Disturbance in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has been facing militant activities for the last one and a half-decade. The root problem lies in British rule over the country and subsequent political mishap after independence. The development leading to an ethnic clash in the 80s can be traced as below:
- Sinhalese (74% at present) has been the majority and Tamil (18% including Indian Tamils who were migrated to Sri Lanka during British rule to work in plantations) has been the minority group of Sri Lanka. The ethnic clash between the two groups was induced by the ‘Divide and Rule policy of the British. They gave preference to Tamil in the service sector, education, profession, and economy, thus, creating hatred for Tamil in the minds of Sinhalese.
- After independence Sinhalese tried to establish their dominance in economic and political matters using their numerical superiority.
- Just before independence, Tamil people voted overwhelmingly against the Sinhalese United Nation Party (UNP) in the 1947 election, in relation to which the government disenfranchised the entire community and rendered its members stateless by the citizenship act of 1948 and 1949.
- Since most of the members of the Tamil Congress which represent Tamil identity and is led by G.G. Ponnambalam voted in favour of Bill, SIV Chelvanayakam split away to form Federal Party.
- The Sri Lankan government showed no response to Tamil demand for greater autonomy and devaluation of power. On the contrary, measures were taken to alter the demographic composition of the northeastern part of the island by making arrangements for the settlement of non-Tamils in the region which has traditionally been regarded as the natural habitat of the Tamils.
- Before independence, it was decided to have both Tamil and Sinhalese as the official language but it was replaced by only Sinhalese by official language act which caused dissatisfaction and anger among Tamils.
Meanwhile, Federal Party observed other Tamil parties to form Tamil United Front (TUF) and then Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). Till now, TULF is demanding Tamil nationhood within the Sri Lanka framework, and not separated independent homeland The Constitution of 1972, adopted Buddhism as the state religion – TULF boycotted the constitution of 1972 and passed “Tamil Eelam’ resolution in 1976 for the struggle for a separate homeland.
- The 1970 educational policy tried to discriminate against Tamil people on the pretext that Sinhalese were underprivileged so they needed an upper hand over their Tamil counterparts. Under this standardization programme of the government, Tamils had to score higher than identically situated Sinhalese students.
Recent Development: Although pact making and breaking are not new to the Sri Lanka government and LTTE, the ceasefire agreement of 22 Feb. 2002 is the first one since 1994. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickramasinghe and the LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran have signed Norway – brokered peace pact, according to which extremist group will stop their activities and, on other hand, the government accepted their following demands:
(i) A line of control to demarcate territory under the LTTE has been drawn, the boundary of which to be interpreted by a foreign ceasefire monitor.
(ii) Six conflict-hit districts (Jaffna… etc.) to have a monitoring mission to handle peace violation cases.
(iii) No use of religious and educational institutes for military activities.
(iv) No arrest or search operation during the ceasefire. (v) Forceful recruitment prohibited.