The couple of words that I spoke in Sinhalese
and in Tamil reflect in a small way the divide across which we
meet here in Zurich. Language is not only a matter of semantics.
It also has something to do with our feelings and the way in
which we segment the world in which we live. And often
something may be lost in the translation.
Having said that, the few moments that we
stood up last evening in memory of those who have died in the
conflict in Sri Lanka brought us together in recognising and
indeed, feeling the pain and suffering that this conflict has
brought in its train - a pain and suffering that moves us to
commit ourselves to contribute in whatever small way we can, to
help bridge the divide that exists amongst the peoples who live
in the island of Sri Lanka.
The CJPD itself is a small beginning to
enable the Tamil diaspora and other conflict resolution
activists to engage in a meaningful and constructive way and
contribute to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the
island. It is a small beginning. But we take comfort in
remark many years ago that what ever you do may be insignificant
but it is important that you do it.
We meet here today in Switzerland having come
from many different parts of the world, from Australia and the
United States, from Canada and the United Kingdom, from
Netherlands and Germany, Sweden and Norway, from India and
Malaysia, from South Africa and from Sri Lanka.
And to this second track conflict resolution
initiative, those of you who are present here today bring a
wealth of expertise gained from many different disciplines -
disciplines that range from Theology and Human Rights,
Humanities and Ethics, Conflict Resolution, Conflict
Transformation, Human Rights Advocacy, Sociology, Education,
Political Journalism, Political Economy, International Studies,
Political Science, Management, Law and Indology - to mention
but a few.
But perhaps above all else each one of us
brings to this Seminar a willingness to talk to each to each
other and to listen to each to the other. And in the case those
of us who are Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims, to listen to the
aspirations that each one of us have as a people, and perhaps
more importantly also listen to the genuine concerns, fears and
vulnerabilities that each of us have as a people.
This Seminar is a Second Track initiative. It
is not a First Track directed to negotiation and settlement of
conflict. Nor for that matter is it a Third Track directly
concerned with conflict transformation. It is a Second Track
initiative concerned with improving communication and advancing
The armed conflict itself has served as a
catalyst for this Second Track approach. To state the obvious,
if there had been no armed conflict we would not be seated here.
And if there was no threat of an armed conflict in the future,
there would be no need for us to sit here.
Ofcourse, there has been no shortage of
conferences, seminars, and symposiums on the conflict in Sri
Lanka. We have had many. And the fact that we are meeting here
in Switzerland means that the earlier meetings have not yielded
the results that were expected. Some of you may even wonder
whether to continue to do the same thing and expect different
results may not be rational.
However, this is not to decry what has
happened before, but rather to learn from what has happened
before and build on the experiences that we have gathered. This
Second Track initiative has been organized with modest
expectations. We do not expect that in the space of a couple of
days we will find answers to the issues that confront us.
However, we do expect that we may at least make a beginning and
ask some, if not all, the right questions so that we may better
understand the issues that we may need to confront and address.
Last evening, Mr.Tarcisius, Director, CJPD
spoke from his heart when he reached out to our hearts. He was
right to remind us that we cannot understand each other with our
minds alone. We are not desiccated calculating machines. To use
a felicitous metaphor that some of you may have come across
before, a metaphor used by Roger Fisher - to understand a
beetle, it is not enough to think like a beetle – you must also
begin to feel like one. You must begin to truly feel what it is
like to be a beetle.
But the invitation to reach to our hearts is
not an invitation to descend into sentimentality - a
sentimentality which is transient and quickly evaporates with
time. We need heart. But we need mind also. We need both mind
and heart. It was Martin Luther King who said somewhere that we
must combine a tough mind with a tender heart.
Here, I was touched by something that Peter
Senge wrote a couple of years ago. I truly cannot put it better
than in his own words. I will therefore read what he said.
"We are unable to talk productively about
complex issues because we are unable to listen. ... Listening
requires opening ourselves. Our typical patterns of listening in
difficult situations are tactical, not relational. We listen for
what we expect to hear. We sift through others' views for what
we can use to make our own points. We measure success by how
effective we have been in gaining advantage for our favored
positions. Even when these motives are covered by a shield of
politeness, it is rare for people with something at stake to
truly to open their minds to discover the limitations in their
own ways of seeing and acting.
Opening our minds ultimately means opening
our hearts. The heart has come to be associated with muddled
thinking and personal weakness, hardly the attributes of
effective decision makers... (But) The path forward is about
becoming more human, not just more clever. "
In the conflict in the island of Sri Lanka,
too, the path forward is not about being clever. We can all be
clever. But the path forward is to be become more human.
The conflict in the island of Sri Lanka can
be simply stated.
The LTTE struggles for the creation of an
independent Tamil Eelam. Sri Lanka seeks to secure its existing
Stated in this way, the
conflict may appear to be insoluble. Something will have to
give. Squaring the circle may seem impossible.
Some of you may have
heard of the story about the two professors Ury and Fisher. It
is a story. There were these two professors in a room. One
wanted the windows open and the other wanted the windows
closed. So there was this big dispute about open - and close.
Ury insisting that the window be open and Fischer saying no, it
must be closed. The conflict went on for sometime and Fisher
eventually said let us sit and talk about this. The response he
got was “What is there to be talked about - I want the window
open, you want it closed. So what is there to talk about?' . And
then Fisher asks, 'Yes, OK - but why is it you want the windows
open?’ So, behind your stated position what is your interest?.
And Ury replied 'I want it open because I like the fresh air and
the breeze and so on.' Ury then asked 'Yes, but, then why do you
want it closed?' Fisher replied 'Because papers are flying
around, I cannot control it.'
And then the two of them jointly started
examining ways in which they could get a win-win solution so
that Ury could have the fresh air and Fisher would not have his
papers flying about. They discussed the idea of positioning the
tables differently, then putting up screens and so on and so
forth. But the point of the story was not so much about the end
result – it was about the fact that the two parties to a
conflict were able to jointly engage in a dialogue and the
synergy that was created resulted in solutions which neither of
them may have thought of on their own.
In the case of the
conflict in Sri Lanka
we may want to look behind the stated
positions of the LTTE and Sri Lanka. We may want to look
the Tamil people and the
Sinhala people want to
secure. I believe that it is possible to move towards a
resolution of the conflict on a
am reminded of a statement by a UK foreign minister some
years ago that 'Sovereignty is not virginity.' Independence?
Yes. But all countries in this world are dependent on one
another. After three hundred years of wars and two world wars,
the countries in Europe have moved towards an European Union.
There are different ways in which
peoples may associate with one
another in equality and in freedom – and here there is every
thing to talk about. And not much is gained by straight
jacketing the discussions on the basis of known ideas and
conceptual models. I thank you.