Indian Decade

Ethnic Triumphalism?

Relief among the Sinhala community since the Sri Lankan civil war ended is understandable. Triumphalism isn’t.

Its been two years since the ethnic civil war in Sri Lanka drew to a close. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the principal organization that had sought to create a separate state through the systematic use of terror, hasn’t managed to re-group. Nor is it likely to do so as a viable force any time in the foreseeable future.

Quite understandably, I’ve found during my trip here a palpable sense of relief across the island – especially amongst the dominant Sinhala speaking community.  The easing of their anxieties is wholly reasonable. The civil war, which erupted in 1983, cost the country much blood and treasure.

But the majority community’s relief notwithstanding, it has been disturbing to note that little political effort has been expended to promote any serious reconciliation with the minority Tamil community. Thanks to the LTTE’s ruthlessness, ordinary Tamils were also victims of terror. Worse still, they frequently found themselves caught in a most unfortunate vice between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces. Their present hapless and insecure state necessitates that the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa reach out to them and offer some modicum of solace.

Sadly, instead of undertaking any such concerted effort, the regime has engaged in a feckless and callous form of ethnic triumphalism. Worse still, its principal exponents have dismissed the legitimate criticisms of the global community over the harsh tactics that were adopted to end the civil war. Instead, they’ve insisted that the regime has no reason to express any form of contrition, and they have sought to stir up populist sentiment against any possible external censure.

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This strategy may well help the regime garner electoral support amongst the majority community in the short term. However, it also risks alienating the aggrieved minority community and generating resentment and frustration that could affect a whole new generation.