Open Moment, Closed Minds: New essay to mark 250 days of ‘Peace’ in Sri Lanka

Today marks exactly 250 days since Sri Lanka’s civil war officially ended on 18 May 2009.

In a new op ed essay — titled ‘Open Moment’, Closed Minds! — just published on, I look back and ask some hard questions.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We all knew the hard-won peace had to be nurtured and consolidated. We also realised just how formidable the challenges of healing and rebuilding were. But could anyone have imagined the dramatic turn of political events since?

“Who would have thought that the victors of the war would soon be engaged in a nasty battle for personal glory and power? Who expected the historical feud between ‘lions’ and ‘tigers’ to be replaced so swiftly by a showdown between self-proclaimed ‘patriots’ and ‘traitors’?”

I raise these questions in the context of a fiercely contested presidential election scheduled for 26 January 2010. I note: “The two main contenders both claim to hold a mutually exclusive key to a better future for our land and people. Their dizzy campaigns bombard us with lofty claims and counter-claims 24/7 delivered through broadcast, broadband, mobile and other media.”

I ask whether either of the leading candidates has the open mind needed to seize the historic ‘open moment’ since the war ended. I recall how we completely missed the last such open moment created by the tsunami of December 2004.

I write: “Having missed the tsunami’s open moment, we cannot afford to bungle again. Rebuilding a nation of lasting peace, pluralism and prosperity will require many sections of society to change their mindset. This is especially and urgently needed in our media, much of which has become uncritical cheerleaders for patriotism and tribalism in recent years.”

Despite the many disappointments of the past 250 days, I still remain cautiously optimistic. But for how long?

The origins of this essay can be traced back to a blog post I wrote on 19 May 2009: Us and Them: Sri Lanka’s first landmine on the road to peace…

Read the full essay, and join the conversation at