Ten commandments to restore peace in Sri Lanka

By Dr. A.R.M. Imtiyaz

Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon till 1972) has a long and rich history. The island of three main communities – Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim – however, has attracted global attention in recent years, particularly for its deadly ethnic civil war. Sri Lanka, once hoped by the West as a model of democracy, requires political solutions to ease ethnic tensions and to restore the trust of the marginalised minorities. Hence, I suggest the following – what I call “The Ten Commandments to Restore Peace” – to build the trust both of the minorities and of the system.

Political elites and politicians shall seek a non-ethnic platform to win and hold power. In other words, Sri Lanka cannot afford any longer to have politicians who still strive for emotional symbolic policies that have power to trigger war rather than peace. Civil society institutions and intellectuals shall jointly work among the masses to promote non-racist politicians and leaders who have the ability and willingness to think beyond ethnic and religious lines.

There shall be tangible efforts by the global community to push the conflicting parties towards attending and address the issues concerning human right violations and abuses. The modern state of affairs requires respect for human values and freedom. The ethnic crisis in the island of Sri Lanka is unlikely to win peace as long as parties to the conflict disrespect the rights of the common man and take inhuman measures such as the forceful ethnic expulsions that occurred on June 7, in an effort to weed out what Colombo calls Tamil terrorists.

There shall be pressure to halt the current war against the Tamils of the North and East and to seek a meaningful political solution. War is only capable of stimulating hatred and engendering destruction. Sri Lanka has already shed enough blood; hence it urgently deserves peace.

Global forces, particularly India, the US and Norway shall call for peace talks in non-Sri Lanka territory, preferably in Scandinavian territory. Both global and local institutions shall exert pressure on the ruling political elites to reform the state structure and its institutions to allow all communities to make economic progress in a peaceful environment without the ravages of war, and to meet the aspirations of the minorities and to manage the challenges posed by modernization. Such reforms shall strongly encourage adoption of, in tactical political science language, a power-sharing formula both at central and regional levels (i.e., ethnic autonomy).

If the state and politicians in Colombo seriously agree to seek a political solution, there shall be concrete measures by the global forces on the Tamil Tigers to ease its deadly ethnic resistance. Tamil nationalists shall recognise the right to self-determination of the Muslims of the North and East and their desire to be identified as a separate if not distinct group.

The Muslim political establishment shall freeze its anti-Tamil nationalist approaches. Nothing herein shall preclude their continued cooperation with or giving critical support to the Sinhalese ruling class in Colombo, as they have been successfully doing since independence in the name of the Muslim masses.

Politicians and leaders shall sincerely understand the need for harmony among the different ethnic groups and peace in Sri Lanka. The earlier they understand the better for Sri Lanka’s future. Sri Lanka desperately needs peace. Peace would strengthen embattled democracy in Sri Lanka. War only fortifies ethnic identity and sooner or later creates space for genocide and ethnic cleansing. Then again, resistance to peace can create more ethnic warriors. In brief, failures to engage peace eventually could lead a society into a state of affairs where people of Sri Lanka find nothing but ethnic hatred, bodies, and suicide bombers. In other words, peace would aid Sri Lanka in realising its dream to become the Singapore of South Asia. [Courtesy of: The Sunday Times – Sri Lanka]

[The writer is a visiting scholar at Department of Political Science, Temple University, USA. His primary research interest is in the study of ethno-political conflict, both in Sri Lanka and in other countries.]

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  1. Only two lanagaue are spoken in the island so two nations.

    Tamils are ready to share the land with sinhalese and if not satisfaied face the consequences

  2. Rajapakshe government has taken the ethnic conflict to its roots, prior 1972 constitution.
    One good thing is that Tamils do not belong in the south and hence North-East is their “homeland”.

    Secondly, there has been pressure from UK especially and USA to halt the war due to set-backs in the war theatre in the Wanni, to stop the aggression. This is the reason behind forced eviction of Tamil lodgers from Colombo who simply want to escape the war theatre.

    When LTTE were losing left right and centre in the east all was well with UK,USA and India as they were fighting amongst them to provide military support to SL Forces more than anybody else. LTTE was weakened by Karuna split and was under-strength in EAST and more glamourous victories were due to LTTE withdrawal than SL Forces’ prowess. The Mannar-Madhu fiasco where more than 200 soldiers perished and two months of incursion into LTTE held areas by SLA was reversed in 15 hours, lead the USA, UK, India to see the light of things. Secondly, the trick that these foreigners play is to bring in the peace parley back to surface when LTTE beats back. If LTTE is beaten, then there won’t be a necessity to talk peace. One day the president and Army chief say, they will wipe out LTTE, the next day they say, the merely want LTTE weakened.

    Whatever it is, LTTE will choose its time and location for a major showdown where another 1996 Mullethivu fiasco will be replayed. Then, this blog and many others would crow from their roof-tops, “We told you so”.

    LTTE is playing the game of being weakened and out of sorts in the east. It will pounce soon after the next US presidential elections. The best thing for Sri Lanka is to Devolve power to North-East under LTTE admin and go forward. This will not happen as Rajapakshe clan making millions in the military purchases, perks etc,etc.

    Two more commandments to restore peace in sri Lanka;

    a. Do not give military or financial aid to Rajapakshe govt, until it agrees to talk peace.
    b. Force sanctions at UN and other world bodies on Sri Lanka, just like to N-Korea, iran & Hamas to suffocate this govt from taking military approach to a political issue.

    This way, even though the public will suffer a little while, and in the long term reap the fruits of peace.

  3. It is very easy for the armchair pundits to say that basic human rights of the tamil civilians were abused by GOSL with the expulsion of tamils in living lodges. Yes, in peaceful times I would fully agree that such an action would be a serious HR violation. However, what some NGOs and western nations seem to forget that the country is at war with a deadly terrorist outfit that is hell bent on killing as many civilians as possible. The intercepted lorry bomb is very clear evidence that Colombo has been targeted by the Tigers for a huge explosion at some place where it would cause many deaths. I challenge all these pundits to speak out after such disasters and condemn the Tigers. These pundits are the same folks who are quick to point out that the GOSL did not do enough to protect civilians. The pundits must be living in some Utopia where there is no threat of terrorist bombs – unlike the vast majority of people who live in Colombo and other parts of the country constantly worried about returning home safe.

    While I dislike the temporary consequences of the expulsion (because I am also a Tamil person), I accept what GOSL had to do for the sake of the country. In other countries like UK and USA (where the many Tiger sympathizers are hiding) there are no questions asked when it comes to terrorists. Sri Lanka being a beggar nation has to put up with a lot of pressure and hypocrisy from these nations. I would agree with Gotabhaya’s views in asking these nations to practice what they preach. Those who talk about devolution of power to LTTE ignore the fact that this is a ruthless muderers – like Pol Pot or worse. There is only one solution to this crisis – elimination of the Tigers. Prabakaran will never survive a peaceful end to this conflict. Can any of you pushing for devolution of power, with LTTE at the helm, assure us that Prabakaran will be the LTTE leader in peace? If NOT he must be removed by any means.

  4. Pon Thevarajah says “Tamils are ready to share the land with Sinhalese and if not satisfied face the consequences.”

    I wonder what consequences Pon Thevarajah will face from London.
    This heroic posturing by expatriate Tamils has to end.

  5. Its so easy for armchair academics to wax lyrical about what should take place in someone else’s backyard. The conflict in Sri Lanka is akin to that of Northern Ireland, with the added dimensions of ethnic differnce. The fact is that there are more Tamils living elsewhere in Sri Lanka (and abroad) than live in the NE where the LTTE rule, and the will of most people who live in Sri Lanka is for peace. Peace will prevail. It must prevail, if the will of the people matters at all.

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