From Rotary Peace Wiki
/* Myth or Reality? Reconciliation in Sri Lanka */
'''ANALYSIS OF ACTORS'''
The Government. While the Sri Lanka government won the war against the LTTE, it is allegedly reported of committing violence against the confinement and execution of some 250,000 Tamil refugees during the final stages of the civil war. A report published in November 2011 by the UN Committee Against Torture highlighted that both sides committed war crimes against civilians but the government rejected the report, describing it as biased. The Sri Lanka government has also tried to “deflect criticism of its unlawful conduct in the final stages of the war”<ref>International Crisis Group, “Reconciliation in Sri Lanka: Harder than Ever”, p1.</ref>by promoting a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to promote accountability and reconciliation. Among other things, little has been reported by several international NGOs that the government is “defensive” in its approach to identify perpetrators responsible for war crimes, which thus resulted in the current high mistrust on the government. In addition, there is severe skepticism among stakeholders especially from the affected parties, which could affect peace initiatives and future institutional development.
Influential State Actors. Sri Lanka’s northern neighbor, India, is a key player in the security environment and its foreign policy. It was reported that by Rao that “India views itself as a security manager of South Asia” <ref>Rao R, V. (1988). “Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka: India’s Role and Perception”, Asian Survey 28, No.4, p419.</ref> and also since Sri Lanka is also home to a Tamil population under distress – this gives India a further impetus to be “involved” and to become a stakeholder. Separately, there is a possibility of LTTE revival despite its crackdown because of the “divide and rule” approach that the current Sri Lankan government is adopting. The level of armed conflict cannot be discounted even though the level of violence among ethnic groups has generally decreased in the past two years. The availability of small arms after the “war” has resulted in an excess of weapons, which it falls into the hands of armed groups, could restart armed conflict again within the country. Nevertheless, India continues to remain as Sri Lanka’s leading trading partner despite their mutual distrust. On its foreign policy with other countries, Sri Lanka has adopted a paradigm shift<ref>Under the Rajapaksa administration, three main elements of new foreign policy are outlined: (1) Sri Lanka is a non-aligned country and will maintain friendly relations with other countries (2) Sri Lanka has shifted the focus of its foreign policy from the US and EU to countries in the region (3) Sri Lanka maintains special relations with India to maintain consistency in its security concerns (limited external self-determination).</ref> with a stronger focus on countries in the region despite wanting to “re-win” the support of the West especially on the areas of economics and trade.
Ethnic Groups. Sri Lanka has been involved in ethnic conflict since the country became independent from the British rule in 1948. Its main ethnic population as of 2011 is as follows: Sinhalese (73.8 percent) and the Sri Lanka Moor (7.2 percent) and Tamils who make up 8.5 percent. The long and bitter civil war arising from ethnic tensions between the majority of Sinhalese and Tamil minority in the northeast has scarred Sri Lanka for decades. Historically, Sinhala nationalism was a key factor and serves as a barrier to the peaceful resolution of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.<ref>When the British was in power decades ago, the majority Buddhist Sinhalese resented they saw as “British Favoritism”, which fanned flames of ethnic division and civil war that erupted in the 1980s against Tamils who were pressing for independence.</ref>
LTTE and its Remnants. Founded in 1972, the LTTE is a Non-state Armed Group that has lasted nearly three decades that wanted an independent state for the island’s Tamil minority. It used to operate like a military with a small number of aircrafts and marine fleet with Special Forces used for suicide bombing missions and other terrorist acts<ref>The LTTE was previously known for employing female suicide bombers to infiltrate into official strongholds to carry out suicide attacks against Sri Lankan government officials.</ref> It was defeated in May 2009 by government military forces and killed its leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran. While the LTTE is now defeated, it is conceivable that its remnants may launch guerilla-type attacks on the country, and re-activate propaganda activities to revive defeated LTTE diasporas within the region.
The Military. Sri Lanka’s military has taken over the reconstruction of the Northern Province, which reportedly contributed to “weakening international humanitarian efforts and worsening tensions with the ethnic Tamil majority”.<ref>International Crisis Group - Asia Report. “Sri Lanka’s North II: Rebuilding under the Military”.</ref> Many Tamils in Sri Lanka view the military negatively and feel that they impose Sinhala and Buddhist cultures across the country. The purpose of military was primarily to protect against the renewal of violent conflict. However, it was reported to be “deepening the alienation and anger of northern Tamils and threatening sustainable peace”.<ref>Ibid.</ref>
International NGOs. Some international donors have supported Sri Lanka via donations and humanitarian aid to support its development and reconstruction efforts. Nevertheless, NGOs have also accused both the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE of engaging in widespread human rights abuses and the use of child soldiers.<ref>Jayshree Bajoria, “The Sri Lankan Conflict”. Council on Foreign Relations, dated 18 May 2009.</ref> In 2007, the Human Rights Watch released a report that highlighted alleged atrocities from both sides. On the same note, Amnesty International made similar conclusions in their 2011 report on the Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission<ref>Amnesty International, “When will they get Justice? Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission” dated 2011.</ref>whose mandate and methods cast serious doubt on Sri Lanka’s approach to their “willingness to uncover what really happened in those fateful months”.<ref>Darusman, M, Ratner, S and Sooka, Y. “Revisiting Sri Lanka’s Bloody War”. The New York Times, dated 2 March 2012.</ref>
Negative Outcome. Civil war breaks out again between ethnic groups which spark off attacks by remnants of LTTE and opposition protesters against the Sri Lankan government. The government cannot stabilize the situation and sends in the military to crack down in dissenters resulting in thousands of deaths from collateral damage and direct intervention. The re-emergence of Tamil nationalist politics occurs, which forms new militant groups. This is considered to be the least likely outcome because current indicators do not point towards any immediate escalation of direct armed conflict or Tamil insurgency.
Neutral Outcome. Government and International NGOs continue to seek resolution in post-conflict resolutions such as closure on “War Crimes” and moving forward to decrease human displacement and development. There is no escalation of armed conflict but there is presence of low-intensity conflict that could result in a humanitarian and development crisis. This is considered to be the most likely outcome that is considered to be manageable.
Positive Outcome. There is positive traction in the peace efforts of government, civil society and NGO resulting in stronger associations between ethnic groups. The government completes its “war crime” commission and international law is upheld with new trade initiatives being introduced. Reconciliation efforts are readily accepted and relations with India move into a healthy zone. Based on these scenarios and from the earlier analysis, the following recommendations are proposed:
1) Close Ethnic Divisions. Post-conflict reconciliation efforts should include the presence of emotional and social spaces. A “Harmony Center” is proposed to highlight culture and history to strengthen ethnic confidence and trust.
2) Adopt Consultative Approach. The government has to sincerely address the Tamil minority group through a participatory consultative approach that will include ethnic groups from both the North and South sectors.
3) Improve Social Inclusion. A steady economic approach needs to be set up to enhance economic growth and trade with international partners and businesses to improve the capacity of employment and standard of living for Sri Lankans. There should also be “Task Forces/Committees” formed to establish social capital through collaboration across communities via dialogue and inter-cultural understanding.