the Sinhala Language only act. ” This was soon followed by the ‘Sinhala only’ Language Actthat made the Tamil speaking people stripped of their right to use their language in their jobs, intheir courts, and in their communications with the State. The sense of alienation from the Statewas further intensified when Tamils were faced with discrimination in education and jobs aswell.”
Sri Lanka’s peaceful transition failed because its legislative framework was in a Westminister democratic straitjacket that did not take into account the plurality of its ethnic and religiousminorities into a cooperative government framework. Indeed the
Westphalian System of government from a western perspective was totally inadequate to handle the multitude of sects,clans, religions, and races in the former colonial empires have contributed greatly to the ethnicconflicts that have flared up on the continents of Africa and Asia. Even Samuel Huntingtonreferred to the failure of the Westphalian System as one of the primary causes of ethnic conflict.The former British Colonies of Malaysia and Singapore unlike their Sri Lankan counterpartsrealized the shortcomings of the Westminister system and made concessions to accommodatetheir ethnic and religious minorities. In the case of Malaysia, the Malay majority were resentfulof the Chinese and Indian minorities who held significant economic power in the country andculminated in the May1969 riots which killed hundreds. The Malaysians sought to remedy thesituation by bringing the Malay majority in the mainstream with the passage of the NationalDevelopment Plan, First Malaysian Plan, and Vision 2020 to incorporate all citizens into agovernment of national unity.The Sinhalese majority on the other hand sought to capitalize on its status by alienating the other ethnic groups such as the Tamils. When the Tamil tried to protest the alleged cases of discrimination and alienation that was perpetuated upon them by the Sinhalese majority, theywere demonized and were massacred by the Sinhalese population who were wiped up into frenzy by the politicians. “It is evident that the violence and ethnocentric policies of the Sinhala rulingelites contributed to the growth of Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka. Tamil moderate parties,such as the Federal Party (FP) led by skillful politicians such as S.J.V. Selvanayakam,articulated frustration among common Tamil people into a ‘defensive nationalism’ with peaceful protests. However, Sinhalese collective, competitive chauvinism respondedviolently to the Tamil moderates…. Scholarly works on the Sri Lanka ethnic conflict suggest thatcommunal riots in 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977 and 1983 in which Tamils were killed, maimed,robbed and rendered homeless were carefully designed by the Sinhala elites. This persistent pattern of violence set the stage for violent Tamil retaliation and efforts to secede”
The beatings and massacres of ethnic Tamils by their Sinhalese counterparts such as theInginiyakala massacre, Tamil research conference massacre, burning of the Jaffna library, 1977communal pogrom, and 1958 pogrom were savage and inhuman. Even those these atrocitieswere committed by the Sinhalese majority, there were moderates within the Tamil communitywho were still committed for the continued process of attempting to integrate their communitiesinto the Sri Lankan political process through constructive dialogue. Those efforts though were
North East Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR), Lest We Forget, Massacres of Tamilis,1956-2001, (Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka: Statistical Centre for North East SN, 2007), vii.
Stavis, Ben, & Imtiyaz, A.R.M. Ethno-Political Conflict in Sri Lanka. The Journal of ThirdWorld Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2, Fall, 2008, 8, 10.