A few months ago, I wrote a piece on the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s ability to redress the wrongs of the nation’s ethnic strife. The argument was based on his government’s seemingly unshakeable position of power that would allow Rajapakse to make the tough decisions and compromises required to solve the Sinhala/Tamil divide. Lesser attempts by previous governments have been viewed as betrayal by the radical Buddhist right, who see the defence of their faith as a national duty. Would Rajapakse, one of the strongest presidents in the island’s history even called a dictator by his opponents, cave to similar pressures? Its litmus test came in the form of recent attacks by Buddhist radicals on a Mosque in one of Sri Lanka’s historical capitals. The result? Appeasement; failure.
Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lanka’
Tags: Buddhism, Ethnic Conflict, International Relations, Islam, Politics, Radicalism, Religious Conflict, Sinhala, Sri Lanka
Tags: Ceylon, Civil War, Colonialism, Ethnic Conflict, History, Politics, Sri Lanka, terrorism
We are often told that finding the root cause of a given problem will help us formulate a solution. Unfortunately, the world is a complex place with causal relationships difficult to establish. In most cases, there are a variety of factors working together to propel any given phenomenon and the likelihood of identifying, let alone understanding their interactions, is almost non-existent. This article does not claim to provide a complete picture of the root causes of Sri Lanka`s ethnic conflict, however, it is an attempt to explain some of the contributors to what became a bloody civil war that plagued the island for 25 years at the cost of thousands of its sons and daughters. This is a layered approach, first examining the psyche, the narrative of the people involved and then delving into the situations and their interpretations that created Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.
Destined for Conflict?
Many are often drawn to simplistic explanations that often draw the warring sides as natural enemies; communities destined for war since the days of old. Such claims come up when discussing conflicts between the Arabs and Jews or Shiites and Sunnis. The same has been said about Sri Lanka`s ethnic conflict, that the Sinhalese and Tamil people have struggled for dominance since the ancient times, captured perfectly in the war between the Sinhala King Duttagamani and the Tamil King Elara. Furthermore, rulers in the Southern (Tamil speaking) Indian kingdoms often sought to invade Sri Lanka. These stories become part of a narrative that plays a major role in shaping the Sinhala identity and while the events in themselves are not proof of a natural enmity between the communities, their re-telling has given birth to a strong construct that makes sense of the present through the past.
Tags: LTTE, Politics, Rajapakse, Sinhala, Sri Lanka, Tamil
It has been over three years since Sri Lanka’s long civil war came to a violent end in the swamps of Mullaitivu. The famous government line regarding the future of Sri Lankan ethnic relations was “winning the peace,” a victory that has become as elusive as the LTTE was during the 25 year struggle. Tamil sentiment in the war-torn regions was conveyed strongly during the elections that followed the end of conflict, where President Mahinda Rajapakse defeated the opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka, the former general who had lead the military to victory. Despite Rajapakse’s victory, Tamils voted for the man who led the war in military attire. This was a damning account of the President, one that hasn’t changed much since. However, there is an opportunity on the horizon to solve some aspects of Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem.