| by Victor Cherubim
( January 27, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) “The challenges we are currently facing are numerous and complex, and can be overcome only if we reinforce our awareness that the destiny of each of us is linked to that of everyone else…….. The present crisis can, then, be an opportunity for the entire community to verify whether the values upon which social life is founded have generated a society that is just, fair and united, or whether it is necessary to undertake a profound rethink in order to rediscover values which ….not only favour economic recovery, but which are also attentive to promoting the integral good of human beings.”
Pope Benedict XVI echoed these words recently and in so doing emphasised that institutions (of learning) must foment and increase the awareness that we all form part of the same structure, encouraging values of acceptance and solidarity.
For far too long, our schools and colleges in Sri Lanka have put the emphasis of education on securing top marks and the criteria of knowledge lodged in obtaining a specialist training. Interweaving knowledge and cross training in multi disciplines was not a primary objective of a rounded education. Failure was also not due to a lack of talent, but to the lack of focus on the right approach.
Where have all the specialists in various disciplines within individual seats of learning taken us over these years and why is there such a thirst for a multi disciplined, cross training in education and lifestyle today?
With the incredible tools of knowledge and learning available at our disposal, formal specialist education becomes less and less important with the emergence of a new kind of individual seeking a coping mechanism in a world of uncertainty and unemployment, who not only has acquired most of his knowledge through “self exploration”, but believes what the mind can conceive, it can truly achieve. We call this “creative visualisation.”
Top marks at school are no longer enough to secure a top job, let alone a job or even an interesting and rewarding lifestyle. Many a student, who once bottomed out at school, has surprisingly, but not suddenly, reached the top and become rich and powerful in today’s world. This is not the result of their grades and pass marks, but due to their imagination and
Those with a success rate relate a story of how and why they got further in life. They state they opted to cross train in a multi-tiered educational environment with a powerhouse of ideas, rather than specialise and get “blinkered” in one field.
“I got a high from my learning curve”, stated a student recently in U.K. exposing himself to the cutting edge of technology in many fields. “It helped me to unwind, besides, I got the best opportunity to learn about many things and how they fit into the mosaic of the whole. I came to know how each of the disciplines worked, whilst understanding risk and gathered the commitment to take the leap forward. This training approach helped me to bring my ideas to market.”
If we take the leap in faith from cross training in education of an individual to our collective destiny in Sri Lanka, through positive and creative thinking through our problems, we come across a way out of our political conundrum. A new vista opens in cross training our minds to arrive at our political decisions. We are not in this process as Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims; we come to our value judgments how to resolve our problems not as individuals but as Pope Benedict affirms “as a more human society able to rediscover relationships as the constituent elements of our lives.”
We need a “moving target strategy” to face our Collective Destiny in Sri Lanka today. We as
a society, have to move from a specialist mindset not only in education but also in our governance. If we research some of the recommendations by the LLRC we will find they are
based on a moving target strategy and a non blinkered approach.
Having said that, we must also accept that there are risks associated with this approach.
What are the risks we take to implement some of the recommendations by the LLRC?
It is always easy to come up with a set of recommendations for reconciliation. Taking some of the measures recommended and scrutinising them we often want to use our “specialist mindset” to make our judgment. It is not because we want to make the wrong decisions, it is because we are making the right ones, but based only on the apparent knowledge of the facts.
But is that the reality? Reality is as someone said, “the space between two thoughts”. This in the Sri Lankan context is a crowded space. We need “the encouraging values of acceptance, solidarity and legality.” We need to find a pragmatic way out of the wood of our prejudices, our fears, and our preconditions if we want to arrive at what is possible and what is not. It would not suffice for the government to implement all the recommendations of the LLRC.
Let us look at some of the recommendations of the LLRC findings.
1. Supply of information on missing persons and detainees to relatives.
This is not as easy as it sounds. An authoritative census of the living is possible, but the census of the missing or dead is yet another matter. It is fraught with danger to trace missing persons, whether they have fled the shores of Sri Lanka, in hiding, under fictitious identities or even unaccounted as dead or interned. What is possible is an attempt within a timeframe to trace the missing persons. Of course, the names and identities of detained persons who are held in prisons around the country can be revealed, if such revelations do not override national security.
2 Take up the investigations of cases of disappearances and abductions.
When and under what circumstances does the law permit to consider anyone as a “disappeared person?” It will amount to conjecture if a case of a person deemed as disappeared is investigated and found to have absconded or is in hiding. But,the question of abduction is a serious matter with a purported criminal intent. This will have to be investigated and action taken by security personnel to pursue the abductors for any speculation to be countered.
3. Tri-lingual policy of the Nation.
This is an achievable proposition, and is being put into operation but within a time-frame and possibly with some incentive or inducement. It cannot be forced down wily nilly. To add two lines in Tamil or allow the national anthem to be sung in Tamil as was the case earlier, the former is ludicrous, while the latter is hardly
perceived as national by the majority.
4. Curb activities of illegal armed groups.
There is only one National Defence Force and any other forces are unwanted, not fit for purpose and superfluous. Curbing activities is one thing but as there has been a culture of impunity over a period of thirty odd war years, implementation of this recommendation is time consuming and costly. But that is no excuse to continue a policy of non- zero tolerance.
5 Reduce the High Security Zones.
The HSZ of Palali and Sampur,near Trincomalee, are two well known zones. State security takes precedence but compensation payments have to be made in lieu to residents on market rates. Thus appointing of Commissions and Committees is one thing, but implementation of proposals is yet another as far as national security.
6 Return of Private Lands occupied by the military.
Where national security is not at stake, every effort should be made to return private lands occupied by the services to their lawful owners. But here again common sense and common law must take precedence. Private property is the basis of our democracy; land issues have always been and will continue to surmount, but the law of the land must be adhered at all cost.
7 Phasing out militarisation and security forces involvement in civilian activities.
Sri Lanka has one of the largest armies for any nation covering its land area, it is hardly possible or practical to demob the military establishment without adequate counter measures. With the phasing out of service, and natural delimitation over time this no doubt will adjust itself, with deep financial scrutiny.
8. Discrimination in education in order to bring about genuine reconciliation.
Positive discrimination in education is one way forward so long as checks and balances are also maintained. What if any, is the risk element of discrimination of any sort over a time frame?
“Getting something for nothing,” has been the special mantra of the peoples of the world in the twentieth century and Sri Lankans are no exception. Everything in today’s world has a cost, both for development and for devolution. Are we willing or able to pay the cost? The Middle Path ingrained in our psyche in Sri Lanka will always prevail irrespective what the world wants from us. We fell foul by our specialist education and blinkered thinking in the past. It is our belief the “moving target strategy” and our way of survival by multi-disciplined education will create our individual and collective destiny of all our people in the immediate future.
( The writer is a freelance journalist, who can be reached email@example.com )