Dude, where’s my ethnic conflict?

Thanks to work we do at BB, I have sat at countless foums, discussions and workshops which eventually ends up talking about Sri Lanka’s conflict. A lot of these discussions have included Colombo-based cosmopolitan youth, and some of them (I’ll even say many) seems to think that Sri Lanka doesn’t have an ethnic conflict. Their reasoning is quite simple:

Proposition 1: I have Tamil friends. (The infamous “some of my best friends are Tamil” line), we don’t  fight.

Proposition 2: There are lots of Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims living together in Colombo, they don’t fight.

Conclusion  : There’s no ethnic conflict.

I’m guilty of a bit of oversimplification and perhaps tad bit of sterotyping here, but generally the argument follows this basic model.  Now I’m a big fan of cosmopolitan attitudes, I think that’s a good way to live. But unfortunately, many people in Sri Lanka don’t have cosmopolitan attitudes, hence it’s a poor way to understand what’s going on Sri Lanka.

I also don’t think interpreting the Sri Lankan conflict this way is necessarily stupid, there are bunch of (more sophisticated) arguments one can make to this end, but I think they are generaly wrong. Whatever might have been the ‘root causes’ of this conflict — and there could be a number of economic, political and situational causes — it has manifested itself in ethnic terms. 

I agree with those who say the standard majority-minority analysis mises great part of the picture. I personally think what we have is more of a governance issue which manifests itself in ethnic terms. But because it has manifested itself in ethnic terms, we should call it what it is — an ethnic conflict. 

— Deane

Deane is a Core Group Member of Beyond Borders and a regular blogger. The views expressed here are that of the author, not of Beyond Borders. 

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Posted on 09/16/2008, in Peace-Conflict-Governance, Sri Lanka, Youth-Culture-Society and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Sie.Kathieravealu

    “I personally think what we have is more of a governance issue which manifests itself in ethnic terms. But because it has manifested itself in ethnic terms, we should call it what it is — an ethnic conflict. ”

    Yes it is basically an issue of governance. We did not have what is called “good governance” right from the start.

    At the start it was “power-hungry” and now it is “money-hungry”. To dupe the masses it has now become a “terrorist” problem with a heavy load of “Sinhala Supremacy” and “the country belongs to the Sinhalese only” propoganda which was earlier underneath the surface and now it has come above the surface with persons in authority voicing it openly thus showing the true colours of the power-hungry politicians.

    From day one of Independence, the politicians lost their independence and became dependent on their vote-banks to secure their election and re-election. And for this purpose of sustaining their membership in the “ruling-class” the Sinhalese politicians started creating a slogan among the Sinhalese that the country belongs to them and that they must rule the entire country. Not to be outdone the Tamil and Muslim politicians followed suit and the “ethnic conflict” was created.

    With 9/11 and Bush slogan of “wiping-out terrorism” Sri Lanka joined the band-wagon with the slogan “war on terrorism” which has now become “humanitarian war to free the Tamils”.

    The government of D.S.Senanayake started it and it continues to this day.

    So if the present conflict is to be solved then we have to aim for a change of heart, not just a change of mind to install good governance in the country. ONLY good governance can bring-in sustainable peace, prosperity anda pleasant living for ALL the people in this country.

    Dialogues and discussions go beyond sharing and understanding to transforming participants. While the process begins with the individuals, it eventually involves groups and institutions. Ultimately, dialogues can affect how policies are made.

    Pray to GOD Almighty that these discussions would lead to success.

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