The long war: This is the cost, but have we learned the lessons?

A series of poor, short-sighted political decisions, made by leaders of all communities, resulted in the longest war in modern Sri Lankan history. Many opportunities that would have prevented an all-out conflict were repeatedly missed.

The 1978 constitution introduced an all-powerful Presidency but not devolution of political power. Instead, it was a further centralisation of power around a cynical old man- J.R. Jayawardene-  who become the leader only because he outlived his political contemporaries. The 1981 District development council elections were perhaps the last opportunity for the Sinhala and Tamil political leadership to convince the restless Tamil youth that a political agreement of power sharing with the Sinhalese was possible. 

The Tamil political leadership was completely discredited when violence erupted in the North during the elections which was orchestrated by the ruling United National Party and ended in a historic tragedy- the burning to the ground of the Jaffna library.

That was the turning point; disillusioned, the Tamil youth began to rise up against the government. The rest as they say is history.

In presenting  these photographs in this issue of the  'photo essay' we hope it would perhaps remind those who lived through the war, and the lucky ones who didn't and are unaware of the horrors of war why we must strive to make certain it will not happen again.