[Peace] has to be converted to development and stability - Ambassador Gamini Samaranayake
Category: AMBASSADORS’ FORUM
11 March 2015 – Lasting for more than 35 years, the political conflict in Sri Lanka hails as one of the longest civil wars in Asia. From the early 1970s to 2009, Sri Lanka has been confined to two protracted armed conflict in the form of left-wing insurrection and ethnic or separatist insurrection. Currently, the Sri Lankan government is engaged in addressing the consequences of the violent conflict and how it can establish peace.
This was the topic of H.E. Gamini Samaranayake of the Embassy of Sri Lanka during the Ambassadors’ Forum last February 20, 2015. The forum examined and analyzed the nature, patterns, and causes of the political violence in Sri Lanka, as well as the process of conflict resolution undertaken by the government.
H.E. Samaranayake presented the cause of the political conflict by describing how Sri Lanka’s nature, history, and demographics contributed to its development.
Sri Lanka’s population of around 21 million is distributed into four main groups: the Sinhalese (74.9%), the Sri Lankan Tamils (11%), the Muslims (9.2%) and the Indian Tamils (4.2%). From the inception of their independence in 1948 to 1978, Sri Lanka maintained a British type of Parliamentary government. From 1978 to present, the systems and processes became based on a Presidential cum Parliamentary system similar to the Fifth Republic of France.
According to His Excellency’s presentation, what Sri Lanka experienced was a ‘Protracted Social Conflict’, because the conflict resulted from ethnic differences between the Sinhalese majority and the Sri Lankan Tamils. Alongside these differences was unrest among the youth related to the left-wing insurrections in the country. The time during which the unrest began was also conducive to its development. The 1971 insurrection, for one, illustrated the strength of violence in achieving political objectives and at the same time, it demonstrated the weakness of national security. East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh after separating from Pakistan also showed the value of Indian intervention.
There were two major insurrections: The first was in April 1971, by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) or the People’s Liberation Front. The second, which was more violent and lasted from the mid-1970s to 2009, was a separatist insurrection by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
H.E. Samaranayake detailed the progress of the conflicts in his presentation, covering events until the Fourth Eelam War (2007-2009), which resulted to the Liberation of the Eastern and Northern Provinces. All throughout this time, the government proposed political and military strategies in order to counter the violence but the initiatives were unsuccessful due to the opposition and intransigence of the LTTE.
The civil war was concluded by a military victory over the LTTE in 2009, leaving behind human and physical destruction.
Government Post-war Response
The government response focused on five R’s: Rehabilitation, Resettlement, Reintegration, Reconstruction, and Reconciliation, and it was this last process that initiated the implementation of economic and political measures.
According to H.E. Samaranayake, “Peace has [been] achieved. It has to be converted to development and stability.” The Mahinda Rajapaksa government (November 2005 – January 2015) focused on economic growth and indigenous solutions, while the new President and Prime Minister are expecting to negotiate a solution with the Tamil National Alliance. The roles of the Sinhala Buddhists and the JVP have yet to unfold after the next general elections.
To watch a recording of the forum, click here.
To download H.E. Gamini Samaranayake’s presentation, click here.
To access the event photos, click here.
About Ambassador Gamini Samaranayake
H.E. Gamini Samaranayake is currently the designated Ambassador of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in the Philippines. Prior to his appointment as Ambassador in 2014, H.E. Samaranayake was the University Grants Commission Chairman from 2006 to 2013, and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Rajarata from 2005 to 2006. He has written and presented multiple research papers on political violence and ideology and the government response to conflict.
About the Ambassadors’ Forum @ AIM
The Ambassadors’ Forum @ AIM is a venue for the professional exchange of knowledge and skills related to international development issues and trends. Its objectives are: (1) to broaden the regional and global perspective of AIM students taking up both the Master in Development Management and the Masters in Business Management, (2) to provide a venue for the exchange of information for foreign ambassadors in Manila, and (3) to educate the community at large on internal relations and development issues and trends as they affect the Philippines and the region. Through the forum, ambassadors and embassy officials have been invited to discuss their countries’ views on Asian issues including political regimes, economics, finance, trade systems, demographics and migration, climate change and energy, strategic security, and world view.
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