Reconciliation and reconstruction: Sri Lanka becomes a beacon for Pakistan

Published: September 6, 2011
There are many investors lining up in Sri Lanka. Many of them are Pakistanis, sick of the lack of facilities and rise in violence at home. South Asia is looking again at the Sri Lankan model. PHOTO: AFP

There are many investors lining up in Sri Lanka. Many of them are Pakistanis, sick of the lack of facilities and rise in violence at home. South Asia is looking again at the Sri Lankan model. PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO: Colombo is buzzing. The end of the war and the start of what locals call the ‘reconciliation and reconstruction process’ has led to Sri Lanka once again being in the limelight. With basic infrastructure in place – in two years time, all parts of the island will have uninterrupted power supply – and with a literacy rate of over 90%, there are numerous opportunities for business and growth here. The general feeling is that Sri Lanka is about to take off.

In a symbolic move, the army headquarters on Galle Face, Colombo’s most prestigious seafront drive, had been demolished to make way for a five-star hotel. The priorities seem to be in place. The war is over, peace must now be pursued.

The shiny new Bandaranaike airport, much larger and far cleaner than any airport in Pakistan, has seen a surge in tourist numbers. There are many investors lining up too. Many of them are Pakistanis, sick of the lack of facilities and rise in violence at home. South Asia is looking again at the Sri Lankan model. Kalyan Banerjee, an Indian who now heads Rotary International – a world body of professionals and businesspersons – told a conference held in Colombo this week on development and cooperation in South Asia, that in the human development indicators, “Sri Lanka continues to lead the way for the rest of us to follow.”

There is much to learn for Pakistan and not just in terms of human indicators. For one, President Mahinda Rajapaksa says that the war against terrorism was won by his government without the backing of world powers and without the billions that have been poured into the effort in other countries (read: Afghanistan and Pakistan).

(Read: Pakistan, Sri Lanka discuss bilateral trade)

The Sri Lankan president arrived at the Rotary Conference with conch blowers and musicians at hand. He seems to be enjoying the cult status on the island.

“He is a people’s president,” says Rajendera Saboo, one of the speakers at this South Asian event.

But Rajapakse, also known as MR amongst his people, is sore over criticism over the human rights record of Lankan security forces in the final offensive against the Tamil Tigers. The UN has been unhappy, as have been human rights bodies. But MR holds his own. He says that his government has managed to resettle 280,000 persons so far and that this has been done with the cooperation of both security forces and NGOs.

“It needs to be acknowledged that Sri Lanka eradicated terrorism from its borders and made South Asia a little safer,” he says.

Certainly Colombo is less paranoid about security. The police pickets are less. Rajapakse moves around with a security detail of not more than five cars — much less than Interior Minister Rehman Malik. There are no cumbersome security procedures as one enters hotels. The Presidential Residence on Galle Face road may have a number of guards all round, but no road is blocked and no one is inconvenienced.

(Read: Sri Lanka scraps emergency laws)

It is clear, however, that the security forces here are better trained and equipped than Pakistan — an irony given that it was Pakistan that first trained and helped them when other countries, including India, looked the other way. After twenty years of conflict, what we see is a force that had defeated one of the most efficient terrorist outfits in the world and brought peace to the land.

But Rajapakse, who newspapers claim is enjoying an unprecedented surge in popularity, points out that the terrorists are regrouping. In Canada, for example, the Lankan government has said that known Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sympathisers are standing for local elections.

“We must always be vigilant,” says the Lankan president. Every day news items of scams are unearthed in different parts of the world involving LTTE sympathisers – who are still trying to raise money for their cause.

But it is the little things that matter. All motorcycle riders now wear helmets here. There is a fine imposed for jaywalking. More recently, there is a law that forbids giving licences to pharmacies that have not installed air-conditioning or fridges. Universal education is prevalent. The number of women in the workforce equals that of men. And the list is endless.

Meanwhile, for Pakistanis – thousands of whom have been able to see again due to generous eye donations by the Sri Lankans panning over several decades – one can only wish that along with the eyes came long-term vision. A feat that continues to be missing from Pakistan, despite the best intentions of all concerned.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • Karachiwalal
    Sep 6, 2011 - 7:00AM

    I am a regular visitor to Colombo… Pakistan is no Srilanka…. At the height of militancy no foreigner was ever targeted. I was there when LTTE was fighting and never felt threatened. Secondly it is a literate nation. Pakistan on the other hand is haven for terrorist with international designs and literacy is lacking in even literates so expecting a boom after US forces leave is mere talk. It didnt happen after Soviets left. If we expect peace on our western borders then we are mistaken… I believe as US will leave the rush to grab power will plunge Afghanistan into another civil war and hence a disturbed western front.
    in good days we had a trickle tourism what are we expecting million pouring to Pakistan?


  • Shah Zalmay Khan
    Sep 6, 2011 - 7:25AM

    A Well-Written article and “Well Done Sri Lanka”. I have always liked the Sri Lankans (only know the Cricketers) because of their decency.
    Thumbs up to the government, people and security forces of Sri Lanka. Lets hope we see our “PEACE” some day, within our lifetime.


  • Rohitha
    Sep 6, 2011 - 9:54AM

    Thank you Pakistan for all your support! Without you, we wouldn’t have won our war on Terrorists.

    We never forget it, and Pakistan will be a friendly nation for us for ever!


  • Rehan
    Sep 6, 2011 - 10:19AM

    Best wishes for the poeple of Sri Lanka. And same for the people of my Pakistan.


  • Sep 6, 2011 - 10:41AM

    All Srilankans are grateful to Pakistan for the support extended during the war,Pakistan & China were Srilanka’s true friends during the most difficult part of the war when other big countries were looking the otherway,in my deepest heartfelt gratitude I pray to god on behalf of Pakistan, I am sure God will give Pakistan peace & prosperity,may Pakistan become a great country for south asia.


  • ananada
    Sep 6, 2011 - 11:06AM

    well said rohitha
    we all in SL admirer Pakistan.great nation with great civilization hope peace & prosperity comes to Pakistan very soon


  • vasan
    Sep 6, 2011 - 11:30AM

    The author forgot lots of fundamental differences between Srilanka and Pakistan. Srilankans are highly literate and not religious bigots. They dont have grand religion and war oriented ambitions like “Gaiz e Hind”, “Ummah” “Caliphate” etc. They have not mixed religion with politics. Except for LTTE, they didnt have any suicide attacks., The Srilankan govt never spawned any terrorist groups towards their foreign policy objectives. The srilankan govt have not introduced religious bigotry and distorted history in their school curriculam. We can go on and on. Unless Pakistan corrects these distortions, drawing conclusions from any other country is not going to solve their problems.


  • vivek
    Sep 6, 2011 - 11:33AM

    srilanka won the war with the support of india and china. their army lost quarter of their lands to ltte before the govt get support from foreign countries. their security personals are nowhere near pakistan’s. i hope rajapakshe belive that too.


  • Amer Khan
    Sep 6, 2011 - 11:33AM

    A well written article, i am also a regular visitor to Sri Lanka since last eight years or so and was there at the height of the war and yes people there are very hospitable to us and the armed forces whoever i met shared with me that they have been trained either in Karachi or in Kakul so it was very good to know that. After Turkey, Sri Lanka is the second country where people respect us. Yes, we pray and hope that similar peace comes to Pakistan very soon and it will inshallah !!!Recommend

  • malik
    Sep 6, 2011 - 11:49AM

    How much are they willing to give us? That is the yardstick of friendship.


  • Rohan
    Sep 6, 2011 - 11:53AM

    We should play more cricket and field hocky at all levels all the time. This will improve the people contacts and regular travel between the two countries, then the rest will follow.


  • Aadersh
    Sep 6, 2011 - 11:54AM

    I would say thanks to all the Sri Lankan fellows here for their sincere wishes…
    Let our friendship grow & let the peace prevail…
    Long Live Pak-Lanka Friendship!!


  • Nabil
    Sep 6, 2011 - 12:45PM

    I wud love to visit this beautiful country someday, heard so many good things about it. I have had a couple of Lankan friends in university days and i wud say they all were thorough gentlemen. Yes the cricket team also portrays the face of the nation. My 2nd best team to support right behind the green shirts. Hope our government did more to encourage bilateral relations even further.


  • Tamilan
    Sep 6, 2011 - 1:15PM

    Writer do not have any knowledge of Sri lankas current situation. May be there is some development in war effected areas. But the governments recent acctivities shows it believes in divide and rule policy. The reconciliation process is a only a bluff practicaly nothing is happening. Goverment havent done anything to win the trust of the minorities. Instead of they doing opposite things which will create dividents among the communities. The recent grease devil phenominom and building buddhist temples in tamil areas are good examples. They moved the army head qarters for some other reason. Militarization of the country continues. I belelive China is going make another Indonesia or Myanmar of Sri lanka. God save lanka from Rajapaksa brothers.


  • CI
    Sep 6, 2011 - 2:42PM

    All I can say is ‘wow’! :)


  • TheMonk
    Sep 6, 2011 - 3:13PM

    I wish we had a Rajapaksa to lead India rather than the incompetent, inept, corrupt-to-the core spineless Government led bt Dr.SnghRecommend

  • Nimal
    Sep 6, 2011 - 3:21PM

    Thanks for the comments. I really love Pakistan. That is my next home. I wish all the wealth and prosperity to Pakistan. I have been with 3 Pakistan Military officer. They are so friendly and brotherly. They always said i am Pakistani. Pak thanks for all the love and support over friend for ever. Even though cynics see otherwise thanks for writer filling media space with some truth.


  • Someone
    Sep 6, 2011 - 5:17PM

    I personally have many Lankan friends….very cool-minded, down to earth and decent guys. I have personally seen Sri Lankans as having a very matured psyche; we Pakistanis on the other hand tend to get hot-headed on things quite easily. An example is when their cricket team was attacked, it was our neighbour to the east that was making more hue and cry than even the Sri Lankan cricket board.

    I think we can learn a lesson or two from Sri Lanka, not only in the reconstruction sense, but also some characteristical traits.

    Here’s to the friendship of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


  • jayt
    Sep 6, 2011 - 5:23PM

    Pakistan is beautiful country. beautiful people. We will never forget. What happen now is heartbreaking, but peace will return and help for Pakistan will come with love


  • John
    Sep 6, 2011 - 6:32PM

    Thanks to people Pakistan.

    It was Indai who financed, trained, armed and managed Tamil terrorist.

    It was and still are the operations of the “Third Eye” of India.

    It is the most secretive and rutheless intelligence service in world. For example it has managed to keep the Western eyes off the atrocities commited by the Indian in Kashmir.

    It is time for people around India to unite and dismantle Indian Union

    India was made by the british and there was no India before that.

    India has been taking a lot of wealth from its colonies and it still does.

    It is time to deconise Indian colonies. Recommend

  • John
    Sep 6, 2011 - 6:36PM

    Tamils and oyher Indians are priviledged since their arrival on the back of the British.

    Local people have got freedom from the British. They are not free from the Indian Imperialism.


  • ravi amarasinghe
    Sep 6, 2011 - 6:39PM

    Only people living in Pakistan could possibly think of Sri lanka as a ” Beacon ” for anywhere. Quite frankly it’s a joke. Sri lanka in fact has ceased to be a memeber of the decent democracies of the world. It is now a state run by a criminal elite for their own ends , mainly of course for the benefit of the ruling family … the Rajapakse’s. I suppose its not altogether surprising that Pakistan should look more and more to Sri lanka as that country has become much more now like Pakistan. I.E. 5% of the people have 95% of the wealth. With backing from communist China and the mafia that runs Russia they are managing to stifle their apalling human rights record but for how long ? They are managing to spend a bit these days on the countries infrastructure with borrowings and grants from communist China which is a little comfort to their citizens , but freedom of speech, coruption , human rights ….that is quite another matter. These last matters must now be judged against the situation in China and Russia where they can perhaps stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their standards.It is sad to see Sri lanka however now in this lower league of countries when they were long in the upper league of countries who take freedom and democracy seriously.


  • Ali
    Sep 6, 2011 - 7:10PM

    Yes the difference is India stopped supporting the Tamil Tigers
    Tamil Tigers got support from a small population about local issues
    Taliban are part of a International Insurgency
    Taliban are about issues which pakistan has no control – Afghanistan and NATO


  • Bangash
    Sep 6, 2011 - 7:27PM

    I think the most important lesson of the Sri Lankan war is missed by the author, Sri Lanka terminated the Tami Tigers. Pakistanis seem to believe with the US leaving, the domestic terrorists will immediately switch to farming and shopkeeping, and peace and prosperity will automatically bloom. That is a foolish expectation.


  • Ashok
    Sep 6, 2011 - 7:38PM

    Seems each country, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, views each other with rose tinted glasses.


  • sashayub
    Sep 6, 2011 - 7:39PM

    yeh bhee din aana tha, when emirates airlines started out, they obtained on lease 6 commercial aircrafts from PIA….i dont need to tell anyone what happened thereafter….similarly, both pakistan and india fought their proxy war in sri lanka, while someone got to rajiv gandhi, they were a bit late with zia ul haq…and today, sri lanka is our beacon of hope


  • Christopher Kay
    Sep 6, 2011 - 9:38PM

    It is not only for Pakistan; Sri Lanka is a beacon but an inspiration to many countries around the world just for what it is and the way it handled a terrorist war that had lasted for nearly three (3) decades, where Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and many like places where the west trying to harvest natural recourses such as oil. Those countries where the western interests thrive are governed by illiterate despots that rule over no better people than themselves. Sri Lanka on the other hand is a nation of recoded history that goes beyond thousands of years as do those in Asian sub region. Notwithstanding the pressures exerted by the West, especially USA and the UK, Pakistan stood by Sri Lanka when it really needed the support. We couldn’t have won a long lingered terrorist war without the help of our Pakistan brethren. For that we are so grateful. To our immediate neighbour, we also say thank you India! You have been very supportive in many technical aspects despite the opposition of Tamil Nadu that supported the rebels. Sri Lanka attracts the love and care from our sub-regional nations for the simple reason that “we are a friendly lot” THANKS YOU PAKISTAN! THANK YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN.


  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Sep 6, 2011 - 10:27PM

    Reconcilation and réconstruction for what purpose that only matter to India .Recommend

  • kishore colonne
    Sep 7, 2011 - 12:40AM

    To the writer of the article ,SIR (I normaly do not Sir anybody other than my school teachers)

    I take my hat off for you.I`m a Sri Lankan and a Sinhale.I can only say PAKISTAN SINDABAD


  • M
    Sep 7, 2011 - 2:14AM

    What kind of Pakistani support? Please educate us.I dont understand how Pakistan can help eradicate terrorism in Sri Lanka & let the same scourge spiral out of control in their own country


  • narayana murthy
    Sep 7, 2011 - 5:49AM

    Good going Lanka.


  • Spectator
    Sep 7, 2011 - 8:34AM

    It proves the point that in geo politics you must assure your self that your best friend should not be your neighbor but your neighbors neighbor.


  • Sep 7, 2011 - 8:59AM

    Great article, and the comments by Pakistani readers also bring tears to my eyes. Thank you for all your help, Pakistan!


  • Noel
    Sep 7, 2011 - 4:56PM

    Excellent write up. Well we Srilankans always have a soft corner for Pakistan and the people, than any other nation. We are extremely thankful for all the support rendered to us during the very trying times and during the final assault. We would not have succeeded and achieved the well deserved victory without the support of some friendly nations which Pakistan stands in the forefront. We all wish Pakistan the very best and prosperity and pray to God to bring peace and sanity to your beautiful country in the near future.


    Sep 7, 2011 - 8:00PM

    Prosperity of Srilanka is prosperity of Pakistan. We Pakistanis still feel that our government badly failed to give fool-proof security to Srilankan crickket team.

    I convery my deepest sorrow to Srilankan cricket lovers. I say sorry to the people and government of Srilanka who sent their players in the tested times of my country.


  • kishore colonne
    Sep 7, 2011 - 9:52PM

    @ravi amarasinghe:
    Before you discredit the Rajapakses think and and also talk openly about BATALANDA, about how and who introduced thugs and under world characters in to politics there by taking Democracy down the drain.who created this big mayhem of an election system in sri lanka to such an extent that candidates of the same party are at each others throats. First give an insight to these and come up with genuine unbiased answers before criticising the rajapakses as they have done good things to the country contrary to the others in a very short span of time.


  • kapila Dhanapala
    Sep 8, 2011 - 3:52PM

    ” The friend in need is the friend indeed” Pakistan has always been a true friend to Sri Lanka when she is in need.The generous and the genuine support extended by Pakistan was indeed a great boost to Sri Lanka to defeat the terrorism. May peace be dawn to Pakistan soon and she become a prosperous nation in the world!


  • Leela
    Sep 9, 2011 - 4:43AM

    @kishore colonne: Please ignore people like ravi amrasinghe and that Tamilan for in Sri Lanka, they are fast becoming like dodos. In spite of what they wrote, we all know that the vast majority of Sri Lankans back Rajapakses. Only those with some other ulterior agenda do not accept it.

    I wish both Sri Lanka and Pakistan government takes all necessary steps to assist and help businessmen to improve our bilateral trade to reach at least one billion dollar mark and sooner the better. That way, both countries could benefit from our trusted friendship.

    There is no question that we are true friends. I sincerely hope Pakistan’s current problems are temporary and its people would find a way to overcome them soon.


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