'''Myth or Reality? Reconciliation in Sri Lanka''' ==
'''Disclaimer: This paper is not to be cited without permission from the author. The views expressed in this paper are the author’s own and was prepared as part of an academic exercise. The contents do not represent the views of any organization or government agency. '''
<small>''Effective dialogue is required to regain trust among communities in Sri Lanka. After the war with the LTTE in 2009, there is a need to close ethnic divisions, improve social inclusion and to build social capital. Drivers of conflict include the scarcity of resources, lack of social cohesion and the lack of political stability. The impact of decades of armed conflict has also led to resentment among state and non-state actors. Furthermore, core problems of ethic division and grievances of the Tamil minority have not been fully addressed. A likely outcome is the presence of low-intensity conflict that could result in a humanitarian crisis because of increasing mistrust between the Sinhalese and Tamils that exacerbates the potential for conflict. It is critical to prevent a “stalemate” situation in its society where ethnic divisions remain stagnant and when there is potential for further deepening and alienation of communities. In this paper, conflict analysis is conducted with a discussion of possible scenarios. Broad recommendations are also proposed on to develop peace initiatives.''</small> '''INTRODUCTION''' Sri Lanka has been embedded in ethnic conflict for more than two decades. Tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority in the northeast, coupled with separatism are main causes for the civil war. But since the civil war or the 2009 defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), otherwise known as the Tamil Tigers, a militant group fighting for independence of the state and Tamils – more stability has been regained in the county although peace has not been completely restored. The armed conflict lasted over two and a half decades, and cost over 70,000 lives and displaced millions.<ref>Lewis, D, Jastrow, C, Jonas, C, Kenndy, T and Tamin, S. “Building Peace in Sri Lanka: An Analysis of the Conflict and Plan for Intervention”, p2.</ref> The issue of reconciliation in Sri Lanka continues to difficult and complex as misunderstandings between the major ethic groups – Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims have resulted in mistrust and fear spilled over from “battles of the past”. The aim of this proposal is to investigate the complex issues that caused Sri Lanka to disintegrate in the past decades and to present an action plan to develop a harmony center. Using the Conflict Triangle Framework drawn from SIDA<ref>See Conflict Analysis Framework at www.sida.se. </ref> drivers of conflict and peace will be identified in the process. An action plan will be presented in the second part of the report. '''ANALYSIS OF CONFLICT''' Background. Since the 1990s, violence and conflict have penetrated the heart of the Sri Lanka as the Tamil Tigers conducted suicide attacks, assassinations and sabotages, destroying infrastructure, widening ethnic division and slowing down development especially for gender equality and education. In addition, the search for a political consensus between the nationalistic Sinhalese and the Tamils has resulted in a constant struggle for power sharing and legitimacy that resulted in civil wars, which also caused the severe disruption of Sri Lanka’s peace and stability. Significant mistrust between the Sinhalese and Tamils is still present today. That is a potential development divider. Separately, the issue of war crimes is currently debated at the international levels without making much headway, which has brought about negative public and international perception. Other human development issues include the “refugee issue” where: (1) the confinement of some 250,000 Tamils and to camps and ( 2) allegations that executions were made by the government are brought into question. '''ANALYSIS OF DRIVERS''' The ethnic divide in Sri Lanka is a key problem for reconciliation to take place. While government forces have defeated the LTTE in 2009, the core problems of ethic division and grievances of the Tamil minority have not been fully addressed. The impact of decades of armed conflict has also led to resentment among state and non-state actors. In the stages of early de-mobilization where arms of the LTTE are “put down”, the legitimacy of peace organizations is unlikely to be undermined. As such, the engagement strategy during the peace process of the non-state armed groups during the transition process is especially important. It is assessed that these three key drivers could spark off further conflict: '''Scarcity of Resources'''. There are significant risks of renewed conflict especially when resources are scarce and when its economy – is growing stronger. According to The World Bank, the Sri Lankan economy grew strongly in 2011 (about 8 %) due to the post-conflict rebound.<ref>The World Bank, “Sri Lanka Overview”.</ref> With a lack of security and a growing economy, it is highly likely that a competition for resources would lead to increased conflict at both the political or ground-levels. In addition, with distrust from communities coupled with fluid political and a lack of democratic culture within the governmental levels, the potential for competition for resources is expected to be high. '''Lack of Social Inclusion'''. There has been prolonged conflict in Sri Lanka which has led to slower social inclusion. Participation from civil society in decision-making and intra-party dialogues and joint mechanisms is not a common practice. In addition, the government’s efforts to address grievances at the minority communities – that is vital for sustainable peace – is not effective thus far. The LLRC set up to investigate the final phase of the war is not deemed reliable as well. Much of the politics has been revolved around the LTTE. There has been little emphasis on ensuring building social capital and cohesion which has led to a regressive society that is built on suspicion, rather than cooperation. Among other things, the lack of social inclusion has undermined prospects for peace and stability. Lack of Political Stability. There is an increasing politicized environment at the government levels after the defeat of the LTTE. Sri Lanka’s former army chief, 4-Star General Fonseka, one of the key figures who fought LTTE in the past years is now released from prison.<ref>Fonseka was jailed by its current president, Mahinda Rakapaksa, for engaging in politics while he was still serving in the military. He was jailed for irregularities found in military procurements, and was charged on several counts (but was pardoned). However, he was imprisoned for harboring army deserters.</ref> He is now out of jail and has a large pool of supporters that could upset the current security situation due to his ambitions to regain power and lead the country. Separately, the “effects of the war” in the acknowledgement of war crimes has led to the worsening of ties with India as it recently announced its support for the US on the American sponsored resolution at the UN Human Rights Council. This could have profound implications on the security environment in South Asia as the “balance of power” is likely to tilt in favor of the US after it pulls out of Afghanistan. Moreover, India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner, which makes their diplomatic ties more complicated. '''Peace Drivers'''. Cultural practices in hospitality, local traditions and “song and dance” are key drivers for peace that could uplift the current situation because such activities could strengthen the social fabric of Sri Lanka particularly in a reintegration phase. The effects of such community-bonding activities could enhance the outcome of the peace process. Such cultural practices have existed since ancient times and they form the social and religious spheres of the Sri Lanka society. Proactive participation by International Non-Profit Organizations such as Amnesty International and the UN often underscore key development issues and conduct “check-and-balances” especially on national development and justice. '''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> In February 2012, the UN Human Rights Council has extended efforts to help Sri Lanka’s efforts on accountability and reconciliation to ensure that International Law is upheld. A panel of experts on Sri Lanka, mandated by the UN Secretary-General said that tens of thousands of civilians died in the final months of the war found credible allegations to indicate that war crimes against humanity were committed by both sides. On this, the US indicated that it would support a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council to implement the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission LLRC’s recommendations, which was supported by some 14 top human rights organizations. Disadvantaged Women in the Northern Province. Women in the Tamil-speaking north are facing a crisis in the aftermath of the civil war. Thirty years of civil war between the government and the LTTE has resulted in thousands of females being victimized by the consequences of war. The northern region was retaken by the government in 2007 and is now controlled by the military, the tight grip by the military has created significant problems for women as some of them were reported to be “forced into prostitution…and many been trafficked within the country”.<ref>International Crisis Group, “Sri Lanka: Women’s Insecurity in the North and East”, p1.</ref> Other reported violations include military abuse of human rights on women, abduction and sexual offences. '''SCENARIOS AND RECOMMENDATIONS''' '''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.