“It is nearly three years that the war has ended but there is disparity in all government activities. We are resettled and we were promised that we would be given houses but so far nothing has happened for some people; at the same time other people are given all the facilities. We have been given false promises by the ministers and other government officials and we are hoping that these promises would be fulfilled one day—today, tomorrow and next month—but nothing is happening regarding the promises. If we are continuously cheated then people will be frustrated and that is what is happening right now.”

 

—From Sri Lanka


INTRODUCTION

Leadership, for the rabbi and family systems theorist Edwin Friedman, is about inducing the conditions whereby your audience can find the tools to transform their own lives for the better. It’s a matter of empowerment, therefore, in which people are facilitated and given resources to make the kinds of choices that serve the common good. All communities need good leadership. When dealing with violent civil conflict, the question of leadership is obviously even more vital – especially the kind of leadership that can both bond and bridge communities. The paradox for South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Northern Ireland, of course, is that many of the same leaders who were once antagonists in the contested state now hold state power. The good reason for this is that for peace to fully take hold, it must ultimately be made at the extremes. The challenge is that revolutionary movements and authoritarian governments alike do not automatically transition into attracting the consent of the people, nor do the skills of common-good leadership necessarily come easily to people who were once conspiring the downfall of their neighbors. Nelson Mandela is a rare exception to the rule that former revolutionaries cannot attract respect from former enemies. Often the kind of leadership that both bonds and bridges communities can come from figures who may neither be elected representatives, nor even consider themselves leaders. One of our interviews, with the much-loved BBC radio presenter Gerry Anderson, revealed an instance of public leadership that was both pastorally sensitive in its concern for the suffering, and politically progressive in its affirmation of commonality amongst people, many of whose other leaders often championed only their differences.

Among South African respondents, the celebration of ending apartheid is tempered with serious dissatisfaction with the ANC’s leadership in the post-conflict era. There is a general distrust of leadership and dispute over the idea of leadership being the domain of individuals or the responsibility of the collective. The relationship between leaders and citizens is still forming itself, but citizens are not optimistic.

A similar distrust was evident in Sri Lankan interviews. “Are you generally a hopeful person?” and interviewer in Sri Lanka asked. “Yes, I am, but you can’t believe this government,” was the response, which was echoed in many interviews in the other two countries.

Perceptions of leadership in Northern Ireland could be summarised as “a plague on both your houses.” None of the respondents had much positive to say about leaders, who were defined almost exclusively as elected representatives. Politics is seen as a cause of conflict and many working-class Protestants in particular describe feeling excluded from politics. People who have suffered the most in the conflict often feel abandoned or at least not represented by political leaders. There is some hope that incremental progress is being made, but this feeling is often expressed mournfully, as the memories of so much loss are never far from the conversation about how things have changed.


1) I think one must realise the role Mandela has played, from the work to go to the negotiations, the entire process. From his first address after his release, he ended his statement by quoting a line from his Rivonia speech and he says all his life he has fought against white domination, and he added that he will fight against black domination, too. And the way he has been embraced by all sections of South African society, he is in fact seen as the father figure, or the person who has done the most for reconciliation. So people defer to his example and to him. And secondly, he followed that up at various points: in 1995, the Rugby World Cup, and those sorts of events. So I think one must not underestimate the impact of that on the psyche of South Africa.

—From South Africa

 

And the message we wanted to know at that time was just: kill the boer, kill the farmers. That is want we wanted to hear from [Mandela]. But then when he started on the podium, he said, let’s reconcile. And to tell you the truth, it’s hard to reconcile. It’s hard…. We wanted to hear, what they have done to you, let’s do it to them. But because of the nature of Madiba’s leadership, we adhered to what he said.

—From South Africa

 


2) The entire population should change attitudes. I remember when we were children it was written in public transport, “Smoking is prohibited.” But we saw even the driver smoked, even our elders: the first thing they did was to light a cigarette as they got onto the bus. So the bus was a place for smoking.

In our school days we protested against those who were smoking in the bus. We scolded them. We smoke today, but not on the bus. So things are happening step by step. So even compromise should be done that way.

I think this huge task could not be done only by religious leaders or by the sports community. It should be done by all. It cannot be done by politics. I am also a politician; I think politics cannot bring this about. Politics means two opposing sides. That type of opposing philosophies cannot do this. Politics cannot bring everyone to a single platform.

—From Sri Lanka

 

Government should lead by example, and only then could people follow them. Above all, only God can help us.

—From Sri Lanka

 

As far as the Tamil community is concerned, our future is full of uncertainties. It is full of empty spaces and nothing much to hope for. It is because there is neither peaceful initiative nor backing up, and above all there is no good leadership from any side. Everybody acts haphazardly and initiates new problems rather than solving existing problems. We don’t have anybody to support us and give the necessary backing up to go further. There is nothing much to expect about the future, and when you don’t have anything on your side, what can you expect from the others?

—From Sri Lanka

 


3) There is also a problem of armed “competition.” The members of the parliament of the same party shot each other. Who takes the responsibility?… It is because people who are not fit for politics have entered politics. Why was there a war? It is because of people who had entered politics who were not fit for politics. It is because of the mistakes of earlier times. The president has ended the war. So to give a meaningful peace, the president should take decisions without taking sides. If not, it is difficult to build.

—From Sri Lanka

 

But government disturbed the hope for peace. Government took effort to recapture the area by killing many lives. It did not try to rescue the land by safeguarding the people or to solve the problem by peaceful means.

Before this, in 1994, when a similar incident caused loss of life, we asked the government to provide us with a bunker fence from Mullaitivu to Welioya. They did not give it to us. The lady in the next house asked that roads be cleared [by bulldozers]. If there were a bunker fence, there would not be loss of life like this. But the government would have to spend a considerable sum of money, it was said. It was easy to have bomb blasts in buses because on both sides of the road there was jungle. It was because of this that this happened. Lives could have been saved. From Welioya if there were bunkers, and if Yakaweva, Kebithigollawa were cleared, something like this would not have happened. The government must hold itself a little responsible for this.

—From Sri Lanka

 


4) We know, Nationalist people know, and more and more Unionists people know [that many politicians] were involved in murder. But to what level, or to what scale, and how far up did it go? That has to come out into the public. If only for the sake of the future. Because I am just terrified that it would happen again. I am not saying that people have to go to jail. I don’t think that you can say to a police superintendent or somebody who worked in Special Branch, “Right, you have got to go to jail for what you done.” I don’t think that is the case, because prisoners did get out. But they have got to admit, “Okay, hands up, we were involved in killing as well.”

 —From Northern Ireland

 

I was so pleased to see people working together and getting on. People do change through the process. They do change. A lot of people who join these organisations and have said things and done things years ago have changed, have maybe matured a bit. Some people don’t believe that but I do believe it. Our life does change for a reason.

—From Northern Ireland

 


5) The state, I feel, does have a responsibility to craft notions of citizenship, construct available forms of citizenship. And I don’t feel it is doing that very well. That for me is a problem around reconciliation…. Every state has got a political project around its population—who is included and not included. And I can see that people have got problems with the very easy rainbow nation Ubuntu; that was problematic immediately after 1994…. The state is not comfortable with a notion of citizenship where black people who should be loyal ANC subjects are allowed to protest against the great liberation state.

—From South Africa

 South Africa protests end of summary

 

We may have a democratic state but we don’t have a democratic society. So for me that is the critical shift to achieve: how people can act as democratic citizens. And not just what the ANC tells us what to do. But it is all very fragile.

—From South Africa

 


6) So there are a lot of things behind the Peace Process. The “Process,” that is the big word they use. That is Sinn Fein and the Peace Process and all this. A lot of them could have put a stop to it sooner too. Could have been a bit more courageous at the time.

I was out at something the other week, like a question-time session. It was over at that peace line thing…. You had a Sinn Fein politician, SLDP, PUP, and a couple of other ones. But the Sinn Fein one and the SDLP one were just biting at each other. Just coming off with party political points. Whereas people were only there to hear something constructive. Rather than them sitting slabbering at each other. If these two can’t get on, how do you expect to get with the other side? They are just full of petty crap. They need a slap. It is stupid. That is the sort of thing.

Instead of everyone getting together for the betterment of the community and society, they are just fighting in their own wee corner and holding on to their own wee fiefdoms. That is the way I see it.

A lot of the ones—like the Shinners now—you always voted for them here, but it was like a protest vote because your vote wasn’t really doing anything anyway. At least you were saying that you were on with Sinn Fein and this was like the extreme, was the way that they done it on the DUP and voted them in. If they can get together and work something out, well, maybe there is a chance. But they are not. They are now aiming for the middle class. You wouldn’t see Sinn Fein ‘round this area any more canvassing for votes. You see them all down the Lisburn Road, the Malone Road, trying to win votes. The new middle class—that is what they have become. So they are not the old Socialist party anymore.

So they are moving on; they are getting their wee houses in Donegal. So a lot of people see them ones making a few quid out of the whole process, whereas before they would have been community volunteers. People get a wee bit of power and it goes to their head. 

—From Northern Ireland

 

I think what the politicians have done is they have left us. They have left the people behind…. Economically we are going to the dogs and people are suffering financially and yet they are looking at politicians who—a lot of them came off the back of the Troubles—are doing financially well for themselves. 

—From Northern Ireland

 


7) I am not so much disillusioned with the ANC as an organisation than I am with some people in the organisation. And I think that many people in the organisation in leadership positions at the national level, provincial level, local level, not only in the Western Cape but everywhere, they have basically fallen victim to greed and materialism, and so on. And they are undermining the principles of the organisation by focusing on selfish things. And so there is whole rot there that has set in and that has spread through the organisation, through our society, on a daily basis.

—From South Africa

 


8) But the British government and the Irish government are sitting on their hands. I can’t understand why there is democracy there. Well, I can understand it: the only time I meet a politician, he is looking at the so-called “bigger picture.” … My bereavement and the loss of thirty-one people is only a dot in the corner of that picture. And it is never going to be made into a whole picture. Because they are going to do deals.

—From Northern Ireland

 

I’ll give you an example. The Victims Commission is funded and reports to the OFMDFM, one of twelve devolved government departments. But clearly there are other government departments who could help. And I felt it was very important that we tried to tap into their resources and budgets. And I think, for example, of the Department of Health. You have got so many physically injured people and people with mental well-being issues. So, if you took a proposal to the Department of Health, they did not judge it on merit. They looked at that proposal; they then compared to their own public service agreements, their own targets under their Programme for Government, and if it helped them tick a box, you were in. And if it didn’t? You had no chance. And it didn’t matter how good the proposal was in its own right. It sank or it survived purely in how it correlated to the Programme for Government and how that was being expressed in public service agreements by that department.

So you can do it better by putting victim’s needs into the mix when you are devising your Programme for Government. 

—From Northern Ireland

 

It is a strange thing: I had been [a senior government official] and I could have been murdered myself, as you probably know. Our house was attacked and so on. And when I got into this [work with victims] I thought, why were we not more aware of it? That there was in the background this terrible problem of the victims, all the people whose lives had been hampered or curtailed in some way….

—From Northern Ireland

 


9) The war was politicised earlier; now peace is politicised. This will affect the victims. I could give an example: just after the elections, a cabinet minister said, “The development projects in the north will be slowed down because people have not voted for us in the election.” It shows that only if you vote for them will they develop our area, and if not, there won’t be any development. Right now everything is done on the basis of the victory over war and nationalistic sentiments.

—From Sri Lanka

 

Six Voices from Sri Lanka:

  • We wrote a number of letters to ministers, but there was no animation of the village. We feel the need and have the capacity to develop the village. We got ready to repair the road. But now the bus does not come this way.
  • After the war I thought there would be some improvement in the situation but it has not improved, and what is so sad about this is the fact that the government is not acting with responsibility with regard to the improvement of our living conditions.
  • To our knowledge the government has not done anything about our resettlement. They promised compensation and asked us to leave the camp. Then we asked the government as to what would happen if there were another similar attack. Then they assured us that there will not be one such hereafter. They said that they were going to stop the water supply in the camp and therefore we must leave the place and go back to our villages. But many people, especially the ones who were very helpless, did not return. Only about twenty-five or thirty families returned. They promised facilities for resettlement but did not give anything. The government did not even give us electricity.
  • When we compare, there is no difference between the life standards of post-war and war-time. Due to various moves by government and NGOs during the war, there was much help flowing into the villages. Then we had a better life standard. We had enough to eat. Now the situation is not so. That is why I say that if peace is to be really effective, the peasants, producers, and government servants must be strengthened. But that has not happened.
  • After all that has happened, still the government is not ready to address our real problems and try to solve them. Still the government is finding false excuses and reasons to delay the solutions. This means they are not ready and not willing to give anything to the Tamils. They treat us indifferently and those who speak for us are labeled as terrorists; they try to corner them or if possible kill them. So Tamils have lost their hopes in the system and even lost hopes in life.
  • In Sri Lanka there is a party dedicated to building politics, not building the nation. If you take other countries, there is a rapid development. Even if the officials change, they have a master plan that is being executed. That is why they develop. In our country it is the development of the party that is meant to continue in power…. In reality there are big problems, troubles to Tamils. Although there is peace, they do not have full freedom. If you take the past, they allocated a lot of money for the war. Now that expenditure is not there. People should get more benefits. But that does not happen. There is corruption from the bottom to the top.

 


10) I think, although we haven’t got a perfect system of government, at least it is both working together. There is still a bit of finger-pointing that goes on and things—“he did this and he did that.” But hopefully that will go.

You can see from where this started, over three years, the body language between the politicians is a bit better than the hostility that was there at the start, the teeth grinding that went on. The looking the other way when somebody spoke.

—From Northern Ireland

 

I would have objected. I wasn’t for it at all. I says no, we are British. We are the majority and we are part of the United Kingdom, and I said no. I was very strong about that. But I was only one wee voice. There was lots like, but I was only one wee voice. But then they moved on and moved on until things started to thaw out a bit. Although there is still an awful of mistrust. I have an awful lot of mistrust.

I have an awful lot of mistrust with our own politicians. That I have seen, that I hailed as heroes. I see them now and they are not—they were only in it for the good suit.

Q: So your opinion has changed about them?

A: Definitely. And also my opinion changed about the opposition that was fighting for their rights, what they thought was their rights. Their politicians weren’t educated. They were the ordinary man in the street and they got and fought for them brilliantly…. I think the government let our people down. But the leaders for the Roman Catholic people, they were marvelous. I hate to admit that, but I have to tell the truth…. Well, I can honestly say that in a crisis, or if I had a problem that I needed help with officially, I would go to Sinn Fein. I would go to Sinn Fein on the Falls Road, advice centre.

Q: And you think you would get more help there, than your own politicians?

A: Yes. Now I am sorry to say it, but it is the truth…. I am going to say a thing here and you might think it is awful silly.

The Lord picked Moses to lead his people into the Promised Land. It took them forty years. Them forty years they died, they were ill, they partied, they were adulterous, the fatted calf was full of gold. The adultery went on, all the bad behaviour. And Moses led them right to the Promised Land and it took forty years.

Now this is my own personal opinion, it came into my head. And when they got to the Promised Land, he said to Moses, “You are not going into it.” This is biblical, this is in the bible. “You are not going into the Promised Land. I picked you to take my people into the Promised Land, but you are not going into it.”

These Troubles were going on for forty years when the Peace Process came. And Paisley resigned. He didn’t go into it. And I compare that, them two things.

Paisley resigned, he didn’t get into the Promised Land and neither did Moses. And it is the same situation. Now that is my own thoughts. Do you think that is silly?

—From Northern Ireland