White vans of Sri Lanka, and the lessons of failing to make political agreements stick…

Leena Manimekalai, director of White Van Stories talked the Jon Snow last night about the full scale abductions currently ongoing in Sri Lanka, despite a much lauded ‘peace process’…

Of the film she notes, the social instability it gives rise to “there is so much of hope, [in spite] of despair, there’s waiting, and there is apathy, there’s everything, you know.”

YouTube video

Unlike our own cases of The Disappeared this is both the norm (rather than a cover for access or mistakes) and is routinely conducted to take out opponents by the government. It has the other utility of instilling wider fear in others.

What’s also notable about the history of the intermittent internal crisis in Sri Lanka has be the number of failed ‘agreements’ throughout its history from 1957 to 1995 there were no less than seven agreements, which failed. Some, particularly in the 80s coming in rapid succession with each other.

It puts one in mind of Ian Paisley’s substantive (if wildly belated) acknowledgement of the importance of acknowledging your opponents acts of good will as genuine currency:

The removal of the articles in the Irish Constitution laying claim to Northern Ireland as that jurisdiction’s territory, was, we should never forget, hard won.

It was also a substantial act of goodwill by the people of Southern Ireland to vote to have the claim removed from their constitution in order to facilitate neighbourly relations. It played no small part in disarming the political justification of the Irish Republican Army’s reign of terror.

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