When the war is “over”


Will your company hire an ex combat veteran? Or an ex LTTE child solider with years of lost schooling and no childhood to speak of (not all of them can become novelists)?  How about a LTTE suicide bomber who never got  “used”? Do you think management will consider Investing in training them amidst a global recession? Will they be turned down by asking how well they can speak English after all those years in the Wanni?

How long would it take for an ex special forces solider be able to work in a civilian job in Kilinochchi? Or a former black tiger to travel around the South as a sales rep? Both without any fear or harassment? Will the Navy accept a Sea Tiger to its ranks? Will the disabled on both sides be treated differently? Or just tossed artificial limbs and wheel chairs (by a politician, for the cameras) and wished “good luck”?

I am being presumptuous by using the word “when”. By “war” I should actually use the words “major fighting”. But the “talk” is that the government will eventually take Berlin. And in a bunker in the jungle a squat man with a moustache will blame the whole mess as someone else’s fault. But many big questions hang in the air. Among the practical ones is what will happen to the  young men and women of the armed forces and LTTE fighters who survive intact. 

No doubt the military will have some low level mopping up operations after the principle fighting is over. Which could mean that a bulk of the soldiers will sit through the global recession at checkpoints and bases all over the Wanni. Yet eventually they will have to find a life outside the military. It is doubtful that the Sri Lankan government can maintain a large peace time military. U.N peace keeping operations and private military contractors might pickup the slack but it won’t cover for everyone.

Would the rest end up stuffed into “jobs” in some government department? Where they can pretend to work while the government pretends to pay them? Will the private sector find roles besides security guards for ex soldiers? Will military and  LTTE survivors be vacuumed up by organised crime?  How many will face withering away on NGO hand outs in IDP camps? Perhaps help bag some photo journalist an award for framing another gaunt third world face for the cover of Time.

On an optimistic note, there will be a skilled disciplined work force coming out of the military and the LTTE. Both will have skilled managers tested in the heat of battle and hardened by years of experience.

If the potential of these lost generations are harnessed Sri Lanka has hope. Or the last 25 years of war will be our historical equivalent of WW1. And our impending “victory” could be or Versailles. 

Just don’t look to the politicians for answers. For them blasphemous questions such as these only distract from more important decisions like the colour of this year’s ministerial Mercedes. These queries may soon be illegal so might as well mouth off clumsily while I can.

I should move along focused on making money. Get a car. Build a house. Breed. But as you may have noticed, I am just another flickering low watt bulb. At least the questions are out of my retarded head. A post with too many questions marks. I suppose it looks all very political.

19 comments

  1. I think “winning” the war or as MR was quoted in the Leader a few months ago “There is no war in this country, what we have is only a law and order situation and we are trying to control it” (http://www.thesundayleader.lk/20080727/POLITICS.HTM) will make little or no difference to the situation in Sri Lanka. I don’t see it ever becoming completely secular or open minded about ethnic issues. But, then again I’m a cynic.

    As for your WWI reference, Versailles was one of the key reasons leading to an even greater crisis in WWII. Moreover, on the subject of soldiers- what happens to those caught in frequent violence when they have to readjust back into society? Weimar Germany seems an ominous history lesson with post-war violence, critical unemployment and poverty.

    I suppose like you, I’m asking questions too. Nicely written Cerno🙂

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  2. Its been a long cycle and being a regular prophet of doom I see only further twists and turns with no end. The violence will ebb and flow much like in the liberated East.

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  3. Vindi: Thank you🙂 Though you summed it up better. The War has always been a convenient excuse for the Sri Lanka’s rulers. But military “defeat’ of the LTTE looks bleak in the face of the political tilt of the government.

    Jack: Sadly that sounds all too familiar. Been thinking about what I read about the Portuguese period. Makes the news feeds seem quite familiar.

    What got to me was how impossible and far away all the hopeful stuff feels. I guess there are those who think that the racist crap of the politicians are a passing thing. I wonder how many said that when Hitler was elected.

    Then again, one must not get too fixated on history no? Shit the vodka bucket is empty again….

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  4. What happened to old JVP buggers? Some end up in Korea and Japan. Some entered in to politics and business surrounding it. Some turn in to capitalist entrepreneurs and start communication centers and printing business. So I guess same will happen to LTTE buggers too. Government can expand itself in to provincial levels, to village level if possible. Even appoint a representative for every bridge or a house or a toilet (those are the only things left without representatives right now). That will instantly create few thousand jobs directly as representatives, drivers, bodyguards, sectaries, etc.. Indirectly other few thousands, such as printing jobs and medical jobs. I’m sure north and east also in dire need of three-wheelers to annoy every driver. And there will be big demand for lawyers to settle all the land issues for next 100 years. And most of all, I’m absolutely sure church would like to have some good number of priests too, since their numbers are falling globally. Someone have to clean all that mess and rebuild the city. So it is not all that gloomy. There is lot of stuff to do.

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  5. man u sound like the economy of rural sri lanka depends on IT and accounting. these people aren’t going to look for work in IT, accounting or law firms in colombo or kandy. rural sri lanka runs on agriculture. if the army is successful in gaining full control over the landmass, i think farmers in conflict areas will be able make full use of the arable land. what we’ve seen in areas in mannar, pooneryn, mullathivu etc is the huge tracts of abandoned rice paddy and a vast but dilapidated irrigation system. hopefully the government will be wise enough to build roads and repair the irrigation canals so farmers can get their produce where they can sell it.

    as for the size of the army, i think its wise to maintain a large defense contingent until prabhakaran and pottu amman can be accounted for.

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  6. Thank you Cerno for bringing out the Questions and those questions will stand for a long time. My father says, he traveled to Jaffna, freely, was before I was even born! I hope people will be free to travel interact and build a nation that truly can march forward together.

    But I think in the near future, all those soldiers, both tigers and lions will be involved in the rebuilding process. How about unearthing mines? Tigers will know where they are and Lions know how to defuse them.
    But all in all, as both sides managed to make / get soldiers out of peace loving villagers, I hope soldiers could turn out to be good or even better villagers, once again.
    I would love to hear people telling the world that they are Sri Lankans, not Sinhalese or Tamils.
    I really hope the war ends.

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  7. Cemo,
    Good thought provoking article looking at the human cost and destruciton. I have seen so many in the past specialy some of the key Sri Lankan discussion forums calculate the win / losses as if though they are watching a cricket game.

    I wonder how many in the websites are writing anything sensible or at least looking at various scenarios.

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  8. This is a great post on some of my own thoughts. I pass countless soldiers on guard in Colombo, and always wonder what their future holds.
    We keep talking about when it’s ‘over’ hah. I actually have NO faith in our government, as it has never shown any qualities of far-thinking. I’m sure (IF this ever finishes) they will fuck everything up royally, as usual.

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  9. Yow! didn’t expect this kind of traffic to a rambling rant of a post😀

    Sam, nuwan & kalusudda: Thank you for your points and words of hope🙂 made my day after those depressing thoughts. The “reformation” of ex-JVPers does offer some hope. And many thanks to nuwan for pointing out the Reuters post. Sort of feels rather odd being linked to along with The Economist😉

    Siva Thank you🙂 I agree the scary thing is that the human cost is not discussed😐

    DeeCee: I agree with you but thankfully I think Sri Lankans have the ingenuity to get by without the pols. I hope anyway..

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  10. Cemo’s blogg is certainly different to the others. Most of the other forums actively encourage racial hatred, I mean both Tamil and Sinhala expats are biggest culprits. Well they are out of the country, earning good money and their kids are thousands of miles away from the war zone. Rather than digress let me come back to cemo’s thoughts.

    I don’t believe the war is going to end. It’s very premature to talk about these real human issues. There is not only the Tamils rebels, there are a huge number of wounded, soldiers from both sides.

    The only option for the war to end is a POLITICAL solution. I don’t believe the Sinhalese are not yet ready for this. Just take a step back and think this through. Tamil Tigers have survived for 3 decades. It is not easy to wipe them out. Both parties have number of battle successes as well as failures. Northern territory has changes hands many times within the last 15 years. They are a well organised and well funded group. Killing Prabaharan is not the solution. Even if he killed that will not be the end of Tigers, that’s what I believe.

    Unfortunately the our corrupt politicians make the most of the war the make a lot of wealth for themselves and use the war to hide their own failings. Most Sri Lankans fail to understand this concept.

    Well over a million Tamil Diaspora are ready to fund the war even for the next 25 years but Sri Lanka as a country cannot afford to fund this war for the next 25 years. We will become the first Somalia in Asia for sure.

    It is time we as Sri Lankans negotiate for a peaceful political settlement. It will be painful for both sides, there is no doubt about that. But Sri Lanka may survey as a country, but if the war carries on the there will no Sri Lanka on the map!

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  11. First of all we need to finish this war , my fear is LTTE will go underground and really become start harassing hidden in jungles. If we only capture the towns and LTTE leadership get away this is highly likely outcome. If we make a clean sweep and win this then I guess we are left with a problem. Hopefully North is rebuilt and people can find jobs in the rebuilding phase🙂

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  12. Joe: Thank you🙂 I have to agree with your assessment of Sri Lankan politicians. As sad and grim as it is.

    Nishadha Agree with you on that. Though I fear that the politicians won’t want the war gravy train to end. Ironically the LTTE has made them rich. Terrorism has given them the excuses to toss away the veil of democracy. Vut Tu Doo no?

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  13. cerno,

    three questions:
    1. in SL, does power lie in elected MPs and their assorted patronage schema or does it lie in entrepreneurs and their capital?

    2. Will ex-tigers and ex-army members possess the necessary ethical background to mitigate corruption already infecting the MP and minister population or will they simply exacerbate the current situation?

    3. Will those not living in conflict zones be any more than superficially invested in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the north?

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  14. Nayagan: 3 very insightful intelligent questions. I wish I can do them justice. From my understanding of things:
    1. The power lies with the president – who controls the money. MPs seem to prefer exchanging loyalty for powers that get them the money via ministries that handle big spending. The skimming from government project is supposedly bigger than any entrepreneur’s capital. Another complicating factor are the organised crime figures muscling into politics. Sound economic thinking is not a strength for Sri Lankan politicians in general and small fry MPs competing for gifts from the king will consider matters of economics last – if they ever do.

    2. This is a big unknown. The only constant is that power corrupts. And Sri Lankan politics is particularly corrosive. There have to be people of integrity somewhere but their effect is not being felt.

    3. I think if there is no fighting, I think private entrepreneurs will some how manage to get an economy going. Particularly from Expat communities in the first world.
    One possible market is the generation of professionals who left in the 70s and 80s who consider retiring to Sri Lanka. Culturally and financially it is a good deal for them. And the hard currency will be a nice injection of capital into the country. Or so goes the hope.
    There will be massive disparities. Political characters will have to be paid off. Monopolies will most likely be enforced with political connections. Essentially business as usual. Grim as it sounds, if people realise that they can make a decent living by working with people irrespective of their ethnicity there’s real hope. Not very good for politicians whose made such a killing on hate and war.

    It sounds a bit bleak. And I am not a expert on the details. I hope the people in the know can paint a hopeful picture.

    Very much appreciate your comment. Hope someone else might offer more specific insights into them🙂

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  15. […] Once the parades have died down, we’ll have to take in the fact that history is now on another cycle. One where the voter, the citizen has a chance to influence for the better. I can already hear the engines of cynicism revving up. But this time around I want to drown it out with the thought of not just yes we can, but yes we will (create something better). […]

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