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Roadblocks to Ethnic Reconciliation

Col. R. Hariharan

Edited by V.R. Raghavan
Vij Books, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 194, Rs. 850.00


The Sri Lanka Army ended 25 years of Tamil separatist insurgency on May 19, 2009 when it defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But the victory in what the government called the Humanitarian War (an oxymoron as no war is humanitarian) came at a colossal cost. Three lakhs of people became destitute in the war-torn Northern Province. Infrastructure and public services totally destroyed during the war are yet to be fully restored. The trauma of war is very much there in the Northern Province putting strains on Sri Lankan society. And the political process to bring back the Tamils into national mainstream is not making much headway. The book under review is a compilation of 11 research papers presented at a seminar on managing political, socio-economic and ethnic diversity challenges faced by Sri Lanka after the war organized by the Centre for Security Analysis at Colombo* on conflict resolution and peace building. The political part has some interesting papers, while socio-economic papers generally present what Sri Lanka has been doing on this front. The book opens with an introduction presenting a bird’s eye view of the contents by Brigadier K. Srinivasan and Ms. Nancy Joseph. The quality of papers included range from the excellent to the mediocre. Professor Tissa Vitarana, Senior Minister of Sri Lanka presents an overview on the nation building process. Vitarana headed the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) constituted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his first tenure as President. It deliberated for three years over the complex politico-ethnic problems and made 21 recommendations accepted by 13 political parties. These recommendations were widely acclaimed by civil society for evolving a lasting solution to the ethnic confrontation in Sri Lanka. Though the President did act upon all the APRC recommendations for implementation after the war the APRC report remains the only all embracing document on resolving the nation’s socio-ethnic problem. This makes Vitarana’s paper the most important one in the book. Vitarana takes a pragmatic look at the roadblocks to the ethnic reconciliation process. The reality is that while the SLFP-Sinhala Buddhist lobby holds a two-thirds majority in Parliament, a federal solution is unfeasible. However, the Professor argues that even with a unitary solution it was possible to meet most of the aspirations of the Tamil minority. His suggestion that the APRC’s 21 recommendations be the starting point for the PSC deliberations may well achieve this. Ambassador G. Parthasarthy’s ‘...

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