Sarvodaya Peace Action Plan (2006)
“We build the peace, the peace builds us.”
1. Current Situation
The recent agreement to return to peace talks, while welcome, brings two stalemated parties together. Without willingness to compromise, and without the necessary trust, little is likely to come from these talks.
Both sides are handicapped by their past actions. On the one hand, the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has failed to develop a consensus for a solution, and thus has failed to table any meaningful proposal. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), on the other hand, has created tensions by their hard stance on the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). Both sides have repeatedly returned to violence as a substitute for meaningful discussion.
In the meanwhile innocent citizens in the conflict areas continue to live under wartime conditions of fear and uncertainty. Many of these have also been affected by the Tsunami of 2004 in which they lost property, family, and livelihood. Even before the tsunami, physical infrastructure was in a deplorable state. The irony is that funding that could have been used to improve conditions for all Sri Lankans has been spent instead on weapons and war.
2. Analysis of Likely Events in the Near-Term
In the absence of any significant change, we find it unlikely that the GOSL and LTTE will change the direction of their interaction. In the near future, we hope and expect the parties to resume and reinforce the CFA. However, because of their stalemated positions, in the absence of any significant change in situation, the best we can hope in the long term for is a continuation of the status quo, an undeclared “dirty war” in which both sides use violence against the other and against innocent civilians.
3. The Role of Civil Society and Sarvodaya
Resolving the conflict requires a collaborative effort based on the fact that Sri Lanka is a multiracial multi-religious country where each community stands to gain more by being a part of the whole rather than being the whole owner of a part. Such an effort can only succeed within an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. A dialog of that nature cannot be conducted via the media when posturing for the public and prestige issues become important.
It is evident that the political leadership alone cannot or will not resolve the conflict. At this time, the people must play the lead role in reaching a permanent resolution to the conflict.
Sarvodaya is uniquely positioned to act as an “advocate of the whole,” and to facilitate the process of identifying common ground on which a settlement can be built.
4. Sarvodaya’s Vision for the Peace Process
Sarvodaya’s vision for the peace process encompasses four specific areas:
1. To move beyond the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) to a permanent end to the war.
2. To identify an acceptable political framework that devolves power to the most local level.
3. To continue its work toward economic transformation in Sri Lanka, specifically to eliminate poverty and corruption.
4. To forge a national identity that transcends ethnic or religious identity, and recognizes Sri Lanka’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious character; to create a sense of “one nation, many cultures.”
This identity should encompass four basic values that we believe all Sri Lankans can embrace:
2. Multi-ethnic national identity
3. Elimination of poverty
4. Deep devolution of power and structural change.
5. Sarvodaya’s Objectives
In beginning this new peace initiative, Sarvodaya articulates four goals to be achieved. These are:
1. All parties to cease all violence
2. Devolve power to the lowest possible level under a central national government
a) Develop a declaration of our common beliefs, visions and aspirations
b) Convene a people’s constitutional convention that will lead to a constitution that works for all people on this island. This will include a “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.”
3. Begin implementation of activities to develop a common national identity.
We recognize that development of a true national identity may take decades, however in the course of this initiative we intend to begin implementation of activities that will move the nation toward that goal.
Since its inception in 1958, Sarvodaya has worked consistently to prevent violent conflict. In the aftermath of the riots in 1983, Sarvodaya convened a gathering of community leaders at the BMICH which led to the Peoples Declaration on Peace and National Harmony. The same year, Sarvodaya formed its 5R Unit to address the development needs of communities in the North and East. On August 29, 1999, Sarvodaya began a new phase of its Peace Initiatives with a Peace Meditation that drew 170,000 participants. This new phase recognized that the war was the result of more than political causes, and required more than political solutions. The Sarvodaya Peoples Peace Initiative of 2000 (SPPO-2) articulated a long term plan to seek a solution to the problem of violence in Sri Lanka. The 2001 plan of action, 90 Days to Stop the Violence, initiated specific activities, both local and national, that gave voice to the people’s desire for peace and promoted an environment in which the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) could be implemented.
We had hoped that after the CFA, the parties would engage in meaningful discussion to move the country toward a lasting peace. Instead, the CFA was accepted as an acceptable status quo, the underlying causes of the war were not addressed, and the country began its gradual slide into a “proxy war.”
Sarvodaya sees the causes of the conflict as occurring in three intersecting spheres of influence: Consciousness, Economic, and Political .
Sarvodaya recognizes the shortcomings of the present economic structure, and has worked successfully for more than four decades to create change in villages throughout Sri Lanka. With its Peace Meditation program, Sarvodaya began to focus on raising the consciousness of Sri Lanka. The first Peace Meditation on August 29, 1999, led by Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne drew an estimated 170,000 participants. Further meditations have involved more than a million Sri Lankans from all ethnic groups and religions.
Sarvodaya has also sought to support the development of a peaceful solution through political action. Beginning with low-level contacts with all parties in 2000, Sarvodaya’s effort, led by Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, has been directed at facilitating processes to develop trust and consensus among all parties, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or regional location.
In this new Peace Action Plan, Sarvodaya will continue its programme of peace meditation, culmination on Mahatma Gandhi Day, October 2, 2006, with a Spiritual Programme for Universal Peace in Anuradhapura, which will include one million participants. In addition, Sarvodaya intends to move to a more central role in the process. The country’s leaders have demonstrated that they are unable to create a consensus among the people on which peace can be built. Our goal is to create a national consensus that will lead to a solution to the conflict.
7. Plan of Action
For a lasting peace, it is essential to implement a constitution that addresses the needs of all Sri Lankans, regardless of ethnicity, geographical region, or social level. The development of such a constitution can be considered “The Last Mile for Peace” in the political sphere, as its absence has been a stumbling block for many years.
In an effort to cross this political “last mile,” Sarvodaya will initiative The Last Mile for Peace: Sarvodaya Initiative for a Peoples Constitution. Sarvodaya will capitalize on its position as a movement with a grassroots representation, as well as the trust it has developed with the various parties, to become an “advocate of the whole.” It will initiate a holistic, non-adversarial process in which all parties are free to express their “bottom line” needs.
This Initiative for a Peoples Constitution will begin an inclusive process to seek the common ground between parties, and will remain open to new ideas rather than trying to impose its own ideas on others. In the early stages, Sarvodaya will practice strict confidentiality, so that what any party expresses to Sarvodaya will not be repeated to any other party, or to the media.
The settlement proposal will be created in several steps. In the first step, face-to-face “single-focus” meetings will be held simultaneously at all levels of society. At the Leadership Level, this will include the key political parties SLFP, UNP, JVP and JHU, and the LTTE. It will also include the SLMC, the Tamil parties, JHU, and other political parties. At the Public Level, Sarvodaya will meet with representatives from all four religions, the business community, and other peace groups, as well as academics, artists, women’s groups, and international representatives (expatriates and others). At the Grassroots, Sarvodaya will meet with leaders from the Sarvodaya Gramswaraj villages, as well as other grassroots political leaders identified through the People’s Forums. The purpose of these meetings will be to solicit input and determine the vision that each group has for the political future of Sri Lanka. These inputs will be expressed in a Vision Statement from each group.
At the same time, Sarvodaya would meet with its District Coordinators, Divisional Coordinators, and grassroots workers to explain the process, to solicit input, and to mobilize Sarvodaya for the following phases of the process.
These meetings will take place in February and March.
Once the Vision Statements have been identified, Sarvodaya will integrate these positions into Declaration of Common Vision, seeking to create a document that identifies the positions and visions common to the majority of Sri Lankans. While Sarvodaya will work with all parties to come to a solution, we also recognize that some of these parties, while vocal, represent the views of a small minority of Sri Lankans. The process will not be derailed by a tiny minority whose positions are incompatible with the whole.
The Integration Phase will take place in June and July, and will result in the creation of an Integrated Declaration of Common Vision.
Support Campaign Phase
Once the Integrated Declaration of Common Vision has been created, it will be announced publicly at a suitable time during the month of August. Media coverage will be sought. This will be followed by a campaign, beginning in August, to seek support for the Common Vision. This campaign will last for several months, and will be highlighted by the Million Person Peace Meditation on October 2, 2006. Although the Meditation is not directly related to the constitutional process, it will nevertheless call attention to, and generate support for, our efforts to create an acceptable settlement.
People’s Constitutional Convention
Sarvodaya will convene a People’s Constitutional Convention beginning on December 2, 2006. This convention will occur outside the purview of Parliament, and will involve 300 – 400 delegates from all ethnic groups, religions, and levels of society. We anticipate that the convention will continue well into 2007.
The Support Campaign will continue during this time, with the goal of creating a swell of popular support for the proposed new constitution. Such massive support will be critical, as the constitution can only be changed by Parliament, which is unlikely to devolve power in a meaningful way in the absence of a massive public demand for it to do so.
The Spiritual Gathering for Universal Peace
As part of its activity in the sphere of Consciousness, Sarvodaya will convene a peace meditation on October 2, 2006, which will be called the Spiritual Gathering for Universal Peace. This event will be held in Anuradhapura, in cooperation with Alliance for New Humanity led by Dr.Deepak Chopra, and will involve one million participants. People throughout the world will be invited to participate. The goal of this activity is to create a critical mass of spiritual consciousness to influence the people of the world toward inner and outer peace, as well as to seek a dynamic equilibrium in our entire planet.
During this initiative, Sarvodaya will also undertake other actions, addressing Consciousness, Political, and Cultural goals. These will include:
• Consciousness Activities
i. Small Peace Meditations, emphasizing inter-ethnic and inter-religious gatherings.
ii. An “All Parties” Meditation, inviting leaders from all parties to meditate with Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne at Vishva Niketan.
• Political Activities
i. Participate in dialogues with all parties promoting an alternative vision for peace and in support of a new constitution.
ii. Multi-track campaign in support of the peace process.
• Cultural Activities
i. Healing Activities:
1. Amity Camps
2. Emotional Shramadana
3. Expanded Village-to-Village Programme
ii. Rapid Language Training for Sarvodaya workers and village leaders.
iii. Minority/Majority Relations Workshops for Sarvodaya leaders, workers, and villages.
Feedback & Evaluation
Sarvodaya needs to know whether its efforts are being effective. At each phase of the initiative, Sarvodaya will solicit feedback and evaluate:
• Execution: Are we doing the activities?
• Effectiveness: Do the activities have an effect?
The Sarvodaya Peace Action Plan 2006 comprises an ambitious and integrated plan to accomplish concrete goals having the effect of ending the war and moving the country toward peace in a meaningful way. Its two major components are the Spiritual Gathering for Universal Peace, which will be the largest gathering of its kind in the history of Sri Lanka, and The Last Mile for Peace; Sarvodaya Initiative for a Peoples Constitution which, if effective, will bring a solution to the intractable political issues that have perpetuated the war.
A political solution in itself will not be peace. Sarvodaya also recognizes the necessity of continuing to work for changed Consciousness, National Identity, and Economic Structure. Sarvodaya is committed to using its resources and influence to bring about a lasting solution. We seek the participation of all Sri Lankans, and we hope that all will join us in walking the “Last Mile for Peace.”