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The Political Aftermath of the Sri Lankan Civil War Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 25th, 2019

The civil war that occurred in Sri Lanka has a long history dating back to the early 20th century. The Tamil and Sinhalese communities which are the two major communities in Sri Lanka started disagreeing on major national issues during the process of preparing the first constitution of the country after the country gained independence from the British colonial rule in 1948.

This was followed by confrontational politics on the official national language to be used (Fortna 269). There were ethnic riots experienced in 1956 when the Prime Minister Bandaraike officially approved Sinhala as the official national language.

The Tamil community that was in favor of English being used as the official national language revolted leading to ethnic and political confrontations. These confrontations went on and later led to the Civil war that completely ravaged the island nation. This paper will discuss the aftermath of the civil war that happened in Sri Lanka.

The decision by the Sri Lankan Government to nationalize all oil companies in the country without any consultation sparked a lot of resistance especially from the Tamil community. The Tamil community immediately formed a parallel state referred to as Tamil Eelam.

The late 1960s saw the formation of a revolutionary group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Balasingham, who was the brain behind the formation of this group brought together some Tamil youths that were involved in separate activities planned by him (Fortna 278).

In collaboration with other revolutionary groups that were emerging each and everyday, a new group known as the New Tamil Tigers was formed in 1972. The Sri Lankan students in the Diaspora also formed another revolutionary group known as the Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students that sponsored and arranged for all the logistics of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

These revolutionary movements increased their membership with majority of them being the unemployed youth. This culminated in the formation of a political party known as the Tamil Tigers Liberation Front just before the 1977 general elections.

This party was formed to represent the interests of the Tamil Community including language rights. The UNP Party emerged victorious and technically making the Tamil United Front Part as the main opposition party (Fortna, 278).

The Tamil community supported the leftist ideologies a thing that really outraged the ruling party. The president elect Junius, Richard Jayawardene from the Sinhalese community started cracking down on Tamils in Sinhalese territories.

These developments made the Tamil youths to start forming military gangs that declared war against the Government and the Tamil leaders who attempted to negotiate with the government. The police and government officials became their major targets as the country plunged in a serious civil war (Grober 134).

The LTTE group as it was later known became very ruthless by assassinating high ranking officials in Government and the perceived betrayers in the Tamil leadership. The killing of 13 army soldiers made president Jayardena to plan for revenge attacks against the Tamils.

The Government security soldiers went full blast into action killing almost 3000 Tamils in the country (Grobar 137). The capital Colombo experienced the majority of the killings compared to rural areas. The Tamils started to flee from Sinhalese territories to save their lives. The mass killings of the Tamils by the government forces in 1983 officially marked the start of a civil war that would last for almost three decades.

The continued killing of Tamil civilians by the Government forces in 1984 and 1985 made the LTTE militant group very prominent. The vision of the LTTE was to have an independent state from the central government in Colombo. This idea was not supported by some splinter groups of the original LTTE group.

These splinter groups started collaborating with the government and later denounced violence. The attempted peace talks in 1985 between the government and the remaining members of the LTTE group failed terribly (Grobar 138).

What followed was a series of killings that further fueled the conflict. The two fighting parties engaged in serious confrontations with government forces trying to control the city of Jaffna in the northern part of Sri Lanka. The LTTE fighters had been pushed to the city by the ferocious government forces that intended to control all the major cities (Havard 27).

The fight for the control of Jaffna in 1987 was the first conventional warfare launched by the Sri Lankan military (Fortna 275). Prabhakaran and Soosai who were the leaders of the LTTE militant group were nearly caught by the government forces at Valvettithurai.

One of the major highlights of the civil war was the 170 suicide attacks carried out by the LTTE group against government forces killing over 40 government soldiers in the process. The Indian government became involved in the civil war because it feared that the Tamils in India would be inspired by the Tamils in SriLanka to also seek their independence.

The Indian government helped the SriLankan government indirectly by sponsoring the rival group in the LTTE groups to keep them completely divided in their struggle for independence (Havard 38). The other militant groups later laid down their weapons but the LTTE still resisted.

The signing of a peace accord in late 1980s by the Sri Lankan president and the Indian prime minister enraged the Sinhalese people that wanted India to stay out of SriLankan affairs and opposed the presence of Indian forces in Sri Lanka.

The pressure from the south made the Sri Lankan government to seek the support of the LTTE rebels to evict the Indian forces from SriLanka. This common purpose led to a ceasefire between the SriLankan Government and the LTTE rebels through a secretly signed deal (Fortna 275).

The Government made some concessions by passing some acts that would make Tamil an official language in Sri Lanka and the merging of the northern and eastern provinces but this did not stop the LTTE onslaught.

By March 1990, all the Indian forces had left Sri Lanka and the animosity between the Indian Government and LTTE continued to increase. The assassination of Gandhi in 1991, by a member of the LTTE group completely reduced the support of LTTE in India.

The Eelam II and III wars in 1990’s saw the continued killing of many civilians by the LTTE group and the government forces (Havard 56). The civil war completely ravaged the country leaving almost one million people displaced.

This led to the emergence of several peace movements and organizations in late 1990’s that campaigned for peace in the various camps in the country. The international community got involved from early 2000 with Norway taking center stage in the mediation process. These diplomatic efforts by the international community were aimed at finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The ceasefire declared by the LTTE in December 2000 was short-lived because the group went ahead with their attacks against the Government in 2001. A series of suicide attacks in the Bandaranaike International Airport the same year led to the complete destruction of eight planes belonging to the Sri Lankan air force that led to serious implications on the country’s economy and tourism.

The international pressure especially from the U.S forced the LTTE rebels to put down their weapons by fearing international community’s support for the Government to crack down o the rebels. Elections were held in December 2001 after a vote of no confidence was passed against the then president Kamaratunga.

The United National Front party emerged victorious with the peace agenda being on the top of its campaign manifesto. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Government and The LTTE rebels for a ceasefire with Norway as the chief facilitator. The Government and the Tamil Tigers agreed to stop attacks against each other (Havard 62).

This move led to the lifting of economic sanctions placed against the Sri Lankan government by the international community. A lot of foreign financial support was promised if peace was to be maintained in the nation. All the closed roads and airports were opened up as a sign of peace by the Government by and the Tamil Tigers.

The LTTE group made some reasonable concessions by stopping their demand for an independent state. The LTTE rebels later began to feel that they were not receiving the economic benefits they expected from the peace efforts and continued to levy taxes to strengthen their forces by buying weapons and recruiting new soldiers.

The LTTE group later split in 2004 into the northern and eastern wings deu to issues of finances. Elections were held in April 2004 and Rajapakse appointed as the prime minister. The peace talks meant nothing since the war continued with continued killings on both sides (Havard 62).

The year 2006 saw an escalation in the number of killings and led to the freezing of all the assets owned by the LTTE rebels in the European Union member states as it was labeled as a terrorist organization. The Government withdrew its ceasefire agreement in 2006 and strengthened its attack in LTTE strongholds.

The government completely weakened the LTTE resistance and officially declared its victory against LTTE in May 2009. This together with concession of defeat by LTTE led to great celebrations in the Capital Colombo. LTTE was further weakened by the killing of its leader Vellupilllai Prabhakaran by the government forces.

The end of the civil war in Sri Lanka was hailed by the international community as a major step towards the reconstruction of the seriously ravaged nation. President Rajapaksa promised to find a political solution to completely end the devastating civil war.

Almost 8000 LTTE members surrendered to the Government and were taken to rehabilitation centers across the nation (Havard 56). The end of the war saw the recruitment of over 2000 youths from Tamil Militant groups to the police force as a way of engaging them in meaningful service to the nation. The Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan military officers were alleged to have committed crimes against humanity especially from 2006 to early 2009.

The United Nations appointed an international commission to investigate the various war crimes that took place in the country. The Government defended its forces against any crimes against humanity although the investigation panel had found some substantial evidence to justify that (Havard 56). The investigations were later opposed by the Government which argued that nothing of the sort happened.

The government was also preparing for presidential elections to be held in January 2010 and did not want any distractions. The presidential elections were to be followed by parliamentary elections in April the same year. The elections would be the first ones to be held after the end of almost three decades of civil war.

President Rajappakse became very popular in the country in the run up to January 2010 elections because his administration had ended the Civil war in the country by defeating the Tamil Tigers. President Rajapakse would seek for re-election on United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) party.

His main rival was General Sarath Fonseka of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) party (McAllister 34). Based on its track record in restoring peace in the country, the ruling party led by the incumbent Rajapakse was overwhelmingly re- elected in the January 2010 elections.

According to the Sri Lankan constitution, elections are held after every six years and this followed the 2004 elections where UPFA had also emerged victorious and the then president Chandrika Kumaratunga had appointed Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister.

Immediately after the presidential elections in January 2010 were concluded, president Rajapaksa dissolved the parliament to pave way fro the impending parliamentary elections that would be held in April 2010 (McAllister 48). The ruling party also scooped the majority of the seats in the parliamentary election by winning 144 seats out of total 225 parliamentary seats.

UPFA was followed by the United National Front party that won 60 seats from the previous 82 seats in won during the 2004 general elections. The Tamil National Alliance party termed as the minority party obtained 14 seats. General Fonseka’s party DNA obtained only seven seats which were commendable since it was the first time the party was contesting in parliamentary elections.

UPFA was not very much pleased with its victory since it had fallen short of its target of winning two thirds of the seats that would give it an advantage in parliament.

By being the super majority in parliament, the ruling party would change the constitution and make other decisions on its own without outsourcing for the support of other parties. Very few voters turned out to vote in this election and the voter turnout was regarded as the lowest in post-independent Sri Lanka.

The elections were largely disputed by the opposition parties and the international observes who alleged fraud and the failure of the ruling party to follow election laws (McAllister 48). The opposition parties’ failure to unite in the run up to the parliamentary elections enabled the ruling party to get the majority of the seats in parliament. The affiliate parties of UPFA had all united and contested under the umbrella of UPFA.

The opposition parties had failed to support general Fonseka who was the main opposition candidate in the 2010 presidential elections.

Just like the previous Sri Lankan election since independence, there is absolutely nothing good to write about the 2010 elections. The Sri Lankan elections are commonly known to be marred by violence and voter intimidations in the history of the nation.

The use of state resources by the ruling party in campaigns is a usual thing and the indiscriminate braking of the election laws is not a surprise. The 2010 elections were not an exemption and the same election flaws were experienced.

By April 2010, almost 300 incidences of violence and breaking of election laws had been reported in different police stations around the country with election observers and watchdog groups reporting other seven hundred cases (Horiwitz 143). The Sri Lankan people had hoped for free and fair elections after the end of the civil war but this did not happen.

The election observers accused the electoral commission and the police of intentionally failing to enforce both local and international electoral laws. UPFA Intra –party clashes at the nomination stage was a major source of violence. This intra-party rivalries sparked violence in some areas between the supporters of different candidates.

The Election Day saw blatant violation of electoral laws by the contestants in the parliamentary elections. All the voting centers around the country were marred by cases of fraud and violation of election laws especially by the ruling party (Horiwitz 142). The same thing had also been experienced earlier during the January presidential elections.

The most serious cases of violation were reported in the Nawalapiitiva electorate in Kandy Distriict.The voting in Kandy and Trincomalee Districts were nullified by the Sri Lankan elections commissioner in a desperate attempt to save face for the commission that had seriously been criticized for failure to fully enforce the election laws (Horiwitz 141).

The voting in the areas was rescheduled from 5th April 2010 to 20th April the same month. Cases of missing ballot papers were prevalent in the two districts leading to the suspension of the elections by the electoral commission.

In conclusion, Sri Lanka has had a dark history of civil war that led to the loss of many lives and a seriously damaged national economy.

The end of the 30 year civil war in May 2009 marked the beginning of a new dispensation in Sri Lanka with peace and national reconstruction being top on the agenda. The first presidential and parliamentary elections were held in 2010 in which the incumbent party emerged victorious because of its efforts in fighting and defeating the Tamil Tigers to bring an end to the civil war.

Although the effects of the civil war will be felt for quite some time, the peace and national reconstruction efforts in Sri Lanka will help a great deal in bringing the nation back on track.

Works Cited

Fortna, Virginia. “Does Peacekeeping Keep Peace? International intervention and the Duration of Peace after the War.” International Studies Quarterly 48.2 (2004). 269-292. Print.

Grobar, Morris. “The Economic Effects of the Sri Lankan Civil War.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 41.2 (1993). 123-67. Print.

Harvard, Hegre. “Towards a Democratic Civil peace? Democracy, Political Change, and Civil War 1816-1992.” American Political Science Association 16.1 (2001). 16-46. Print.

Horiwitz, Donald L. “Incentives and Behavior in the Ethnic Politics of Sri Lanka and Malaysia.” Third World Quarterly 11.4 (1989). 130-167. Print.

McAllister, Marco S. Winning the Peace: The Pursuit of Real Victory after the Government Won the War in SriLanka. Marco S. McAllister, 2010. Print.

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