Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka: obstacles to the peace process
Abstract (Summary)The complexity and magnitude of the Sri Lankan conflict have grown over the last five decades, making it one of the most protracted and devastating conflicts in the world today. With the prolongation of conflict, the chances for establishing peace have become distant, the gap between the two communities has widened, and new elements have been introduced to the conflict. The impediments to the establishment of lasting peace on the island encompass both domestic and external factors. Among the large variety of such factors, this study has focused on but a few. The analysis of the domestic factors dwells on the nature of the existing political structure, the characteristics of devolution, and the sources of violence. The examination of the external factors addresses the significance of geopolitics, the role of the Sri Lankan diaspora and the role of the international community. The exploration of the failure of the peace process in the island points to a combination of internal and external factors that impede the establishment of a liberal democratic political structure. Despite its reputation as a Third World democracy, the Sri Lankan polity has, since independence, increasingly developed into an illiberal democracy. Although possessing nominal features of a democracy, the Sri Lankan political system is saturated with highly undemocratic elements. Amongst these elements, the ethnocisation of the society, confrontational politics and violence are specifically addressed by this study. Moreover, this study contends that the deepening ethnic crisis is a direct result of the failure of outside actors to promote democracy in the island. Having been a victim of the Cold War neglect, Sri Lanka's continued isolation in the post Cold War era is largely due to its geopolitical position. Finally, the study identifies the contemporary role of diaspora communities as a severe hindrance to a lasting peace in the country. Apart from material contributions, the divided diaspora communities are a major source of illiberality, and this reflects upon the peace process in various ways. Thus the analysis concludes that lasting peace in the island is possible only through the promotion of genuine liberal democracy, both within and from the outside. Now more than ever before, the new realities of the post-Cold War era provide an atmosphere conducive to such a process.
Advisor:Dr. Rouben Azizian
School Location:New Zealand
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:01/01/2000