Sri Lanka is a country in one of the islands neighboring India to the east in the Asia continent whose name has featured in the world news for the better part of the last three decades of the 20th century to date. The history of the island dates back to the Fifth Century BC where it is reported that people from northern India migrated to the island. The Sinhalese clan dominated the island over other clans like the Tamils who are the minority group in the northern and eastern parts of the island. The activities in the island of Sri Lanka has generated a lot of debate across the world following the long period of violence that has been regarded as the longest military conflict in recent times not only in Asia but also in the world.
The armed ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has lasted for more than thirty years since it started in 1976. Many people have lost their lives in the conflict which is characterized by attacks from Tamil rebels against government’s troops that have been dominated by the sinhala leaders. The violence has had huge impacts to the social economic aspects of the people living in the island, her neighbors and also to the international community in general.
This paper examines the effects of civil conflicts in Sri Lanka and the possible resolution measures that can be taken to foster intercultural cooperation to foster economic, cultural and political growth in Sri Lanka.
Conflict in Sri Lanka
Conflict in the island of Ceylon that came to be known as Sri Lanka started right from pre-colonial period. The immigrants in the island came from the southern part of India. The Sinhalese ethic group came to be the majority among the migrants therefore they dominated the activities in the island. Several reasons have been cited as the reason why the unusual conflict situation has been witnessed in Sri Lanka.
According to Jayawardhana (Para 15), the situation in Sri Lanka has a significant religious background. The sinhala are predominantly Buddhists while the Tamils are predominantly Hindu. It is claimed that Buddha the religious initiator of Buddhism religion had projected that the religion would be established and developed in sri lanka for a period of 5000 years therefore the island was primarily meant for Buddhists. The Sinhala believe that the religious leader consecrated the island and the Sinhala leaders for them to occupy and reign. The Sinhala people therefore work to protect the Sri Lanka by controlling the activities in the island and dominating in political leadership since the success if the Buddhists according to their doctrine depend on the success and prosperity of Sri Lanka. The Tamil who are Hindu have therefore resisted the Buddhists dominated leadership of the Sinhala community. This is demonstrated the extension of the sinhala nationalism in 1956 by the government by introducing the sinhala as the official language in Sri Lanka and Buddhism as the national religion.
Efforts towards political reforms have also been a major source of conflict in Sri Lanka. During the colonial rule in Sri Lanka, the British rulers had to leave the country. When nominating the legislature they did so on ethnic grounds. Majority of the nominees were from the Sinhala community. Several leaders from the Tamil community tried to make a harmonized representation from both ethnic communities in Sri Lanka for example in 1919 when Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam who was a Tamil became the first president of the major political organization then: Ceylon National Congress. In other major events the dominance of the Sinhala in the political organizations was usual phenomena. Tamil rebels initiated efforts of seeking equality in many ways but at the long run the violent way was the option.
Discrimination of the Tamils by the Sinhala was exhibited not only in political arena but also in other social aspects. Jayawardhana (Para 17) indicates that the Tamils faced oppression in schools and educational facilities. For example the requirements for the entrance of a Tamil student in universities were higher than those students from the Sinhala community. The ethnic discrimination of Tamils was also observed where the Tamil citizens found it difficult to be considered for job opportunities in Sri Lanka. The discrimination the Tamils and the government sponsored colonization of the Tamils in Sri Lanka lead to eruption of violence against their sinhala counterparts through armed militancy in the 1970s. The late 1970s witnessed a lot of Tamil youths being detained without trial by the government.
The conflict in Sri Lanka attracted the world’s attention mainly due to the fact that Tamil rebels were among the most organized militia group known to the world. It has been reported that the Tamil rebel had a vast accumulation of capital and military men and equipment ranging from army, navy as well as air force. The Tamil resistance to the government started in 1976 when the Tamil rebels formed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) also known as Tamil Tigers. According to Bhattacharji (2009) the formation of LTTE was aimed at fighting for the separation of Sri Lanka such that the minority Tamils will have their own controlled territory and the sinhala will also have their territory. The Tamils are suggested to have been the pioneers of suicide bombing where men and women are involved. The resistance of the Tamil rebels against the government of Sri Lanka is has transformed to be one of the well organized guerrilla as well as military attacks. The influence of the military activities by the Tamil Tigers is believed to be sourced not only from within Sri Lanka but also from India and other countries in the world. the governments effort to resist the attacks of the Tamil Tigers lead to migration of Tamils from the northern part of sri lanka to the southern province of Tamilnadu in India as well as immigrants from the southern part of sri lanka to the northern side which was dominated by the Tamils. This move prompted the Tamils to merge efforts through strengthening the military attacks against the government and the Sinhalese in general in seeking for their own state in which they could be free.
Effects of conflicts in Sri Lanka to economies of south Asian countries
The strategic location of Sri Lanka in relation to regional and international trade is an aspect that gives the country an opportunity to make huge steps towards economic advancement. With the increased inter national relations between countries the events that take place also affects the economies of other countries that has established any economic, political as well as technological relationship with sri lanka.
Economy concerns people. When people’s peace to engage in free trade and production is interrupted, the economy is adversely affected. Due to the political persecutions of the Tamils by government forces, thousands of people from the Tamil community in Sri Lanka fled to the province of Tamil Nadu in southern India. This followed increased harassment of the Tamil nationals by the government forces to in search for the Tamil militia. In occurrence of such a huge exodus, the economy surfers in terms of production and market that steers the economy. Sally (p 1) indicates that, the effect migration of citizens from the country leads to a lot of the educated people in the country moving to other countries at the expense of the home country. This creates a huge setback as far as economy is concerned.
The government spends a huge part of its budget in putting up measures to curb the increased insecurity to its citizens. This is done in expense to the economic growth in the countries where conflict is felt. In addition, the militia attacks targeted people and infrastructure in the country therefore leading to destruction. The government efforts have to be geared towards enhancing the security measures which includes increased budget to military equipments, recruitment of more security officers etc.
The conflicts also led to adverse economic effects where the effort by the government to formulate measures and policies that could lead to better response to economic issues affecting the nation. Contrary to this, the government’s efforts focused of protecting the citizens against attacks by the Tamil Tigers as well as wiping out the group.
The neighboring countries also suffered economically due to the conflicts that were taking place in Sri Lanka. The economic relation of neighboring countries in the Southern Asia and Sri Lanka was affected. The neighboring countries in addition to scaling down the trade with Sri Lanka, they were prompted to also add to their budget allocations to cater for measures to prevent the effects of the conflict in Sri Lanka from spilling into them. This could be undertaken by increasing the surveillance and defense mechanisms to prevent the terrorist attacks from entering into their territories. In addition, as mentioned earlier, Tamilnadu in southern India received a lot of refugees from Sri Lanka. The effect to the government of India was increased allocations for refugee’s services as well as increased expenditure due to the increased population. This measure affects the economy negatively.
Sri Lanka is identified as one of the countries with a great potential to earn foreign trade from tourism. The wildlife in Sri Lanka as well as the beautiful geographical landscape couples with the strategic location makes it potential to earn a lot from tourism. The conflict closed all the chances of gaining revenue from tourism. However, its reconstruction after the civil war will make it a tourism hub of southern Asia.
India’s influence of the conflicts in Sri Lanka
India can be regarded as the mother of Sri Lanka. History provides that the people of Sri Lanka migrated from India. Southern India resembles Sri Lanka due to the migration of each countries citizen into the other and vise versa. In addition, India was the only refuge for the Tamil nationals who escaped political persecution from the armed forces of Sri Lanka in search of the Tamil rebels. Thus India had at of influence in the conflicts in Sri Lanka.
According to BBC NEWS (2000), some administrators in Indian government helped the Tamil rebels by recruiting, training, and supplying arms to the Tamil labels. However, one major contribution by Indians it offered reconciliation services for a long time to the conflicting parties in Sri Lanka.
Economic power of Tamils around the world
The conflict in Sri Lanka by Tamil rebels was characterized by terrorist attacks that involved sophisticated machineries, aerial attacks, suicide bombing guerrilla attacks and other forms of organized militia attacks. The Tamil rebels had a strong and extensive network of economical power from within and also outside the nation. BBC NEWS (2001) indicates that the LTTE in addition to the attacks in Sri Lanka had an international wing that coordinated its businesses from London and Paris. The fact that the LTTE was able to afford military equipments from abroad is a good indication that the group had a strong financial base that supported its activities. It is reported that the organization of LTTE was raised finances that were used in the purchase of equipments and financing of other po0litical activities through expatriate supporters in the developed countries in the west. Further, BBC (2000) reports that, the finances were collected through legal and illegal activities like extortion and illegal trade.
The economic background of the Tamil Tigers could not be underestimated. Bajpaee (2009) indicates that even after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, the treat by the Tamil Tigers was far from over given that the group has highly organized and disciplined and that it had a well structured institutionalized fund collection mechanism and a strong wing of activists and supporters from the Diaspora.
Effects of conflict in Sri Lanka on culture
The conflicts in Sri Lanka lead to a huge impact in the culture of the people in the country. The long lived civil tension led to creation of ethno-chauvinism by the Sinhalese community where they looked as the Tamils as inferior in culture and practices. Also the conflict leads to adverse cultural effects through separation of families and other cultural ties that united the people in the nation.
Reuniting ethnic groups in Sri Lanka
the sharp ethno-cultural differenced between the Sinhalese and the Tamils in sri lanka played a major role in fuelling and fanning the more than three decade long conflict. The defeat of the Tamil insurgents in 2009 marked a step forward towards reconstruction of Sri Lanka.
In efforts to heal and reunite Sri Lanka efforts must be put in place to help its people to focus on economic development and social cultural integration and interrelationship. To achieve this, government, international community, the non governmental organization must embark on a massive effort in reuniting the conflicting parties: the Tamils and the Sinhalese. All people irrespective of their ethnic background suffered in one way or another. Loss, grief, family breakups, psychological disturbance and all the encounters the people in Sri Lanka underwent during the conflicts will affect their wellbeing considerably (BBC Para 16). Most importantly, professional psychological reconstruction required to be done to the children and minors across all the tribes in an effort to positively charge them towards inter ethnic corporation and working together.
According to Machel (Para 16) children who have undergone traumatic experiences as a result of armed conflict need to be well taken care of both physically and psychologically. In addition the communities need to be empowered in the healing process. This is applicable to both the children as well as the adults. These efforts should be focused towards breaking down of ethno-chauvinism through collaboration and intercultural and social endeavors that tries to foster cooperation among the members of the different communities.
Although Sri Lanka has gone trough a rough social cultural and political experience, it holds a big potential to grow economically to be one of the leading economies in southern Asia particularly owing to her resources and strategic position. In order to create cooperation among the different communities, efforts from the government as well as the communities in particular should be employed in formulating policies and activities that will foster cooperation among the communities.
Bajpaee, Chietigj. “Uncertainty rather than stability follows defeat of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers.” The Jamestown foundation: Global Terrorism Analysis. 2009. Web.
BBC NEWS. “Tamil Tigers: a fearsome force.” BBC NEWS. Tuesday, 2000. Web.
Bhattacharji, Preeti. “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (aka Tamil Tigers) (Sri Lanka, separatists).” Council on Foreign Relations. 2009. Web.
Haviland, Charles. “Life as a Sri Lankan war refugee.” BBC News. Thursday, 2009. Web.
Jayawardhana, Kumari. Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and regional security. 1987. Web.
Machel, Graça. Impact of armed conflict on children. Web.
Sally, Razeen. Sri Lanka: the political economy of failure. London, London school of economic. 2006. Web.