which only serves to further fuel the conflict. The momentum of physical force constantly seesaws week by week. The week of my arrival the LTTE conducted a damaging air raid against a government air force base and now this week the government succeeded in killing a top member of the LTTE leadership. In political discourse, rationality once again becomes the first casualty. As reported on October 29, 2007 in the local newspaper the “Daily News”:
Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a live telecast interview … pointed out that the fully dedicated and committed war heroes should be given the correct leadership and their morale boosted. The media, politicians or any organization or individual should not seek to stifle the morale, concentration and dedication under any circumstances as it would certainly be a betrayal of one’s Motherland if they do so.
Coinciding with the speech, the President Mahinda Rajapaksa signed an emergency declaration that imposed a complete ban on reporting about any military affairs; the censorship law was almost immediately rescinded under near uniform criticism. The retreating possibility of peace remains the only constant or objective truth.
In this environment civil society struggles to find a space to breathe freely and dreams to speak. Civil organizations and the individuals that give them life exercise caution when sharing their work with international observers because an innocent lack of situational awareness could lead to pure intentions having serious consequences. While domestically these organizations link closely together in hopes of gaining greater protection from being singled out for special attention. Like taking shelter from brewing storm clouds, for the most part thunderclaps roll and echo harmlessly, but lighting can still strike swiftly without warning, and encourages keeping a low profile. One night this past week a Sri Lankan colleague and I visited another NGO to attend their press release regarding the prevalence of killings and disappearances across the country. The press release had been widely publicized and open to the public, but as we left to grab taxis home, my colleague asked me to hold onto her copy of released information until we returned to work. The next day at the office, as I had suspected, she confirmed: “if stopped at a checkpoint, it is safe for you to carry as a foreigner, but not as safe for me.”
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted Nov 4th, 2007