Illustration: Paul Aitchison
Illustration: Paul Aitchison

A victor’s peace

The total defeat of the LTTE has allowed the Sri Lankan government to ignore the political rights of the country’s ethnic minorities.

Three years after the Sri Lankan government successfully concluded its military campaign against the secessionist insurgency led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the country has done little to address the root causes of the ethnic conflict. Many in Sri Lanka and beyond believed that the end of the war would create new opportunities to devolve Colombo's power and increase regional autonomy. However, political developments since May 2009 do not indicate any breakthrough in political reforms towards power-sharing with ethnic minorities. The debate on how to resolve the ethnic conflict has been reopened not to promote a constructive solution, but only to reproduce the conflict in new forms.

Earlier, the war and the LTTE threat were two important factors in the political balance of forces between the state and ethnic minorities. Those same factors also gave Sri Lanka's ethnic minorities some bargaining power with the two main political parties – the United National Party (UNP) and the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA). The end of the war has altered the equilibrium in the UPFA-led government's favour. Leaders of most minority parties are aware of the new situation, and their new politics of pragmatism prioritises what they see as 'developmental rights' over political rights.

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Himal Southasian