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The End of a Thirty-Year War for Sri Lanka

By Preethi Burkholder

June 20, 2009 

Written by Preethi Burkholder, Author of Start Your Own Spa, Start Your Own Grant Writing Business, Finding the Money, and Ghost Towns of the Rockies

May 18th, 2009, the happiest day in 61 years for the majority Sri Lankans. The country ended its 30 year civil war and it was by far, the single most important day since its independence from the British in 1948. The government officially declared that the army was in complete control over the island. Needless to say, the country and its people were exhausted beyond comprehension, after such a long and bloody war. As one radio DJ so aptly phrased it, the relief after a thirty year war was like the release experienced by a pregnant mother after she ‘popped’ the baby in delivery. The relief could not be captured in words. You should have been in Sri Lanka to feel the vibe.

I was living in Colombo on May 18th, and boy, was it a jubilant day for the people. The sound of crackers engulfed not just the capital city of Colombo, but the most remote village hidden in the interior regions of Anuradhapura, a scared city five hours away from Colombo. It was the sound of jubilation of people declaring the war is over. There was no feeling like it.

I headed to Colombo to experience the excitement. All the streets were lit with the national flag and people were literally singing in the streets in the thousands. Every home, large, small and makeshift, had a flag. Every car, bus, and trishaw had a national flag raised.

What touched my heart the most was to see an aged gentleman, picking up trash on the streets into a crude looking box strapped into the back of his bicycle, had proudly stuck  a flag in the middle of the box. That was the only place he could find in his ‘vehicle” where he could stick the flag to stand.

All night long, truck loads of people were parading the streets. Trishaws, also known as three wheelers, which are small sized vehicles running on three wheels, organized parades throughout the island. People were singing and dancing on the streets, with the unmistakable sound of fireworks overpowering all other sounds.

The troops, the troops, the troops. At the end of the day, the troops sacrificed their lives to make this day a reality. Thousands of troops sacrificed their limbs, arms, and their sanity for the country.

The war has left an entire generation of Sri Lankans growing up in a harsh, confrontational, world filled with suicide bombs, mortars, and curfews. It will be a great task to address all the shackles created by the war, but it can be done.

It is a new chapter in Sri Lankan history, a country filled with potential and promise.

Bio: Preethi Burkholder is  a Sri Lankan writer, living in USA. She was living in Sri Lanka at the time the war was declared officially over.

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