Dis­tant Drums

Sri Lanka re­mains crip­pled by the post-war re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion process. Much more is needed be­fore the coun­try can stand on its own feet.

Southasia - - Contents - By Maria Sai­fud­din Ef­fendi

The eth­nic con­flict in Sri Lanka has seen sev­eral high and low in­ten­sity wars and skir­mishes over the last three decades. The armed strug­gle be­tween the Sri Lankan Armed Forces (SLAF) and the Lib­er­a­tion Tigers of Tamil Ee­lam (LTTE) con­tin­ued till the sum­mer of 2009, when a more in­tense and tar­get-ori­ented mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion by SLAF, the “Hu­man­i­tar­ian Res­cue Op­er­a­tion,” was con­ducted, killing the LTTE leader Velupil­lai Prab­hakaran.

The pro­tracted con­flict un­der­went sev­eral stages be­fore reach­ing the ter­mi­na­tion phase. Ex­pec­ta­tions rose to see a grad­ual and thor­ough peace­build­ing process guar­an­tee­ing reap­praisal of the ex­ist­ing poli­cies as well as re­dress­ing root causes of the con­flict such as, Tamil griev­ances and the de­pri­va­tion of mi­nor­ity rights.

At the same time, hu­man­i­tar­ian res­cue op­er­a­tions against LTTE in May 2009, grew con­tro­ver­sial, given the al­leged war crimes and the bru­tal treat­ment of mi­nori­ties in north­east Sri Lanka. The num­ber of Tamils killed rose to 40,000 and nearly 60,000 were wounded dur­ing the op­er­a­tion. Some 300,000 Tamils were de­tained in mil­i­tary-run in­tern­ment camps for more than a year. The Hu­man­i­tar­ian Res­cue Op­er­a­tion has been fu­ri­ously de­bated and ques­tioned by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Sri Lanka has been ac­cused of war crimes and the vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights treaties and in­ter­na­tional law. In a three-decade long con­flict, in­no­cent cit­i­zens were bru­tally killed and treated in­hu­manly, civil­ian ar­eas were bombed and Tamils were used as hu­man shields by LTTE. A large num­ber of in­ter­nally dis­placed and miss­ing per­sons be­came a bur­den on the econ­omy. Count­less vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights in terms of food, medicine and clean water only con­trib­uted to the long list of mass atroc­i­ties faced by the Sri Lankan peo­ple.

The post war tran­si­tional phase has been lin­ger­ing on. The war is over but the con­flict has yet to be re­solved. While the chal­lenges re­main un­met and the tasks are unac­com­plished, the process of peace build­ing has at­tracted nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and donor agen­cies. The peace build­ing process in­cludes var­i­ous as­pects of re­con­struc­tion of the war torn so­ci­ety and the re­build­ing of dys­func­tional in­sti­tu­tions. State mech­a­nisms need to be im­proved in or­der to in­cor­po­rate politico-eco­nomic griev­ances of mi­nori­ties through de­vo­lu­tion pack­ages. A so­cial rein­te­gra­tion of the com­bat­ants, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of war vic­tims as well as per­pe­tra­tors and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion among com­bat­ants, need to be the main re­spon­si­bil­ity of the gov­ern­ment. Suc­cess­fully man­ag­ing a post-war sit­u­a­tion in a rig­or­ous fash­ion will pre­vent the re­cur­rence of vi­o­lence.

How­ever, the past three years have seen lit­tle progress in any of the men­tioned ar­eas. There is a marked dif­fer­ence be­tween a ‘post-war phase’ and a ‘post-con­flict res­o­lu­tion process.’ The two pro­cesses are not en­tirely

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