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Reconciliation is Possible and Necessary

2013 Jul 11

Reconciliation in its diverse forms is a necessary condition for social peace and political stability. Reconciliation is necessary when two or more parties have been or are in conflict with each other. Trade unions were established in capitalist societies to facilitate negotiation with the capital to win higher wages and better working conditions. The existence of legitimate organisations of professionals, businesses, students, teachers, consumers, citizens, journalists, etc. has enabled these groups to negotiate with parties that they are in conflict with and often create mutually acceptable conditions for cooperation and co-existence.

"necessary when two or more parties have been or are in conflict with each other. Trade unions were established in capitalist societies to facilitate negotiation with the capital to win higher wages and better working conditions"

When disputes and conflicts are not amicably settled, aggrieved parties remain unhappy and frustrated. At times, they take the law into their own hands. As is well known, many long standing land disputes at times lead to tragic outcomes such as assassination of entire families by the aggrieved party. Personal disputes at times lead to similarly tragic results. When it comes to social and political disputes involving large segments of a country’s population, the situation is more complex and the perpetrators and victims are often not personally involved in the disputes. Thousands of innocent people who were killed during the thirty year conflict in all parts of the country, particularly in the north-east, did not have any personal dispute with their killers. People who raided villages with their guns and swords in the night and killed inhabitants at random often do not know their victims. But, the perpetrators labeled them before killing their victims. So, the latter died as members of a labeled community.
These labels eventually became so widely referred to in the media that they became household categories. Thus, the conflict in the north- east became a Sinhala- Tamil conflict, though many Sinhalese and Tamils did not see it that  way. When the Muslims were subsequently drawn into the conflict, the issues became even more complex.

As is well known the country’s ethnic conflict pre-dates the period of the violent confrontation. The broad ethnic communities were already distinct constituencies towards the end of the British rule. Social, economic and political integration of diverse communities within the post-colonial state was a major challenge already at the time of independence. The granting of universal adult franchise leading to political mobilisation of masses, a rapidly increasing population exerting growing pressure on economic resources, in particular land and the rising expectations of an emerging youthful population due to the spread of universal free education prepared the ground for severe inter- community competition for valued public goods in the next few decades.
 The British colonial rule in the country lasted for nearly hundred and fifty years and resulted in a major transformation of much of its landscape, social and political institutions and the economy. The establishment of plantations was the hallmark of the colonial economic policy and converted large tracks of land into tea and rubber estates in much of the wet zone. While the native population was mostly dependent on peasant agriculture for their sustenance, the plantations required the importation of Tamil workers from south India. Establishment of a road and rail network linking almost all parts of the country together, introduction of basic healthcare and elementary education, eradication of Malaria and the general improvement of socio- economic conditions contributed to a significant reduction in mortality rates leading to population growth. Population more than doubted between 1871, the year of the first census of population, and 1946. Population pressure was increasing in the south- west and the central regions where the plantations flourished from the early 19th century onwards.

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