10 June, 2023


Sri Lanka’s Struggle In The Post-War Period

By Imtiyaz Razak

Dr. Imtiyaz Razak

Dr. Imtiyaz Razak

It is now crystal clear that the Sinhala leaders will never put forward a just resolution to the Tamil national question. Therefore, we are not prepared to place our trust in the impossible and walk along the same old futile path…. We therefore ask the international community and the countries of the world that respect justice to recognize our freedom struggle.”

This is the key sections of the annual Heroes’ Day statement delivered by the slain leader of the disabled Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), V. Pirapaharan. The LTTE cadres silenced their guns in May 2009, and we are being told that V. Pirapaharan is dead.

Whether such a statement from the LTTE leader represents accurate or not, the statement does represented the Tamil disappointments and distrust, but also it effectively exposed the duplicity of five decades old southern Sinhalese politics, which categorically refused to do meaningful political business with the Tamil leaders who represent the North and East Tamils.

Now Sri Lanka is not only politicians who are commonly considered as liberals lead walking on post-war Sri Lanka, but also Sri Lanka and thus more incline to seek inclusive society. Though extreme form of Tamil nationalism did not gain any significant inroads during August election of this year that should not be interpreted, as the total failure of extreme form of Tamil nationalism would not appear in Sri Lanka. Identities and mobilization based on ethnic identities would not function a certain way all the time. There are leverages and there’s a polarization. These occur when a group of people would perceive certain moves differently, for example, if and when politicians who would represent a certain group feel like their demands are being ignored, politicians can resort to identity politics. This occurs in deeply divided societies where there’s competitive electoral process. Sri Lanka does have such competitive electoral process and dynamics.

Whether the Tamil Tigers, for that matter, violent Tamil nationalists are freedom fighters as they claimed themselves or deadly terrorists as the Sri Lanka governments describe, history will answer it. My point here is that the birth of Tamil Tiger movement had roots in Sri Lanka’s history and its anti-Tamil agendas. It is important to point that there was not an overnight decision among the ordinary Tamils to approve the agendas of the Tamil Tigers: the failure of Sri Lankan polity to meet the demands of the Tamil moderates was a key foundation for the origin of the Tamil extremism in Sri Lanka. Instead of listening to the Tamil leaders and accommodating their reasonable demands, the Sinhalese ruling leaders of the time assaulted and stoned the Tamils and their leaders, and even hired the Sinhalese to become butchers to kill innocent Tamils and moderate leaders. One needs to realize that successive governments since 1956 controlled by the Sinhalese miserably failed to engage the Tamil moderates such as the Federal Party (FP).

The FP sought a comprehensive solution without jeopardizing the unity of Sri Lanka. However, Sinhalese collective, competitive chauvinism turned a blind eye to the Tamil moderates. Sadly, the choices of the Sinhala political class to use violence, effectively scratched the Tamil trust in the political system and encouraged some Tamils to adopt violence. Sri Lanka’s current Premier Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe in 2002 during his visit to the US pointed that “the Tamils tried peaceful protests which soon degenerated into violence. With the underlying grievances being unattended the stage was set for terrorist groups to emerge (“Our Approach for a Better Tomorrow Free from Terrorism,” Daily News, July 25, 2002.) This helps us to understand the birth of Tamil violent movements, particularly the Tamil Tigers in the end of 1970.

Though the current regime did take some positive measures to ease tensions, my recent survey on post-war Sri lanka suggests that a significant portion of Tamils in the North do not think that the current regime is capable of addressing the root causes of the conflict. Now the question is that what Tamils want? We have two answers

A. Partition, and

B. Power-sharing democracy

The first answer is highly unlikely to occur in the current global climate. Also note that there is no any global need or desire to see Sri Lanka to be divided into two nations with separate state structure. The second answer can do a lot of good provided both Tamils and Sinhalese, plus Moors or Muslim leaders seek conducive measures to build trust and to seek justice and reconciliations The UN human right a week ago passed the resolution demanding comprehensive investigation with participation from significant foreign experts. Evidences suggest that there’s support for this mechanism from Tamils. The regime in Colombo finds the resolution is win-win deal.

In my understanding, Sri Lanka is in fairly good period history to generate trust among Tamils and Muslims, and to seek comprehensive solutions acceptable to all Sri Lankans. Basically, regardless of loyalties to religion and ethnicity, common people often do not harbor hatred against others unless and otherwise there’s heavy politicization to win votes in electoral democracies.

Immediate post-war experiences teach us that Colombo failed to engage Tamils and the Moors in the so-called post-war period to win a negotiated what political scientists call ‘consociation democracy’ to ease ethnic tensions. Such failure from Colombo boosted the claim of extremists’ sections of Tamils both at home and diasporic level that Sri Lanka is fundamentally pro-Sinhalese society where Tamils have no future so the global community should help build a separate state. Though such claim from extremist Tamils is not accurate, what is equally correct point is that political leaders from Sri Lanka did not engage Tamil leaders. Reasons are complicated. There’s resistance to seek structural change in Sri Lanka constitution to transform Sri Lanka into federal state.

My recent survey suggests that there’s resistance to federalism from Sinhalese. Almost 79 percent of Sinhalese from Southern Sri Lanka responded negatively to the question that could the solution of federalism lead to build peace in Sri Lanka crisis. On the other hand, good portion of Tamils from the Northern province [67%] responded favorable for federal solution while Moors from the East responded [nearly 62%] positively with a condition that any power-sharing mechanism should not seek to merge the North and Eastern provinces. Here is the gap at popular level, and this gap explains Sri Lanka’s competing positions on power sharing.

This gap can be reduced. It can be reduced and/or parties in the conflict can seek more moderate solutions if politicians from all sides do genuine efforts to arrest the existing distrust. It is a long process. Many external and domestic moves and polices can complicate the process. Moreover, the fact is elections in Sri Lanka are competitive, and thus outbidding to win votes, history suggests, often complicate and polarize the situations.

*Dr. A. R. M. Imtiyaz’ research and teaching are mainly focused on ethnic politics. He has published widely in peer-reviewed international journals. He currently teaches at the Asian Studies/Department of Political Science, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA.

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  • 4

    Dr. A. R. M. Imtiyaz,

    Sri Lanka’s Struggle In The Post-War Period

    “Whether such a statement from the LTTE leader represents accurate or not, the statement does represented the Tamil disappointments and distrust, but also it effectively exposed the duplicity of five decades old southern Sinhalese politics, which categorically refused to do meaningful political business with the Tamil leaders who represent the North and East Tamils.”

    “Now Sri Lanka is not only politicians who are commonly considered as liberals lead walking on post-war Sri Lanka, but also Sri Lanka and thus more incline to seek inclusive society.”

    It was true then.

    It is true now. All they are doing now is smokescreen. However, the global situation has changed from 1948 and 1956.

    So, a link to the international community, with the potential for sanctions as applied to South Africa, Iran and North Korea will make the Para-Sinhala to deal in a Rational manner with their Para-Tamils cousins from India, in the Land of Native Vedda Aethho.

    Next expose the Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamils, fot what they are. Paradeshis, Paras, in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho.

    Journal of Human Genetics (2014) 59, 28–36; doi:10.1038/jhg.2013.112; published online 7 November 2013

    Mitochondrial DNA history of Sri Lankan ethnic people: their relations within the island and with the Indian subcontinental populations


    Lanka Ranaweera1,3, Supannee Kaewsutthi1,3, Aung Win Tun1, Hathaichanoke Boonyarit1, Samerchai Poolsuwan2 and Patcharee Lertrit

    “..both Tamils and Sinhalese clusters were affiliated with Indian subcontinent populations than Vedda people who are believed to be the native population of the island of Sri Lanka.”

    Both Sinhala and Tamils are Paras in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho.

    So, this is a Para Conflict, between the Paras from India.

    Please make the case for sending back the Paras back to India. The Paras will be going back home. In Fact 500,000 Para-Tamils from up country were sent back home by theit Para-Sinhala cousins in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

    You need to expose Para-Sinhala, Para-Tamils and other Paras, in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho. The DNA evidence above shows that. after all, the fact is that the Earth rotates on its own axis and moves around the Sun, despite many claims to its contrary.

    CT says In Journalism, Truth is a Process. In Science, Truth is the Process.

    PaRa PaRa PaRa PaRa
    PaRa PaRa PaRa-Sinhala (Sinhalese)
    PaRa PaRa PaRa PaRa
    PaRa PaRa PaRa-Tamulan(Tamil)

  • 4

    Dr. Imtiyaz, I regret to see in your otherwise good writing a kind of a sense reminiscent of “sleep-deprived” Kumbakarna! Are you still surveying a separate State (Tamil Eelam) as an option for Tamil people, irrespective of your observations that it is not feasible or so in the current context? It is important to be sensitive to certain facts or realities. For instance, you say LTTE “silenced their guns”. The real fact lies in its passive voice: “their guns were silenced”. You refer to those following Islamic faith as “Moors”. But the reality is, most of them would like to identify themselves as “Muslims”. The term “Moors” exists only in birth certificates and in the names of a few associations now. As a researcher on ethnic politics, you, sure, have the
    potential to make more substantive, if not original, contributions to your field of study. Please go forward, avoiding both the pitfalls of the past as well as contruction errors, which often happen unknowingly.

    • 0

      [Edited out]

  • 0

    Imtiaz Razak,

    Good on you to open a debate on this subject.

    My3 was ushered in with a lot of promise and expectation that the ethnic devide could now be addressed more positively. However My3 is too busy engrossed in self glorification and self preservation. He has almost lost all sight on what the voters expected of him.

    You are right in believing that the end of LTTE in 2009 is not the end of all armed struggle by the downtrodden Tamils if the Sinhala thinking and actions are not changed.

    Fat chance of that happening under this Machiavellian ‘Yahapalanaya’ bunch.

  • 2

    the stupidity of all this is asking the Americans (pirates/invaders) and the bad logic English to straighten the sinhala buddhist invaders

    both are mules and cannot reproduce.

    but the English are very good at grabbing food as first preference above any form of logic of humanness.

    they best all folk sinhala tamil muslim or christian will ultimately get
    is the Diego Garcia effect if they don’t learn Hindi.

  • 2

    Dr Imtiyiaz has written well.

    Ever since the last days of our last colonial master, the emerging Sinhala politician has eyed the main prize, and realised that the sure route to that pot of gold was through the hearts and minds of the Sinhala-Buddhist voter. So much for democracy. DS and Dudley excepted, the rest of our devious leaders, starting with SWRD, JRJ et al were hell bent on cultivating and manipulating the relationship between the Sinhalese and other communities in order to divide and take power. Years of misery before peace. Then, it took six long years for the people to see the light. The true colours of the Rajapakse regime were evident when it became plain that the will to win the war was only licence to plunder the country. But the people came good (there is something in that old chestnut about not being able to fool all the people all of the time,,,). Alas, as we suspected, what we have now looks like a false dawn. But, we have to persist. People are becoming wiser by the day to recognising what they worth. Our people are worthy of good government. Our people are worthy of respect. Our people are worthy of fair opportunity. Most of us are coming around to the idea that we as a united and truly harmonious community are much better off than if we stay divided. Looks like the coin has dropped.

    Sri Lanka cannot be divided. Division will lead to bloodshed and misery. It has been tried and failed. We cannot, nay must not, go down that road again.

    Power-sharing looks a bridge too far.

    Better if we work towards to a true meritocracy that rewards hard work, competence, talent and capability, and eschews nepotism, crony-ism, and favouritism.

    If only we can seize this peace and take the chance to bring out the good in all our people. Then we could truly declare our beloved country the ‘Miracle of Asia’.

  • 1

    Mr Imtiaz, can you outline a devolution model which will satisfy political aspirations of at least 90% of Tamil speaking people (irrespective of their religion or the date of arrival) in the island.

    Shall we look at it this way? There had not been a solution because there is no conceivable solution.

    A federal unit for North/East is acceptable to us only if all Tamil speaking people (irrespective of their religion or the date of arrival) are accommodated there. The reason is obvious. Population of a particular group of Tamil speaking are exploding leaving the future generation of Sinhalese no where to go.


  • 0

    Dr. Imtiyaz Razak

    Sri Lanka’s Struggle In The Post-War Period:

    *** The Sinhalese hatred of Tamils is in their Gene and they will never willingly meet the Tamil aspirations. It has to be enforced by the International Community. The Current Government is trying to hoodwink the International Community into a false sense of deliverance. They are simply playing for time.

  • 1

    A very candid analysis by Imtiyaz. Bensen

  • 0

    It may one day come to Partition. Then the issue is on what basis should it be done. The equitable solution is to do it on the basis of population after giving a choice to all Tamil people, including those in the South to declare their preference.For example 12 percent of the population should have 12 percent of the land area.
    Once that is done a part of the country centered on the Northern Province could be carved out for those who wish to live in the new Eelam. Those who opt for Eelam shall not have any claim for any right in the rest of the country. The same rule shall apply to the Sinhalese who are now in the new Eelam territory.
    Tamils now living in any part of the country who opt to live in the Sinhala territory shall enjoy equal rights as any other citizen.

    This is a scenario which should be given serious consideration.,

    • 1

      “Tamils now living in any part of the country who opt to live in the Sinhala territory shall enjoy equal rights as any other citizen.”


      All Tamil speaking people should move to Ealam.


      • 0

        [Edited out] Imtiyaz Razak are people who start conflicts in this nation.

        He is not different from LTTE theoretician Anton Balasinghem.

        Kind word to the author : “Please don’t invent new problems.”

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