Many scholars consider Sri Lanka to be a textbook scenario for the transformation of ethnic conflict into civil war. Now that Sri Lanka’s war has concluded, one could be tempted to question the need for reconciliation. Isn’t it possible to develop the nation’s economy and improve the lives of the people without resorting to homegrown notions of healing? It may very well be possible for Sri Lanka to see real gains in the coming years without ever explicitly addressing reconciliation. However, Sri Lanka cannot reach its full potential unless its inner divisions are laid to rest.
There are three problems with ignoring the need for reaching an ethnic accord. Though the most visible manifestation of ethnic division has ceased to exist, the rift itself remains. Unless this is corrected, Sri Lanka will always face the continual prospect of renewed violence, perhaps even another war. The second problem lies in the underlying psychological damage done to the populace. Many Sri Lankans had friends or family members who died in the war. Reconciliation provides the means for these families to find closure on the tragic times they have witnessed. Finally, the economic cooperation and coordination of the island can be greatly improved by engaging in reconciliation projects. Businesses and investors will feel less uncertain about expanding in Sri Lanka, and the nation’s domestic enterprises can have a less restricted reach across their country. For these reasons, achieving reconciliation becomes an obvious choice. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission after apartheid is an excellent example. In Sri Lanka, we hope and work that the people themselves may desire an alternative to hatred and violence.
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