Dear Sri Lankans,

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With the news of the 8th President of Sri Lanka taking oath, there is much conjecture about what is to come and, if or not our situation will turnaround for the better as we still hang in the balance.

Regardless of what our political standpoints are individually, it is only fair we give the President-elect some breathing space before we see results of the actions he promises to present.

However, keep score and hold accountable. Always.

We Sri Lankans are good at forgiving and forgetting when we just shouldn’t.

Given this crisis, yes, the President-elect being a seasoned politician perhaps may be what we need and he may even prove efficient and vital in turning things around but if we have learnt anything in our modern political history – the chapter we just retired –  do not forget what they do. Do not idolise them, politicians. Do not put them on a pedestal. And do not embrace them for being a ‘lesser evil’ because this game can be played with no evils, but only if we make it so.

In the past, we’ve re-elected those we hero-worshipped for doing one good deed, disregarding all the misconducts and misdeeds and even the big red flags, despite them coming in long yards wrapped around several necks. Why? Because we let the other problematic elements slide when we wanted to believe someone as the ‘saviour’, when all we just needed is reform.

Are you baffled by the number of people who get so uncomfortable when it’s time to settle a score –and they see themselves on the other side? How they don’t mind putting away harmful history under the rug with no discourse because they weren’t the ones impacted? They’re so much at ease because they aren’t the ones hurting, it’s scary.

Have you noticed, when it comes to electing politicians to office and whenever the conversation of ill-treatment by those politicians towards minorities comes up, they have no problem bringing the ‘others have done worse’ argument, ‘let bygones be bygones’ attitude or ‘politics is dirty anywhere’ defence? Or they just go ahead and quietly pick the broom and sweep it off to right where it doesn’t belong, and you won’t even know it.

It’s hardly ever, ‘let’s holistically change what’s wrong’, right?

Whenever minorities reiterate their struggle, many find it irksome, as if these problems are not deeply woven in our socio-politics. As if, it’s not a time to address the history we’ve ignored for so long, no less, severe human rights violations – a buzz word for many because of it overuse in the recent past. Ever wondered why that is?

This. This is exactly why history is important.

To make informed decisions going forward, we need to know each other’s struggles because that is what should influence our political understanding. Knowing who did what to whom, will help us restructure our systems. Holding people accountable will ensure that we foster a new political culture that we can rely on to take each one of us sailing on the boat of progress. In fact, the whole point of history lessons is to shape our future. Bringing up past events over and over again is necessary until what needs to be seen, is acknowledged. The silenced, heard and the forgotten, remembered.

It’s like putting multiple alarms in the morning to make sure you get up at a certain time; with each ring that goes off, you are little more awake. In this case, with every reminder of our past, what we have to be strive to be is more aware of the structural inequalities and our position in these equalities. Majority or minority, history is to hold the future actors accountable, yes? Distorting history will only make it repeat itself, and that we don’t want.

So, can we just agree that we should allow each other to keep telling our story as many times as it takes for grassroots and meaningful change to happen especially when we have to deal with self-proclaimed boxing/chess/cricket/rugby players who take no time in asserting their ‘power’? We should rethink the way we see those we elect to office.

Sincerely,

‘Re’writing the future

By Dilshani Palugaswewa