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