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A million voices for peace

Dawn of the New Year with renewed hope for peace and prosperity

As the New Year heralded with the chanting and blessings of the religious leaders and thousands of peace-loving population in almost every part of the country from metros to the far-flung hamlets, a glimmer of hope for peace and prosperity hung in the rather cold air of Christmas.

However, it is a time that the nation should take stock of the affairs of the past year as each and every individual make New Year resolutions, it is pertinent to ponder whether the prayers alone had answered the renewed calls by people of every faith, or the peace constituency that has been painstakingly built over the years, bore fruits and that time was ripe for the silent majority to make a wake up call to their local leaders that they are against war in general and Tamil militancy in particular.

At last, the peace-loving silent majority in the war -torn areas such as Mannar has joined with their counterparts in the South in an island-wide signature campaign and a petition for peace, justice and reconciliation.

Spearheaded by the CSR (Centre for Society and Religion) and under the guidance of social justice crusader Father Tissa Balasuriya, the campaign received a positive response, particularly from war-torn Mannar reaffirming the truth that the silent majority is against the Tamil militancy.

The petition among other things emphasized the need to distinguish between the Tamil militancy, the LTTE and its demands for a separate state of Eelam and the political, economic and cultural grievances of the Tamil people of the North East.


Father Tissa Balasuriya

As the CSR urged, all the churches launched the campaign during midnight mass on New Years eve and a peace petition was signed at the altar by eight people including the celebrant after the sermon and the congregation was called upon to sign the petition at the end of the service.

The petition states, "We have to distinguish two interrelated issues by distinct questions concerning the Tamil militancy; the militancy of the LTTE, with its demand for a separate state of Tamil Eelam and the political, economic, social and cultural grievances of the Tamil people in the North and the East ... What is required is a peaceful, constitutional solution with a sharing of power within one Sri Lanka.

The main obstacle for this during the past 50 years has been the division between the two main political parties in the south, the UNP and the SLFP. Fortunately the two parties have come together in late 2006 to arrive at a resolution of the national issue.

The meeting of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) and the work of Expert Committee can be a help for progress towards a consensus on the constitutional issues. The population in general can and must support this search for a Southern consensus over and above party political interests. "

The peace petition further emphasized that the long term answer to the problem 'has to be an understanding of the people of the majority and the minority to live together in harmony with a constitutional and democratic sharing of power within a united Sri Lanka'.

"Many people hear misunderstood the campaign, even the media said you will be thought to be as if you are saying don't finish the LTTE. If there is a Government, it has to maintain law and order. At the same time they (Government) must take away the causes why violence takes place.

We must put across the idea that the majority are not against a solution ", says Father Tissa Balasuriya who commenced the one-million signature campaign as part of the on-going campaign to broaden the understanding among the diverse ethnic and religious groups of the country and to build a strong voice against militancy.

The purpose of the signature campaign is to raise awareness among small groups of 10-15 persons who could form local concerned citizens. Under the programme religious festivals such as Christmas, Muslim Festival of Hadji, Poya day, Thai Pongal would be used to raise public awareness on the issue and the Gandhian methods of non-violence will be used to drive home the message that the pent up hatred and misunderstanding over 50 years is nothing but a spiritual illness.

The on-going action with small groups is aimed at influencing the local political leadership to come together to find a lasting solution to the national question. The copies of the signatures will, personally, be handed over to President Mahinda Rajapakse, leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe and international peace facilitators and negotiators and other parties to the conflict.

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Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
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Produced by Lake House Copyright 2006 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

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