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Session: Inclusion, Politics and Participation Date: 21st January, 2012 Time: 2.30pm-3.30pm
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The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012 Seeing Double?: Contesting Visions of Reconciliation in Sri Lanka Andi Schubert firstname.lastname@example.org Since the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) declared the end of a nearly three decade long ethnic civil war in 2009 and the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the GOSL has focused more on the consolidation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime than on attempts to reconcile with the Tamil polity (Uyangoda, 2011).1 In spite of the appointment of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (Sri Lanka’s equivalent of the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission), there appears to be very little wide-spread public concern or belief in the need to address the root causes of the conflict or reconciliation between the major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. As a result relationships between the major ethnic groups remain as fraught as they were during the last stages of the war and as a corollary to this the possibility of developing a long-lasting resolution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is diminishing fast. It appears that Sri Lanka is on the brink of squandering its best opportunity to effectively deal with its ethnic conflict. This is perhaps best seen in the deadlock that appears to have developed viz. talks between the Government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). In this context I wish to pose the question as to why the political leadership of a country that that has experienced tensions between ethnic communities over more than 60 years and known nearly 30 years of armed conflict, continue to find it difficult to effectively reconcile our polarized political communities. Central to this question is the understanding of the term “reconciliation” by various actors. In the current context it takes on a political life of its own and may be articulated in different ways by different individuals and these articulations also embody different visions of reconciliation.
Uyangoda, J. (2011). Sri Lanka in 2010. Asian Survey , 131-137.
The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012 A vision for reconciliation will lay the foundation for any future course of action undertaken by a group and so would have significant impact on the approach adopted in responding to any reconciliation process. However there has been very little work done especially by students of Sri Lankan affairs to document the different visions of reconciliation that have currency with key actors in post-war Sri Lanka. There has been even less analysis of the impact this has and will have on any attempt at reconciling different communities. My research seeks to intervene in this situation by documenting and analyzing visions of reconciliation and the impact of these visions on the success/failure of reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka. The hypothesis I wish to explore is as to whether rather than resistance to reconciliation, there are in fact multiple projects simultaneously seeking to achieve different visions of reconciliation. In order to conduct this phase of my research, which will form part of a larger study on understandings of reconciliation, I propose to conduct a close reading of five of what I call Sri Lanka’s post-war texts – speeches and documents made by various actors in Sri Lanka after the end of the war. For this purpose I will examine the “texts” of two main actors – the Government and the Tamil National Alliance and the stances that they have taken in Post-war Sri Lanka. In this paper I propose to examine two key texts of the Government – H.E. the President’s speech to Parliament on the ending of the war2 and the Mahinda Chintanaya 2010 and three key texts of the TNA – the TNA statement on the release of the Report by the Panel of Experts appointed by the United Nations Secretary General3, the first S.J.V Chelvanayakam Memorial Lecture delivered by Hon. M. A. Sumanthiran4 and the TNA statement on the LLRC Report.5 These texts are selected with an understanding that they represent key moments in Sri Lanka’s postwar trajectory.
See HE President Rajapaksa’s speech to Parliament on the 19 th of May announcing the end of the war http://www.president.gov.lk/speech_New.php?Id=74 3 http://transcurrents.com/tc/2011/04/tna_statement_on_unsg_advisory.html 4 http://transcurrents.com/tc/2011/04/a_lasting_political_solution_t.html 5 http://t.co/4h8PJAmc
The Young Researchers’ Forum 2012 The relevance of this research in post-war Sri Lanka is the examination and contribution it makes to understanding the current reticence viz reconciliation in Sri Lanka. It would also be relevant to young people as the conflict and the prospects for meaningful reconciliation directly impact their future well-being. This paper will seek to produce a new way of understanding Sri Lanka’s current situation and will be the first paper to study the way in which reconciliation is articulated in Sri Lanka.