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Monday, August 18, 2014 - 9.08 GMT
Seeking to build ‘Positive Peace’ in a cohesive society with trust and reciprocity - Secretary to the President

 

What we must seek to build progressively is a "Positive Peace" and a kind of development that goes beyond a monetary value and favours the growth of human and social relationships, cohesive societies, promote civic engagement and establish trust and reciprocity, said Mr Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President.

“In such a situation, we will find both a sustainable peace and a sustainable development,” he said addressing the ‘Defence Seminar - 2014,’ at Colombo Galadari Hotel today (August 18).

He said the term "Social Capital" is very important to Sri Lanka as it refers to trust and reciprocity in social relationships; norms, values and attitudes that strengthen and integrate communities while helping individuals achieve their goals; bridging and bonding ties that create cohesion between different groups of people.

He pointed out that Sri Lanka has been a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural society, Influenced by the teaching of their respective religious leaders, different groups of people had learned to live in harmony with each other in compassion and love, trusting and supporting each other, and unwittingly doing a great job of peace-building.

More than 350 delegates representing over 55 countries, including ambassadors and diplomats are attending the Seminar.

Full text of the speech of Mr Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President:

It has always been a delightful experience for me to participate in the three previous occasions the Defence Seminar was held, in the midst of some of the brightest and sharpest minds in national and global security, and this time too, it is no exception. Thank you indeed for inviting me to the Defence Seminar 2014 and for the opportunity to learn and share new information on matters relevant to national development, prosperity and security in a regional and global context.

Five years have lapsed since the dark days of war ended, and the effects are tangible throughout the country --- foremost among them, a sense of security and safety in getting about with the routine work in everyday lives of ordinary men, women and children. Since the end of the war, Sri Lanka has performed well in moving forward, although not without its fair share of challenges posed by climate changes, adjustments to global energy price changes and not to forget the international pressure, which is being applied due largely to misconceptions created and disseminated by disenchanted elements of terror groups. In addition to rapid economic progress, the country is expected to surpass the target of US$ 4,000 per capita during this year.

Only a few weeks ago, we heard the positive news that Sri Lanka has crept up two notches and ranked 73rd position in the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) for 2014 under high development category, retaining its position ahead of all the South Asian countries. This undoubtedly motivates us to do better focussing on some new indices such as IT literacy and use of Information and Communication Technologies in strengthening peace and development.

That being said, let me start sharing my thoughts on my given topic today on the "Inseparable partnership between Peace and the Rise of Sri Lanka". I take the phrase "Rise in Sri Lanka" here to mean "economic development" in Sri Lanka, but let me come to that in more detail as I proceed.

What I propose to do in my address this morning is to make a brief examination of the nexus between peace and development, and consequently what appropriate measures should be adopted to cement this partnership for the well being of the country and its people.

Let me begin with a simple question. What is peace? For those of us who had been weary of the war for thirty years, a natural and quick answer to this question will be: "the absence of war". And that would only be partially correct --- according to certain scholars of Peace Studies who refer to the absence of war as “negative peace”. Peace is called "negative" when it has been achieved only as a result of controlling certain disruptive factors. We in fact had this "negative peace" at one point in the conflict when a ceasefire was introduced between the government and the LTTE. For a brief period there was a lull in violence, and incidents that would have been undesirable ceased to happen temporarily, and as we know, a fragile period of peace prevailed. As all of us know, these fragile periods of 'absence of violence' engineered at the behest of LTTE, allowed the terror groups to fortify themselves.

Now, the opposite force of this "negative peace" --- a "positive peace" is something that post-conflict countries in particular should aspire to. The figure widely known as the father of Peace Studies, Prof. Johan Galtung, gives a richer, more complex meaning to this “positive peace”. He says that it is not bullets and bombs alone that kill and maim people. There is also such a thing as “structural violence”, violence that is built into the structure of political, social and economic systems. People who die of malnutrition in a world with more than enough food; who are blinded, crippled or killed by preventable diseases; who become the targets of vicious crimes committed by desperate, marginalized people --- these are not victims of war. They are the victims of structural violence. Yet they are just as damaged, just as dead, as those we count as war casualties." Hence Prof. Galtung sums up: "Positive peace" is more than just the absence of war. It is the presence of decency.

To elaborate further, Prof. Galtung says that Positive peace is filled with positive content such as restoration of relationships, the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the whole population and the constructive resolution of conflict. It is this Positive peace that we will consider as conducive to promote development in Sri Lanka. The Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission made a large number of recommendations towards establishing and enhancing Positive peace in Sri Lanka.

Now there are different views held by theorists on the partnership between peace and development, and debate on whether peace and development are actually compatible. One question is whether sustained peace is a condition for economic development. The fact that it so, is a truism. It is obvious that no real economic progress can be achieved in a situation of conflict or war, when the resources that would normally be used for economic development will have to be diverted for defense and military purposes, or will simply not be available for use. However, it is interesting to note that despite a debilitating war, Sri Lanka during the years 2006 to 2009, had remarkable GDP growth, 7.7% (2006), 6.8% (2007), 6.0% (2008), & 3.5% (2009). Once the struggle against terrorism ended in May 2009, we had remarkable GDP growth in 2010 - a massive 8.0%.

The second view point is whether economic development is a condition for sustained peace? There is a lack of consensus on this one. There are some streams of opinion which say that development promotes peace because people experiencing better economic conditions are less likely to create conflicts. This is because they are generally content with their lot, and are aware of the losses resulting from conflicts. This may be a reason for countries to compile a Gross National Happiness Index, leading to the thought that ultimately, people needed to be happy with their lot, not merely economic empowerment.

Another stream of opinion is that development hinders peace. This is because certain groups of people ensure their sustained development at the expense of others, by suppressing or controlling them.

A third stream of opinion held by some theorists is that peace and development bear no significant relationship to each other.

All in all, although there is agreement that sustained peace can promote economic development, there is no guarantee that economic development alone will promote sustained peace. This is because people in a society, in any country, whether they are rich or poor, will "always want more" leading to inevitable disparities. Hence, there has to be a multi disciplinary approach to development. In this context, development has to take into account not just the monetary value, but also people development and growth, strengthening of social networks, and as some countries do, even go to the extent of developing a Gross National Happiness Index. The essence of the philosophy of this index is the peace and happiness of a country's people and the security and sovereignty of the nation.

Having briefly discussed the nature of the partnership between peace and development, I will now move on to the interventions that can be made for peace and development to complement and reinforce each other.

If you wonder what were the most valuable assets that were ravaged by the war during those three decades, many come to mind. Precious human lives to be sure. Infrastructure that set us back in the development trajectory by several years is another. But also very importantly, the slow but steady disintegration of our society - what we have often referred to in the past as the destruction of our social fabric, and concurrently, the destruction of what is known as "Social Capital" in our country.

The term "Social Capital" may be a new word for many of us who are familiar with the traditional categories of economic capital such as financial, physical and human. It is in fact a term that economists had tried hard to ignore as having anything to do with economic growth some years ago, but which has slowly gained credence since the 1960s as an important category of capital that fosters growth and development. If one were to define Social Capital, in the present context, it refers to trust and reciprocity in social relationships; norms, values and attitudes that strengthen and integrate communities while helping individuals achieve their goals; bridging and bonding ties that create cohesion between different groups of people. Social capital accumulates to the extent that members of different social groups can maintain respect for differences and learn to cooperate, especially beyond the family and clan.

In what way is Social Capital important to us? Traditionally, Sri Lanka has been a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural society. Influenced by the teaching of their respective religious leaders, different groups of people had learned to live in harmony with each other in compassion and love, trusting and supporting each other, and unwittingly doing a great job of peace-building. These interactions have been facilitated by social, cultural and community networks, and human relations that foster trust and a sense of belonging between different ethnic and religious communities, all of which are elements of Social Capital. Thus, if one expects development in Sri Lanka to promote sustained peace, then it is important that such development takes into account the promotion of Social Capital as well. It is only in that context that the inseparability of sustained peace and development will prevail.

However, it must be noted that this Social Capital which had maintained strong and cohesive societies in Sri Lanka for many, many years has been significantly weakened due to LTTE activities. The atrocities committed by the LTTE at various times and in various places in varying degrees of brutality held a lasting impact on the communities.

Prof. Karunaratne Hangawatte, academic and diplomat, presently our ambassador in France, who had also served as a Commissioner in the Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), once very insightfully described the impact of LTTE activities on Sri Lankan society. He cites the destruction of our long-developed social capital as the worst consequence of LTTE terrorist campaign. Prof. Hangawatte goes on to say: (I quote) "Personal relations between friends, neighbors and families have been affected due to growing mistrust and suspicion among ethnic groups, police and community relations have suffered due to detachment of police from the community, political leaders have become isolated from the public, people have lost access to their representatives and public servants, barriers have prevented free movement and socialization, multi community integration through participation at religious ceremonies such as Vesak and Madu celebrations and visits to multi religious places of worship such as Kataragama, Sri Pada and Anuradhapura have been adversely affected, and people have kept away from large community gatherings due to fear of violence. Loss of contact among people and between communities has affected individual and collective productivity due to loss of employment, trade and commerce. Social functions such as Shrama Dana, through which people help each other with various projects by donating labor, have ceased. Many social, cultural and public institutions have crumbled under the weight of terror. As a result of LTTE terror, communities that have the capacity to peacefully coexist have become sharply divided and grown suspicious of each other. Violence has become a common norm in some urban areas. There is a decline of civic engagement and our social and cultural institutions have begun to crumble." (unquote)

What must be done therefore is to restore trust among communities, rebuild Social Capital and thereby enhance personal and collective productivity, bring lasting peace and prosperity, and improve the quality of life of every Sri Lankan citizen.

Rebuilding Social Capital can be done in several ways. Through economic means, by empowering marginalized and vulnerable groups to build a sense of personal security and contribute to the economy. There are in fact several such economic empowerment programmes, revolving credit schemes which foster social networking currently implemented by government ministries in conflict affected areas. Culture and sports also play a crucial role as mechanisms to develop inclusive forms of social relations in post-conflict contexts. Relationships established between people who do not belong to the same primary social group and where there are no shared identities help diverse ethnic groups in particular to understand each other better and help mitigate any conflict situations among such groups. Social science research in India has shown how facilitating inter-communal networks in certain cities have prevented recurrence of inter-communal conflicts.

When His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President of Sri Lanka presented his vision, in January 2010, "Mahinda Chintana, Vision for the Future," he articulated a multi-dimensional approach for sustainable development focusing on strengthening relationships and bonds among people.

(I quote):
To win the world, develop the country
To develop the country, strengthen the village
To strengthen the village, protect the family
To protect the family,
Care for the person.

(Unquote)

It is very clear that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is committed to promote the bonds among people, and communities, enabling the revival, growth and sustenance of our social capital. He summed up his vision thus:

(I Quote)
The Children of Mother Lanka
Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher
Look to us with hope
To be their trustee
To be the one to realize their dreams

(Unquote)

In conclusion, let me observe that in order for peace and development to be complimentary and to grow as an inseparable partnership, what we must seek to build progressively is a "Positive Peace" and a kind of development that goes beyond a monetary value and favours the growth of human and social relationships, cohesive societies, promote civic engagement and establish trust and reciprocity. In such a situation, my dear friends, we will find both a sustainable peace and a sustainable development.

Thank you.


 


 

 
 
   
   
     
   
   

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