Howie Howard on Political Divisions

03-30-2012 posted by Acypl


Today’s post also comes from Vermont Rep. Adam “Howie” Howard, a delegate on our 2012 Sri Lanka/Nepal program. We reiterate that all delegates’ views are their own and are not representative of ACYPL.

The Diaspora Divide

Sri Lanka Part II

Tuesday March 27th, Colombo, Sri Lanka—Outside a 400-year-old Dutch hospital converted recently from a military outpost to a thriving restaurant, Dharshan Munidasa smokes a mini cigar and espouses local knowledge.

Second only to the crab boiled in spiced olive oil, the soup de jour is the menagerie created by last week’s United Nations Human Rights Council: it’s a resolution calling on the Sri Lankan government to do more to reconcile with the minority Tamil population after 30 years of war, and now three years of grumpy peace.

Himself an International Relations graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Munidasa is now a respected restaurateur in Colombo and owner of The Ministry of Crab where our delegation joined him tonight.

“This place is a dividend of peace,” he says, taking a puff and sipping at a glass of Italian red. Investments in Sri Lanka since the end of the war in 2009 have been swift: From an ambitious expressway system and other overdue infrastructure to countless hotels and restaurants, this place is seriously on the move. But behind the wining and dining there is still some whining and division. And, well, as we’re learning, day-by-day and city-by-city, it’s complicated. Everyone we speak with has a different take, not only on the resolution, which everyone agrees sheds no new light—nothing profound—on the topic of two ethnic groups getting along after three decades of violence.

In one of the most comprehensive published assessments of the American sponsored resolution we’ve seen, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka said the following in an editorial published in today’s Daily Mirror, the largest non-state run paper in Colombo.

“The Geneva outcome has spawned several schools of thought. Some in the Tamil Diaspora believe it is a blow against Sri Lanka and are pleased. Some hold that it is not and are unhappy. Both are sub-categories of those who support a Tamil Ealam through international intervention. In the mainstream of Sri Lankan politics and society, there are other schools of opinion. Some hold that the resolution is not against Sri Lanka but solely against the regime and should therefore be supported. Some believe it is neither against the state nor the regime and therefore should be welcomed. Others believe that it is against the regime, which they equate with or hold above the state and therefore oppose. Still others believe that it is against the regime but also against their state and national sovereignty, and therefore stand opposed.”

And, outside of political circles, there’s yet another take. And it’s not surprisingly a shot at the Americans. “The UN resolution seems a little bit hypocritical,” Munidasa says. “If the war had ended a week after Osama bin Ladan had been killed, would it have been different?”

He’s got a point. “We don’t have smart bombs,” Munidasa says. The Sri Lankan army doesn’t have Navy Seals, satellite imagery and unmanned drones. And after the terror inflicted by the Tamil Tigers over the years, many reluctantly stand behind the army’s brutal final siege ending the insurgency.

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