Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict: What solutions?
By Dr. W. M. Karunadasa
Sri Lanka remains as one of the “Oldest Democracies” in the Developing World (Third World) which emerged as an independent “State Nation” at the end of the World War II. When she was granted independence in February 1948 by the British Raj, she inherited “Westminster Model” democratic political institutions and the legacy of colonial economy. After 59 years of independence, democratic political regimes in Sri Lanka have miserably failed in transforming its colonial economy and changing its social fabric by serving the best interests of the nation or the common people.
The resulting consequences began to manifest in Sri Lankan society particularly since early 1970s where the youths of Southern Sri Lanka revolted against the then government of Mrs. Bandaranaike by taking up arms. The “unrest” of the Sinhala youths in the south had been repeatedly demonstrated another armed uprising in late 1980s that went against the democratic government of Jayewardene. Meanwhile the youths mainly the Tamils in the Northern parts of Sri Lanka, apparently following the example first set by Southern groups of militants in early 1970s had chosen the option of using the “bullet” instead of “ballot” since the early 1980s.
The bagkground to such armed uprisings against democratic governments in Sri Lanka and clearly indicates that that the younger generation of the country irrespective of the language they spoke were airing their grievances mainly on economic and social underdevelopment . Although the armed uprising of Sinhala youths of Southern Sri Lanka had been suppressed for good, the “bullet” option sought by Northern Tamil youths, who are presently organized under one umbrella, the LTTE, could not be suppressd for nearly three decades. This is purely, not because of any weakness of the Sri Lankan armed forces, but because of the undue interest taken by certain countries . Their interests over the island’s internal affairs were mainly based on the assumption that Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka and they are being discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese.
Although the actual ground situation differs from this assumption no country outside Sri Lanka has attempted to understand the Sri Lankan issue in the correct perspective. Instead, certain countries, NGO’s, Human Right groups, sympathizers, well wishers and various lobbies all over the world began to extend their support to the Tamilian cause headed by the LTTE, which they identify as a liberation struggle. With the blessings of outside forces, LTTE began to tear apart the entire social fabric of Sri Lanka by eliminating all the Sinhala and Muslim minority communities living for centuries in the LTTE dominated areas.
(Dr. W. M. Karunadasa, Professor of International Relations and Attorney-at-Law, University of Colombo)
Tags: Sri Lanka