Monday, August 25, 2014

Conflict Diaries from Colombo

Conflict has been often seen from the perspective of the parties involved. But sometimes even those not in conflict zone bear the brunt of it.

When the Pearl Island has been seething from the nearly three decades long war, the national capital Colombo was also not left unscathed. The Central Bank Bombing in 1996, followed by the Bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1997 in Colombo has been etched in the memories of the population, especially the generation that grew under the shadows of the conflict. Hasara Lieyanage, in his teens during the time of war, can recall the incidents vividly.

Talking about the Central Bank Bombing, he says, “It was insane. After the initial explosion another truck carrying several hundred kilograms of explosives rammed into the building. The glass building shattered and while many were killed several others were rendered sightless.” The blast had left 91 people dead and 1400 others injured. Over a 100 people went blind due to the glass shreds.

He himself has had close shave on three occasions and in one incident it was a fortuitous crossing of road that saved his life. Recalling the days he said: “That was ominous times. I know many of my friends parents had precautionary decisions not to travel together in the same vehicle, so in case of an incident at least one of them survives.” It was these experiences that drove Hasara to move outside his comfort zone and do his bit in the re-building of post conflict society in Sri Lanka.

He was introduced to Sri Lanka Unites by a friend and then he went on to attend the Future Leaders’ Conference-4 afterwards there was no turning back. “I had friends earlier from all ethnicities, but I had never met somebody who has been directly affected in the war zone. At FLC-4, my team had this Tamil student who had lost his/her family member in the war and had seen a lot of victims,” said Hasara, adding, “That boy was scared of Sinhalese people and in fact, we were the first Sinhalese people with whom he had actually interacted.” “This just highlighted that how we really needed to work on building the social fabric of the country to achieve harmony,” he reflected.

He continues to be associated with Sri Lanka Unites and wants to take the message of giving peace a chance to as many people as possible.

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