Friday, September 22, 2006

People’s Voices for Peace

People in Sri Lanka celebrated International Peace Day with demonstrations, prayers, and inter religious programmes throughout the country on September 21 st 2006.

People of all walks of life in Sri Lanka want peace. They think peace is a distance dream, but speaking out without fear on Peace day is imporatnt to them; because they think the more silent they are - the worse they have to face in the future:

"My parents and younger sister are staying in Jaffna. There is a daily curfew in Jaffna from 6PM to 6AM. There is no fuel. Scarcity for essential items. People have to wait for a long time in the queues to buy things. The prices in shops have sky-rocketed. People are eating less to safe food for future.

There is not enough cash flow in the banks. Communication is completely cut off from the rest of the world. The main highway A9 from Jaffna to Kandy is closed for more than a month. The commercial flights to and from Jaffna have been stopped. People have to wait in long queues to get access to travel by ship to Trincomalee.

Patients are suffering. The power supply in interrupted very often. There is a heavy presence of military in Jaffna. People are afraid to move freely, especially young girls.I am very worried about my younger sister, who says she does not know what the future holds for her.

People are affected psychologically. Educational activities are at a standstill. Jaffna used to lead academically. But it is deteriorated. There is no access to media to travel and report tee fact independently, therefore the rest of the world is not aware of the prevailing situation in Jaffna.

It's a pity that my Sinhala friends do not know what's happening in Jaffna, and they keep asking me, "You have everything in Jaffna, why do you need peace?" I want to do something for peace. Because people are suffering endlessly" says Pathmapriya Vallipuram Gopalakrishnan (26) an Accounts Assistant of National Peace Council.

"I was teaching in Mannar from 1971 to 1978. I learnt to speak and write in Tamil during that period. I had a lot of Tamil friends. I do not have any Tamil friends now, because I moved from North to South to work. Today I am talking in Tamil after twenty five years, which gives me a great pleasure. I do not have the need to speak in Tamil in Galle, where I live.

The innocent civilians are suffering. If a bomb goes off in the country, Tamils get arrested immediately, and harassed. Bombs neither have hearts nor minds to think whether the people who will be killed are Tamils or Sinhalese or Muslims.

We Sinhalese living in the South have not witnessed the war directly. But we as human beings bear the burns of war. The whole village used to get together and mourn fro days, when the dead bodies of our fellow villagers used to come in large numbers during the height of war.

We Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims of this country have to live in peace and harmony. We all have to work towards peace with dignity" says Karunathunga Welikala (59) a retired teacher from Galle

"Tamils of Sri Lanka had been discriminated since independence. That led to freedom struggle. We lost thousands of valuable lives, millions of people displaced during war. We have learned a good lesson through a dirty war.

Now there is a Ceasefire in Sri Lanka. But violence still continues. We are not sure of our lives. People of North and East are dying without food. Muslims and Sinhalese are suffering on the other hand. However there is discrimination while helping the needy.

There are racists amongst us. But we have to cross the hurdles, and work for a permanent peace. We civilians want peace" says Velusamy Kumaraguruparan (43) ,General Secretary of All Employee's Progress Front of Badulla

"Each community suspects the other communities in Sri Lanka. Because the past incidents have put the people in this position. This is not a healthy environment. We civilians have to stay away from politics, and try to understand the other communities better.

Violence escalating everywhere in Sri Lanka. After couple of years of peace, the situation is sliding back to war. It's very dangerous. We can't travel freely anywhere, and anytime we want.
All have to put pressure on warring parties to cease hostilities, and start the negotiations without further delay to ensure peace and stability" says Nushrath Begum (30) of Sri Lanka Muslim Women Society in Kurunegala.

"My mother is sick in Jaffna. But I am unable to go to my home town to see her. I feel very sad for not being able to see my mother. Jaffna is completely cut off from other parts of world.

Death is immediate in Jaffna, whereas death is bit delayed in Colombo. People get shot quite often in Jaffna, but people get abducted very often in Colombo. Death is decided by seconds in Sri Lanka.

Peace should be the priority. But it should not go behind privileges. There are many, who take peace for various advantages. Peace should not be bargained. Peace should be for people, not for politicians" says Balasundaram Nirmanusan (26), Jaffna District Co-ordinator for People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL)

"Human security should be assured. Violence escalating in East again. Innocent civilians are targeted. A strong international community presence is important in the East to protect the civilians.

Killings, abductions, displacement are on the increase, although we have a Ceasefire Agreement. But either party does not seem to implement it. It's becoming more and more dangerous. People are living with fear.

People's lives should be protected. The parties have to create an environment, where people can live without fear. Then only the negotiations can start once again.

And the Diaspora community should contribute to peace in a more healthier and useful way" says Philip Murugaiah (32), Mission Director of Team of Youth for Development, Understanding and Progress (TYDUP)