Unitary Ceylon was an error: British Politician


[TamilNet, Monday, 02 March 2009, 15:45 GMT]

A Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom, Dr. Rachel Joyce, apologised Sunday for the error of Colonial Britain in making a unitary Ceylon out of two nations, the Tamils and the Sinhalese. “The Tamil people have lived on the island currently called Sri Lanka for millennia - in their own contiguous, distinct, geographical territory. They lay claim only to the territory they have historically lived in. In fact, the 3 million Tamils of the island constituted a self governing nation until invaded and occupied by Colonial powers – in particular Britain, who amalgamated them with the Sinhala nation purely for convenience. In retrospect, this cultural naivety was a mistake that has caused problems since independence,” she said in a meeting held at Harrow, where Bruce Fein, a constitutional expert from the United States was the guest speaker.

Mr. Bruce Fain who led a lengthy interactive session, explained the basis of his case filed against genocide of Tamils.

Liberal politician and solicitor Christopher Noyse was another speaker in this first of a series of public meetings attended by a packed hall of audience of more than 200.

Full text of the address of Dr. Rachael follows:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank you very much for the opportunity to speak at this event, which is dealing with such important issues.

I would like to thank Bruce Fein for his ………………… speech. [very moving]. I would also like to thank Gopal who invited me here today.

I would like to extend my sympathies to any of you have family who have been killed, hurt or otherwise affected by the conflict. In particular today I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the family of Murukathasan Vanakulasingam, who, as we know, committed suicide on Friday, February 13, in a desperate attempt to draw the world's attention to the plight of his fellow Tamils in Sri Lanka. I cannot condone the loss of such a young and promising life, but my heart goes out to his family.

Acts such as this suicide are committed when people feel desperate, powerless, and feel they have virtually no avenues left for their people.

The Tamil people have lived on the island currently called Sri Lanka for millennia - in their own contiguous, distinct, geographical territory. They lay claim only to the territory they have historically lived in. In fact, the 3 million Tamils of the island constituted a self governing nation until invaded and occupied by Colonial powers – in particular Britain, who amalgamated them with the Sinhala nation purely for convenience. In retrospect, this cultural naivety was a mistake that has caused problems since independence. I would like to apologise for the British part in that error.

At the time of independence in 1948, both 3 million Tamils and 17 million Sinhalese inherited a reasonably healthy state. Sri Lanka’s prosperity could have been set, with a good geographical position for trade, a strong and productive economy, and a beautiful setting for a tourist industry as well.

Unfortunately, since then there has been an increasing catalogue of cultural and human rights atrocities. The chances for the two peoples to continue to live side by side, as two distinct, though not antagonistic cultures, has continually been threatened. Why did the government on the island, as one of its first acts, make 1 million Tamils of Indian origin stateless? Many of these Tamils were 6th generation and had no other home. Why also did they opt for the ‘Sinhala Only’ Language Act in 1956?

And, 25 years later, what could possibly be the logic of Sinhala police torching the Jaffna library and its ninety seven thousand rare historical books and manuscripts in 1981?

These acts of cultural disrespect and vandalism have been condemned before, but I condemn them again now.

Since then a raft of atrocities have been committed. In the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Tamils were forced to flee the island, many coming here to Britain. There are also hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people people within the island. Every aspect of normal life has been affected. The closing of the A9 highway effectively trapped nearly half a million Tamil civilians.

A year ago, the Sri Lankan government unilaterally withdrew from the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire, and under the leadership of its hawkish President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, embarked on this current campaign. All the evidence suggests that unless the international community acts very soon, about a quarter of a million people could be caught in a bloodbath. The Sri Lankan government has asked Tamil civilians to come over to their side for “protection”, but there is an understandably deep fear of such a move. The Tamil people have seen so much death and destruction. They are terrified of Sri Lankan troops and their "holding camps", with all the stories of assaults and rape.

On the other side there are stories suggesting that the LTTE has, or might, shoot anyone who tries to escape from the areas that remain under their control. But none of this is verifiable. The Sri Lankan government restricts all journalists and independent observers from entering the conflict zone. The reports from the few remaining aid or humanitarian agencies still allowed in the area are dismissed by the Sri Lankan authorities as propaganda.

Amnesty International, who is impartial to any political agenda, and only campaigns on human rights, has called the recent alleged sustained bombing of the Vanni hospital a “despicable act”, in fact stating that such an attack could constitute a war crime. They also say the so called ‘welfare villages’ violate the international prohibition on hostage taking.

Can Amnesty International and United Nations workers all be lying? Are the horrific pictures of bombed-out hospitals and lines of dead men, women and children all be fake?

It is clear that the majority of the Tamil people do not trust the Government of Sri Lanka to safeguard their lives or their futures.

And the British government could do much more to help. This is not just diplomatically – in the UN, in the Commonwealth, and through direct pressure on the government. In a debate in 2007, it was revealed that Britain licensed £7 million worth of weapons and military equipment for export to Sri Lanka that year alone. What on earth were they thinking?

Part of the problem here ironically is the democracy in Sri Lanka. I am a strong supporter of democracy, but there are different degrees of democracy. The Economist labels Sri Lanka a "flawed democracy" in its 2006 rankings. This is because there is a minority – the Tamils – who will always be at a significant disadvantage electorally. If Scotland wanted to leave the United Kingdom, and voted to do so, they would not be stopped by the rest of the British people. Perhaps the very fact that they could leave if they wished to has meant that their minority rights have always been protected in the UK, and is probably the reason that Scotland do not actually want to leave the union.

Foreign Policy ranks Sri Lanka 25th (ie Alert Category) in its Failed States Index for 2007. Sri Lanka was considered one of the "world's most politically unstable countries" by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank in 2004. However, Sri Lanka, according to the US State Department in 2005, was classified a "stable democracy" – but only when there was a ceasefire period, which shows how a peaceful solution could be so advantageous to both sides.

I know the British Tamils Forum have requested that the UN and the International Community:

  1. Call for an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka and initiate peace talks;

  2. Require that Sri Lanka allow all necessary humanitarian assistance and access by international humanitarian organizations and UN Agencies to the Vanni;

  3. Put the Sri Lanka issue on the Security Council’s Agenda; and

  4. Urge the Government of Sri Lanka to allow an international human rights monitoring mission under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

I fully support those points.

Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

This woman will not do nothing. I can give you my commitment that I will do what I can to lobby for a peaceful solution to the conflict to the best of my ability. Any just and lasting solution MUST be acceptable to the Tamil people. All options must therefore be on the table for discussion.

I will raise this issue at the highest levels within the Conservative Party, and with the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission. If elected, I will join the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils. In the meantime, I commit to you that I will do what I can to lobby on behalf of the people of Tamil Eelam.


Lost Opportunities and Changing Demands: Explaining the Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka

P. Sahadevan

Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, Leverhulme Visiting Fellow
University of Kent at Canterbury

Ethnic turbulence seems to be an enduring part of the political landscape of Sri Lanka (formerly, Ceylon). Paradoxically, the country attained its independence peacefully from British colonial rule in 1948, yet civil disorder has been a dominant feature of its post-colonial political system. Ethnic violence, was intermittent until 1983. Since then, it has become an integral part of the island's socio-political processes. The good news (for the Sinhalese) is that the Sri Lankan state has withstood the mounting ethnic challenge to its territorial integrity. It had also resisted the pressure for its reconstitution or recomposition. The bad news (for the Tamils and some of the Sinhalese) is that the state's survival has been at a very high cost. Several thousands of people have lost their lives in a decade-long ethnic war, which is being fought in the island's Northern and Eastern provinces. There has not been any success either for the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan government or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Tamil rebel group that wishes to establish a separate Tamil state called "Eelam".

The conflict in Sri Lanka has turned out to be one of the costliest events in the Indian subcontinent in terms of the loss of civilian lives, the destruction of property,[1] and the killing of political leaders in Sri Lanka and India. Apart from the former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi and President Ranasinghe Premadasa of Sri Lanka, several prominent political leaders belonging to both the Tamil and Sinhalese communities on the island have been direct victims of the conflict. The LTTE's involvement was established in most cases and strongly suspected in some.

Peace and normalcy continue to elude Sri Lanka, and the conflict appears to be intractable.[2] How it became so is the concern of this paper. The following outlines the history of the conflict and analysis its changing dynamics and characteristics. In particular, it will be show how the mismanagement of conflict can lead to its escalation and contribute to a protracted stalemate.


Ethnic conflict erupts in highly heterogenous societies, but cultural heterogeneity per se is not a fundamental cause for the conflict. Rather, it provides the structural framework in which groups with incompatible values and norms compete with each other to promote their identity-related interests or ambitions. Heterogeneity is characterised by distinct historical roots of origin, language and religion of groups. These elements collectively contribute to the development of each group's ethnic consciousness. To understand the anatomy and dynamics of the Sri Lankan conflict, it is necessary to highlight the heterogenous character of the Sri Lankan society.


Sri Lankan society is marked by the absence of an indigenous notion of unity. It is composed of half-a-dozen ethnic groups with diverse historical backgrounds, distinct languages and religion, and separate areas of settlement. The Sinhalese, whose ancestors seem to have emigrated from the present Bengal and Orissa, are the dominant community. They account for about 74 % of the country's total population of around 15 million (according to the 1981 Census). They speak Sinhalese and a majority of them practice Buddhism. The Sri Lankan Tamils constitute about 12.6 % of the population and are seen as the early migrants from Southern India. Tamil is the language of their hearth and home and majority of them are Hindus. The predominantly bi-lingual (Tamil and Sinhalese-speaking) Muslims are the third ethnic group (7.4 %) who are internally divided into three groups according to their historical backgrounds: the Sri Lankan Moors' ancestors came from the migrational wave of Arab traders; the Malays are the descendants of East Asian traders; and the Indian Moors are the migrants from India. The Indian Tamils are the other ethnic group (5.5 %) who went to Sri Lanka in the nineteenth century A.D. to work in the British colonial government-managed tea plantations. The other ethnic groups (the Burghers and the Eurasians) are insignificant in number and do not count for much in the present ethnic divide and politics of the island[3]. Thus, about 90 % of the Sri Lankan population has Indian roots. India has not only provided the bulk of Sri Lanka's population but also the "majority-minority component" of its social structure.[4]

Demographically, there has been a marked compartmentalisation of territory along ethnic lines. Of the nine provinces on the island, the Sinhalese are in the majority in seven, while the Tamils are predominant in the other two. The Tamils have a long history of settlement in the Northern and Eastern provinces which is the basis of their claims for a "traditional homeland",[5] a claim that is not acceptable to the Sinhalese.[6] Although the territorial structure envisaged for the Eelam represents a clear geographical contiguity, the island's demographic structure has questioned the Tamils' Eelam demand. According to the 1981 Census, around 28 % of the total Sri Lankan Tamil population was dispersed outside the Northern and Eastern provinces; about 13 % of the Northern-Eastern population was constituted by the Sinhalese, and the Muslims accounted for nearly 17 % of the two Tamil dominated provinces.[7] The Sri Lankan Tamils have used their pre-colonial experience in the island to defend their Eelam demand.[8]  


History fuels the construction of the ethnic consciousness of the Sinhalese, and adds an ideological orientation to the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism, which lays greater emphasis on achieving exclusive rights and privileges for the majority community. Tamil nationalism is defensive in its character as it seeks to assert the equal rights of the Tamil community along with the Sinhalese. However, it also derives its strength largely from the Hinduised Tamil history of Sri Lanka. The difference between the two histories is that the Sinhalese history, unlike the Hinduised Tamil history, is constructed on the foundation of Sinhala mythology and legends. The Mahavamsa, one of the greatest chronicles of Sri Lanka (written in the sixth century A.D. by a Buddhist monk, Mahanama), is full of legends. Ironically, they are accepted as historical facts in the Sinhalese Buddhist tradition and way of life. That the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict is largely embedded in historical memories and myths is illustrated by the following beliefs and counter-beliefs of both the communities.

The Sinhalese believe that Prince Vijaya, who was considered to be the founder of the Sinhalese race, landed in Sri Lanka along with a band of Aryan colonisers from Sinhapura in Bengal (India) on the day of Buddha's death. It was with his arrival that the Sinhala civilisation was believed to have begun in Sri Lanka. Connected with this Sihadipa (Island of the Sinhala people) idea of civilisation is the Dhammadipa (Island of Righteousness) concept. It is said in the Sinhalese mythology that Lord Buddha had chosen Sinhalese as guardians of his teachings. He also believed that the Buddhist doctrine (Dhamma) would flourish in Sri Lanka for five thousand years. He was believed to have visited the island three times and, on his deathbed, even asked the God Sakra to help Vijya in his historic mission to establish the Sinhalese Buddhist civilisation.[9]

The implications of such Sinhalese Buddhist beliefs for inter- ethnic relations in the island are far-reaching. First, they provide a basis for the Sinhalese claim to be the original civilised inhabitants and, as such, the legitimate owners of Sri Lanka. All other communities are considered to be aliens whose settlement is allowed by the grace of the sons of soil viz., the Sinhalese. This is a view that the militant Buddhist leaders are never hesitant to express openly. The second justification is that Sri Lanka must be preserved as a seat of Buddhist faith. All other religions are allowed to practice so long as they are not inimical to the Sinhalese Buddhist culture and beliefs. Third, the Sinhalese are the chosen people to rule the island. Thus, political power in Sri Lanka should be in the hands of only the Sinhalese Buddhists. Even if a non-Buddhist were to rule Sri Lanka by force, the Sinhalese believe that it is the power of Lord Buddha that such a rule would not last long.

The Sri Lankan Tamils, on the other hand, strongly question the veracity of the Sinhalese historical claims and insist on their own version of history. They claim that their origin in the island is as old as the Sinhalese and, therefore, they are the co-indigenous people of the country. To counter the sons of soil theory of the Sinhalese, a section of the Tamils even argue that the history of their settlement in Sri Lanka predated the arrival of Prince Vijya there. In fact, during the colonial period, the Sri Lankan Tamils regarded themselves not as a minority, but as one of the two majority groups.

The Mahavamsa portrays the Hindu Tamils as an invading community. A particular event in the chronicle underlining this was the Tamil King Elara's occupation of Anuradhapura, the seat of the Sinhalese Buddhist power in the ancient period. The defeat of Elara by Prince Duttugamunu in the second century BC is considered to be an epic event in the Sinhalese Buddhist tradition.[10] This incident along with other South Indian Tamil invasions against the Sinhalese Kingdoms, such as that of the Cholas of Tamil Nadu in the tenth century, contributed to the Sinhalese perception of the Tamils as invaders. The Sinhalese Buddhist resurgence movement led by Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933) in the nineteenth century, had imparted racial overtones to such a perception. For Dharmapala, the non-Buddhists and non-Sinhalese were not only polluting aliens who lacked a legitimate place on the island, but were also racially and religiously inferior "infields of degraded race".[11]

Ironically, the Sinhalese also suffer from a minority complex as they consider the Tamils to be a component of the larger Tamil population (around 60 million) settled in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. They also see the rich Tamil culture and its ancient heritage as a threat to the survival of their customs and language. Unlike the Tamils who can look to Tamil Nadu, they have nowhere else to go. Recent populist politicians have heightened this Tamil cultural threat as part of their electoral strategy.[12]

The Sinhalese fear of cultural extinction has been aggravated by the Sri Lankan Tamils' religio-cultural activities to assert their distinct identity. The maintenance of linguistic and cultural contacts between Jaffna and Tamil Nadu, the propagation of Saiva doctrines in the island, and the launching of the movement for Tamil revivalism by Arumugam Navalar (1822-1879) were perceived by the Sinhalese as an activity aimed at countering the growth of the Sinhalese Buddhist culture in the country.

Thus the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict is primarily anchored in the demographic and historical structures of Sri Lanka. However, other factors have also contributed to the conflict. The Sinhalese felt economically deprived due to the Sri Lankan Tamils' disproportionate share of positions in education and employment during the colonial and the early post-independence period, and the Muslims' dominance in the business sector. Economic issues had been a cause for ethnic violence during the colonial period (e.g. Sinhalese-Muslim riots of 1915), but the economic position of ethnic groups in the island has been exaggerated far out of proportion by Sinhalese politicians in the post-colonial period.[13]

The deeply ingrained historical antecedents to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka makes it difficult to pinpoint the origin of the present Sinhalese-Tamil antagonism. Can we consider the Elara-Duttugamunu era as a starting point? Or the Tamil invasions of the tenth century, as some of the militant Sinhalese do? Or, can we draw the starting line in the British colonial period, as most of the objective analysts of the Sri Lankan affairs do. Again, the entire British colonial period did not see inter-ethnic rivalry. Until the early 1920s, the Sinhalese and Tamil political elites had cooperative relations reflecting in their joint demand for grater political autonomy from the colonial government, the election of Tamils to the higher forums of common membership, and the formation of a common political organisation.[14] But their cooperation was very short-lived. The election to the Legislative council in 1921 was marked by an intense competition between the Sinhalese and Tamil candidates, and in 1922 the Ceylon National Congress (CNC) split along ethnic lines. This led to the formation of the Tamil Mahajana Sabha by the erstwhile Tamil Congress leaders. This guides us to the early 1920s as a plausible starting point of the Sinhalese-Tamil rivalry. While it is recognised that there is no proper beginning, the selection of this period helps to identify the process of conflict growth and development.

 Characteristics of the Conflict

It is a general assumption that conflicts are fundamentally similar phenomena because "patterns and processes that characterise conflict at one social level also characterise it at other levels".[15] This implies that features of inter-personal or group conflicts are common to organisational or governmental levels. The common characteristics of conflict generally identified are: the issues and parties in contention, the relationship between the parties, the existence of internal or intra-party divisions or factions, the support of allies or patrons to the conflicting parties, and overlapping conflicts.[16]

The issues in conflict can be defined as "the inter-related goal incompatibilities of adversaries".[17] Ethnic conflicts have their roots in issues related to a wide variety of norms, values and beliefs of the parties. Each group comes to possess different ideological and value structures as an instrument of group identity and strives to consolidate and promote them. This process tends to give rise to overt goal incompatibility as "the parties differ fundamentally about the nature of desirable end states or social and political structures".[18] Ideological differences add a competitive dimension to goal incompatibility when one social entity or group seeks to acquire a dominant position in the socio-political arena, and to promote its ideology by undermining the other group's beliefs. In some cases, goal incompatibility is marked by one side seeking to impose its own norms, values and beliefs on the other, and the other side resisting.

The relationship between the parties may be defined as violent or non-violent. Conflict behaviour is defined as "actions undertaken by one party in any situation of conflict aimed at the... opponent [to] abandon or modify its goals".[19] Rummel[20] has identified nine conflict action indicators in the context of internal conflict behaviour: assassinations, general strikes and guerrilla wars, major governmental crises, purges, riots, revolutions, demonstrations, and the number killed in domestic violence. These variables are grouped under three broad categories depending upon their magnitude within the conflict system: turmoil (variables are riots, demonstrations and crises), revolution (consisting of such variables as purges, revolts and domestic killing) and subversion (includes variables like guerrilla wars and assassinations). In descending order of magnitude, the three categories are indexed as unorganised conflict behaviour, overtly organised conflict behaviour and more covertly organised conflict behaviour.

Following largely Rummel's analysis, Tanter[21] advocates two internal conflict behaviour dimensions: turmoil which is associated with relatively unplanned, disorganised and unstructured activities, and internal war (a combination of revolutionary and subversion dimensions) characterised by planned and organised activities (such as revolutions and guerrilla war).[22]

The Rummel-Tanter variables explain the conflict behaviour of social groups in an internal setting. The variables characterising the conflict behaviour of the political incumbents involved as a party to an internal conflict are as follows. In responding to its adversary's conflict behaviour strategies, the government embarks on a wide range of counter-measures appropriate to the level of intensity of the conflict. Its aim is not only to counter the opponent's conflict behaviour to protect itself, but to alter significantly its basic conflict goals. Thus the government's conflict behaviour related strategies range from activation of its support base for counter demonstration to the arrest of the opponent party's leaders, enactment of prohibitory legislation to illegalise the adversary's activities, imposition of emergency, covert extra-judicial eliminatory tactics (political killing of opponent leaders), use of force (low-force by police and high-force by army) and military operations. The overall conflict intensity increases with the parties' conflict behaviour. Thus both the intensity of feelings and behaviour contribute to the intensity of conflict.[23]

The support given by the patrons (allies) to the conflicting parties is another important feature characterising conflict. Based on the nature and the extent of support, the patron input can be classified into six types-- limited political support, tangible political support, limited material support, tangible material support, limited military support, and tangible military support.[24] Limited political support may include the expression of humanitarian concern, extension of moral support, and call for a negotiated settlement between the parties. Tangible political support can encompass the raising of the issue in the common fora, mobilisation of diplomatic support, asylum to refugees and the conflict group leaders, and recognition of the conflict goals of the parties. Limited material support can involve relief aid to the civilians affected by the conflict, and the supply of materials (foodstuffs, medicines, fuel, and other energy sources), communication equipments and means of transportation. Tangible material support may include the granting of funds, foreign currency, and access to world media. Limited military support can involve the supply of arms, ammunition and equipments; allowing sanctuary or base of operations, arms purchases and transit of arms or men; turning a blind eye to arms trails; permitting the recruitment of men, military training, etc., and participation of military advisers in designing the battle strategies of the client. Tangible military support may include the grant of artillery cover to the client, the commitment of combat units to fight along with the client's forces, and full-scale military intervention in support of the clients' conflict goals.

Patron input is viewed differently by the adversaries in ethnic conflict. While the political incumbent (the dominant ethnic group which is associated with the state by virtue of its control of the institutions of power and authority) consider the patrons as friends, the insurgents or the dissidents may view them as external forces. At the same time, any external source of support to insurgents or dissidents will be considered by the political incumbent as "subversive". Subversion is illegal (and hence external aid to insurgents or dissidents is against the codes of law and morality); but legal or moral obstacles are not always placed in the incumbent's reception of external aid or support. Patron input not only intensifies the conflict but it also internationalises it.

Another important characteristic of conflict is related to its interlocking or overlapping with other conflicts. Kreisberg identifies six ways in which conflicts are interlocked: i. Serial or nested in time (i.e., "every conflict may be viewed as one in a series of fights between the same adversaries"); ii. Converging or nested in space (i.e., "separate groups may coalesce as allies against an adversary or coalition of adversaries"); iii. Superimposed or linking of issues (i.e., "few or many contentious issues may be superimposed on each other"); iv. Cross- cutting (i.e., "divisions within and across adversaries or among a set of adversaries allying themselves differently on several issues of contention"); v. Internal (i.e., conflicts which are "internal to adversaries" interact with conflict between); and, vi. Concurrent (i.e., one conflicting party is engaged simultaneously in conflicts with other adversaries).[25]

The characteristics of the conflict in Sri Lanka, as will be seen below, have been in constant change since the 1920s. Issues that were considered significant at one point in time became less important as new ones have cropped up and gained prominence during the different phases of the conflict. Similarly, the relationship between the parties and their chosen means in pursuit of conflict have not been the same throughout the conflict. The internal cohesion of the parties has been at variance at different points in time, and patron input was not significant in the initial stages of the conflict. These factors indicate the conflict escalation and de-escalation processes.  

Issues in Conflict

In the early phase of the conflict (British colonial period), goal incompatibilities of the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils centred around their respective representation in the legislature. Influenced by their strong communal sense of interests in electoral politics, stemming largely from their ethnic consciousness, both communities made different demands on the colonial administration regarding the system of representation in the legislature. The Sinhalese demand, which gathered its momentum in the early 1920s especially following the split of the (CNC),[26] was for the abolition of the system of communal representation and the introduction of a popular election system. The Tamils' fear was that the introduction of the elective principle in place of communal nomination without adequate constitutional and representational safeguards for the ethnic minorities would erode their political power and, at the same time, strengthen the power base of the Sinhalese majority. Thus, when the colonial government decided to introduce universal adult suffrage in the island in 1931 under the Donoughmore Constitution and replace communal representation by the territorial principle, it was considered as a complete triumph of the Sinhalese nationalism over the Tamil nationalism. The Sinhalese for the first time obtained an absolute majority over the combined strength of all other ethnic groups in the 1931 State Council election. For the Sri Lankan Tamil elite, the Donoughmore Constitution was a legal document designed to confer power on the Sinhalese majority and thus ensure their political dominance in the country.[27]

Thus the issue of representation set in motion the process of ethnicisation of colonial politics. It also provided a greater impetus for group mobilisation along ethnic lines as was evident from the formation of the All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) in the early forties. Its prime objective was to put up a united defense of Tamil interests vis--via the Sinhalese interests. When the Soulbury Commission (1944) visited Sri Lanka to recommend further constitutional reform, the ACTC submitted a memorandum advocating a system of balanced representation[28] in the legislature so that no ethnic group would have the power to impose its will on the others. As expected, both the Sinhalese and the Colonial Administration rejected the Tamil demand. The former probably did so because of its ambition to become a permanent ruling community in independent Sri Lanka. The latter's decision seemed to be borne out of its unwillingness to negate the Sinhalese community's numerical predominance. However, the Soulbury Constitution (1947) had incorporated a number of provisions to create a somewhat fragile safeguard structure for the minority interests.[29]

In the 1950s, the official language issue caused severe tension between the majority and minority communities. The Sinhalese sought to make their language the sole official language of the country, while the Tamils' demanded equal official status to both Tamil and Sinhalese. For the Sinhalese, the replacement of English by Sinhalese as the only official language of the island would not only pave the way for the establishment of a Sinhalese-Buddhist way of life in the country but also the enhancement of their economic opportunities especially in government employment and education. The Sri Lankan Tamils felt that the acceptance of the Sinhalese only official language policy would mean surrendering to the Sinhalese cultural superiority and accepting their imposition of second class citizenship on the minorities.

The Sinhalese only movement, which was largely initiated by the elite outside the political system, gained its strength with the direct involvement of political parties. The leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, was the prominent political personality who mobilised the larger Sinhalese opinion on the issue. For him, the language issue provided a vehicle through which to achieve electoral success. This encouraged other political parties like the UNP to abandon their traditional language policy (of parity for Sinhalese and Tamil) and to joined the volte face. The language issue was thus caught in electoral politics. Its politicisation favoured the Sinhalese with an easy victory. The SLFP government headed by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who contested the 1956 elections on the main plank of making Sinhalese only as the official language within 24 hours of his election victory, enacted a legislation in June 1956 to confer official language status on Sinhalese without the recognition of Tamil. This accentuated the Tamils' feeling of alienation from the national mainstream, and their loss of faith in the Sinhalese leadership. The country experienced for the first time large-scale violence between the two communities, which had even alarmed the ruling Sinhalese elite at Colombo. Negotiations between the leaders of both groups resulted in an agreement in 1957 (see below for details). But its implementation was opposed to militant Sinhalese Buddhists, which led leading to the abrogation of the agreement in 1958. The net result was that the gulf between the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils grew further.[30]

If the enactment of the Sinhalese only Act was a success for the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists, the granting of a mandated special state protection for Buddhism under the 1972 and 1978 Constitutions was another feather in their cap. For the Tamils, this was a clear move to change the secular character of the country and to discriminate against other minority religions.

Along with the Sri Lankan Tamils' demand for equal linguistic rights there began to grow a demand for a federal constitution on the island. One of the important features of the Sri Lankan political system, which has a direct bearing on inter-ethnic relations is its strong Centre and highly dependent local units, which has been in line with the Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist idea of maintaining the majoritarian thrust of the post-colonial Sri Lankan State. This could be accomplished by vesting power in the hands of the majority Sinhalese community whose permanent rule at the Centre is ensured by their numerical predominance. The Sinhalese elite's penchant for the unitary structure is also influenced by their perception that the fissiparous tendencies among the Sri Lankan Tamils could be contained only if the Centre was strong. This is contrary to the Tamil political elite's view that a greater decentralisation of powers under a federal constitution would enable the minorities to have a larger share in the decision making process. They maintain that the unitary form of government is a rule by the majority and that the federal political structure would result in cooperation. For many Tamil nationalists, federalism would be the only safeguard against contingent Sinhalese majoritarianism.

Thus, when the Tamils put forth the federal demand in the 1950s, the Sinhalese rejected it in no uncertain terms. But the Tamils' desire for autonomy under a federal framework became strong, manifesting itself in the formation of the Federal Party (FP) in 1949. Since then, various Tamil formations have advocated a federal solution to the ethnic conflict, only to receive the majority community's strong rejection.[31] Some of the initiatives since 1956 to provide a modicum of regional autonomy floundered because the mainstream Sinhalese parties - the UNP and the SLFP - opposed each other's measures for ethnic reconciliation.

The growing list of Sri Lankan Tamils' grievances on other matters made their autonomy demand very strong. The land settlement policies of the various regimes in Colombo were designed to undermine the Tamil interests in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Under the state-aided colonisation programme since independence, a large number of Sinhalese were resettled in the two Tamil dominated provinces, especially in the Eastern province. The Tamils suspected that it was a deliberate move to change the demographic character of the Tamil provinces to dilute the concept of a Tamil traditional homeland. That the colonisation schemes have vitiated the ethnic character of the Tamil homeland is evident from the figures indicating the community-wide population change in three districts (where large scale resettlement schemes were undertaken). [32]

The Sri Lankan Tamils were very concerned about the changing ethnic composition of the Eastern province not only because the increased Sinhalese population in the traditional Tamil districts would undermine their electoral interests but because this could ultimately lead to the annihilation of the Tamil geographical entity on the island. Such aggressive colonisation was in fact evident from the Centre's decision to redraw the district boundaries and to create new electoral constituencies to benefit the Sinhalese parties.[33] Importantly, the colonisation issue provided a greater impetus to the birth of the Eelam movement.

The educational policies of the Centre also touched a raw nerve among the Sri Lankan Tamils. One of the major goals behind the Sinhalese only policy of the SLFP government in 1956 was to restrict the accessibility of the English-educated Sri Lankan Tamils to the higher education and government employment. At the same time, it sought to increase the number of the Sinhalese educated youth in the universities and government service. Both goals were accomplished by changing the language and admission policies in the universities to favour Sinhalese students. Until 1960, all the entrance examinations to the universities were conducted in English. However, in subsequent years, the government began to conduct these examinations in Sinhalese and Tamil. This change, coupled with the expansion of secondary education, had intensified the competition for university admissions. Under these circumstances, the United Front (UF) government, which came to power in 1970, sought to adopt a pro- Sinhalese education policy by replacing merit as the criteria for the university admissions with a system of weightage in favour of the Sinhalese students. According to the standardisation principle introduced in 1971, a scheme of different credits were fixed for the Tamil and Sinhalese students. In effect, the former were required to score more marks than the latter to secure a place in the university. This evoked a strong protest from the Tamil community, but the government disregarded it. Moreover, when the standardisation system was found not to be very beneficial to the rural Sinhalese students, the government introduced a district quota system in 1974 whereby these districts received a quota of seats.[34]

The net result of these measures was that the Tamil representation in the science faculties declined sharply. In 1969-70, the Tamil occupied 39.8 % of seats in the science based courses. This was reduced to 19 % in 1975 and 23.6 % in 1977. At the same time, the Sinhalese students improved their position from 57.7 % in 1969-70 to 73.3 % in 1977.[35] With the Tamils' sense of relative deprivation in higher education growing, mutual distrust and suspicions between the two communities deepened. Though the UF government was well aware of the widening chasm between the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils, it continued to pursue a pro-Sinhalese educational policy to satisfy the militant Sinhalese Buddhist interest groups. The UNP government, which came to power in 1977, sought to improve the situation. But its success in restoring the confidence of the minority community was minimal. The changes introduced to the educational policies after 1977 did not bring any radical change in the Tamils representation in higher education.

Closely connected with the university admissions problem was the issue of employment. Helped by their early English education provided by the Christian proselytisers during the British colonial rule (1796-1948), the Tamils had enjoyed representation in the state services far greater than their number during the colonial period and in the early phase of post-independence.[36] The Tamils' dependence on government employment and business was due, for the most part, to the limited opportunities afforded by arid and unproductive land in the northern provinces. The Sinhalese, on the other hand, concentrated on cultivation because of the availability of fertile lands and good irrigation system in their areas. But the situation changed drastically after independence. With the introduction of free vernacular education from the kindergarten to the university level and the system of standardisation for university admissions, the competition for government jobs intensified. Many qualified Sinhalese found themselves unemployed in the seventies. They resented the Tamils' occupation of higher positions in public sector and other professional fields. Since then, successive governments structured their recruitment policies largely to suit the majority community, and thus discrimination against the Sri Lankan Tamils became institutionalised.

As a result, the Sinhalese continued to improve their representation in the higher state services far beyond their proportion in the population. At the same time, the Sri Lankan Tamils experienced a steady decline in their representation. Their share in the Sri Lanakan Administrative Service had declined from 24.7 % in 1948 and 26 % in 1975 to 5.7 % during 1977-81. Also, the Tamils accounted for less than 5 % of the total police recruits in the late seventies, and 6.1 % of the total teachers recruited from 1977-79. Furthermore, the Tamil recruitment to the General Clerical Service declined from about 40.7 % in 1949 to 6.8 % in 1963, 11 % in 1970-77 and 5.4 % in 1978-81. At the same time, there was a corresponding increase in the intake of Sinhalese into all the state services.[37]

The politicisation of resource allocation in Sri Lanka also had a discriminatory impact on the Sri Lankan Tamils. The Tamil leadership complained that the allocation of funds for development to the Tamil districts was much lower than to the Sinhalese districts. They also felt discriminated by the Centre's irrigation policies. The multipurpose Mahaveli Development Scheme was designed to benefit the Sinhalese districts and the Madura Oya River Scheme virtually excluding the Tamil districts.[38] The Tamils felt that the economic neglect of their districts was a part of the Centre's strategy to deny them the opportunity to attain economic self-sufficiency and thus to increase their dependence on the Sinhalese areas. The Sinhalese leadership seemed to believe that the economic development of the Tamils would only increase their demand for regional autonomy or even secession.

However, these policies proved to be ill-conceived and counter productive, as the Tamils became disenchanted with the Centre and declared in 1976 their intention to fight for a separate Tamil state. This marked a radical shift in the Tamil demand "from the struggle for equality to an assertion of freedom, from the demand for fundamental rights to the assertion of self-determination, from the acceptance of a pluralistic experiment to surfacing of a new corporate identity".[39]

Thus, the Tamil movement underwent different stages. First, it was a limited movement for a larger Tamil representation in the colonial legislature. Then, it became movement for equal linguistic and religious rights, followed by a movement for a federal constitution. It then amended greater autonomy and equal educational and employment rights, and finally the movement fought for a separate state. It must be noted that the conflict between the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils escalated as it encompasses more issues, namely political, economic, cultural and territorial. The changing goals of the parties and the gradual accumulation of their grievances also escalated the conflict. This was all exacerbated by the failure on the part of the Sinhalese leaders to employ appropriate conflict management mechanisms.

 The Parties and their Factions

The conflict in Sri Lanka is broadly viewed as being between the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils. The former is the political incumbent and the latter is characterised as the separatist or Eelamist. While this categorisation is correct, it is not helpful in understanding the dynamics of the conflict in a wider perspective. There are not only several factions within each ethnic group but also internal divisions in each faction. Furthermore, as the Sri Lankan conflict is a protracted one, different groups have featured as main parties at different phases of the conflict.

This section identifies the party and its factions from the Sinhalese side. It considers the ruling party as the main conflicting party (by virtue of its control of the government) and the opposition and other interest groups (if they differ with the ruling party) as factions. Thus, the main party on the Sinhalese side for most of the conflict has been either the UNP or the SLFP.

The Ceylon National Congress (INC) was the major party representing the Sinhalese in their conflict with the Tamils during the colonial period.[40] As mentioned earlier, the CNC was launched in 1919 as a multi- communal organisation. But it became dominated by the Sinhalese following its split along ethnic lines in 1922. From 1922 to 1946, the CNC emerged as the sole champion for the Sinhalese cause. It was instrumental in mobilising the Sinhalese opinion against the Tamil demand for a larger representation in the colonial legislature. Although the CNC maintained its unity throughout the colonial period, it was not without factions and internal divisions. The Sinhala Maha Sabha (formed by the CNC leader, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in the mid-1930s) was the main caucus within the CNC which sought to capitalise on the Sinhalese communal identification.

The United National Party (UNP) has been the dominant actor in the conflict for a long time after independence. Formed in 1946 by D.S. Senanayake (the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka who was popularly referred to as the Father of Nation) as an elite organisation of the Sinhalese Buddhists, the UNP has been in power continuously since 1948 except for two interludes during 1956-65 and 1970-77. Apart from D.S. Senanayake, the prominent UNP stalwarts who shaped the country's ethnic policy were John Kotelawala, Dudley Senanayake, J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa. Currently, President D.B. Wijetunga (who became President following Premadasa's death in May 1993) is at the helm of affairs in Sri Lanka.

In the past, rivalries among the UNP leaders led even to the party's split [S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike broke away from the UNP to form the SLFP in 1951]. In dealing with the ethnic conflict, there occurred often some noticeable divergence of views within the party. However, such differences became institutionalised in the form of factions only since 1983 following the escalation of the ethnic conflict. Prime Minister Premadasa (who later became President in 1989) did not completely endorse President Jayewardene's approach to conflict management in 1987, as was evident from his opposition to the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1987. As a bitter critic of India (especially the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi), he often played the anti-India card to mobilise the support of the radical Sinhalese nationalists within the party for his candidature to the Presidency (after Jayewardene's tenure in 1988). Similarly, Lalith Athulathmudali (who was the National Security Minister in Jayewardene's cabinet and one of the contenders for the Sri Lankan Presidency in 1988) differed with President Jayewardene's approach towards India. He too opposed the 1987 Agreement. Another faction within the UNP was led by Gamini Dissanayake who, with his pro-Indian proclivities, played a dominant role in shaping the 1987 Agreement. Cyril Matthew represented the radical Sinhalese elements within the UNP until he was forced out of the government in 1984. Gamini Jayasuriya's resignation from the cabinet in protest against the 1987 Agreement also testified to the factionalism in the UNP. Nevertheless, President Jayewardene was able to "rule both the UNP and the country" without any effective challenge to his authority from any legitimate sources.[41]

The UNP experienced a split in 1991 when Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake formed the Democratic United National Front (DUNF). Although the split resulted from a power rivalry between President Premadasa and Lalith-Gamini combine, the later attempt by the DUNF leaders to impeach the Sri Lankan President for, among other reasons, his alleged military support to the LTTE (during May 1989- June 1990) in its war against the Indian Peace Keeping force (IPKF) indicated the contribution of the ethnic conflict to the deepening of the divide in the UNP. At present, President Wijetunga is facing many challenges from within the party itself. Being a weak President (without a strong power base) whose succession to the Sri Lankan Presidency after Premadasa's assassination was facilitated by his sheer seniority in the party, there are many who would like to see his exit from power.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) was the main party in the ethnic conflict when it held office during 1956-65 and 1970-77. Since 1977, the party has been in opposition and its every attempt to stage a come-back to power has not yielded any result. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the founder of the party, defeated the UNP on a platform of blatant Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinism and proved how effectively ethnicity could be used to win votes. Importantly, it was during the SLFP's rule (both by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and his wife, Sirimavo Bandaranaike) that discrimination against the Tamils became institutionalised; the former was instrumental in enacting the Sinhalese-only Act and the latter introduced several pro-Sinhalese measures in higher education and government employment.

The SLFP is a divided house. Competition for power between Sirimavo Bandaranaike's son (Anura Bandaranaike) and daughter (Chandrika B. Kumaranatunga) led to the former's departure from the SLFP to join the UNP. There was a caucus within the party led by Tilak Karunaratne (an MP), calling itself Hela Uramaya (Sinhala Heritage) which had been consistently voicing its opposition to any concession to the Tamil minority. This however contradicted the stance of the other leaders like Chandrika.

A tragedy of the competitive electoral politics of the island is that the mainstream Sinhalese parties - the UNP and the SLFP - have evolved parochial and chauvinistic approaches to national issues like the ethic conflict. When the SLFP government worked out a minimum autonomy plan for the Tamils in the 1950s, the UNP aroused the Sinhalese opinion to condemn the government seeking compromise settlements with the minority group leaders. When the UNP government made an attempt to reach accommodation with the Tamils (e.g., autonomy through District Development councils in 1982), the SLFP opposed the government. This is the irony of the Sri Lankan politics: "When government and opposition alternate, the very same party that opposed a settlement may offer the Tamils the compromise they had earlier condemned".[42]

Many other Sinhalese parties also feature in the ethnic conflict as factions. Some of them like the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party once stood for a reasonable solution to the national question. But they have revised their stance very often.

The Buddhist Sangha (priesthood) is another interest group which can be considered as a faction in the conflict. Many Buddhist interest groups actively canvas for the Sinhalese Buddhists' dominance in the country. Important among them are Sinhala Arakshaka Sanvidhanaxa (Sinhala Defence League) led by Gamini Jayasuriya, Tilak Karunaratne's Hela Uramaya and the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress headed by Professor A.B. Ariyapala.

Like the Sinhalese, the Tamils have had several representative organisations featuring as parties and factions in the conflict. Until 1983, the Tamils had only one of the parties playing the role of the conflicting party and others as factions. Since then, many groups have emerged and claimed the status of the focal party in the conflict . Each group has provided leadership to the movement and enjoyed support of the local constituencies.

The All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) was the dominant party representing the Sri Lankan Tamils in the conflict during 1944-49. Founded by G.G. Ponnambalam, it vigorously championed for balanced representation in the colonial legislature by advocating the fifty-fifty scheme. Ponnambalam's decision to join the UNP government headed by D.S, Senanayake and to support the government on the issue of denial of citizenship rights to about nine lakh Indian Tamils in 1948-49 resulted in the ACTC's split and the formation of the Federal Party (FP) in 1949. The ACTC has ceased to be a parliamentary force since 1952.

The Federal Party (FP) under the leadership of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam became the leading organisation of the Sri Lankan Tamils during 1949-72. It was the first Tamil organisation which was avowedly devoted to preserving the separate existence of the Tamils, and advocated the idea that they constituted a separate and distinct nation.[43] In the fifties, with a view to strengthening the Tamil movement for equal linguistic rights and federal autonomy, the FP leadership dwelt on the unity of the Tamil-speaking peoples. Included in this broad cluster were the Tamils of the Northern and Eastern provinces, the Tamil-speaking Muslims and the Indian Tamils. With its strong leadership and widespread network of grass roots organisations, the FP was in the forefront of the Tamil struggle until the early seventies.

The Tamil United Front (TUF), a conglomeration of the FP, the ACTC and the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC, representing the Indian Tamils), was formed in 1972 as a result of the unity move initiated by the Tamil leaders. Its formation indicated the momentum which the Tamil movement was gathering in the seventies. The TUF led the Tamil struggle until 1976 when it rechristened itself as the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) [The CWC withdrew from the organisation as it did not approve of the Eelam demand].

The TULF's formation in 1976 illustrated the dramatic goal escalation of the Sri Lankan Tamils (from autonomism to secessionism). With a wide spectrum of moderate Tamil opinion coming under a unified structure to achieve a separate state, the Tamil movement entered a crucial phase. A prominent parliamentarian, Appapillai Amirthalingam, emerged as the leading figure who was able to speak for the Sri Lankan Tamil population until the end of 1984. The TULF has lost its control of the movement since 1984 as the Tamil militants have emerged as the major force for the Tamil cause. However, it has continued to be one of the conflicting parties representing the Tamils.

The Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka is largely the result of alienation caused by the educational and employment policies of the successive Sri Lankan regimes especially in the seventies. It is also the result of the high-handedness of the UF government in tackling the Tamil youths' protest against the policy of standardisation as well as the Constitution of 1972. Several of them were imprisoned and tortured without trail. The TULF's inability to deliver the goods to the Tamils through parliamentary action and its lack of a "concrete programme of political action to liberate the oppressed Tamil Nation" disillusioned the Tamil youths.[44] They came to believe strongly that the Eelam could be achieved only through armed struggle which encouraged the army of unemployed Tamil youths to launch a militant movement in the late eighties.

The Tamil parties always sought to enlist the involvement of the Tamil youths, and each party had a youth wing of its own. However, a few independent youth associations emerged in the seventies. Notable among them was the Tamil New Tigers which was formed in 1972. This organisation rechristened itself in 1976 as the LTTE under the leadership of Velupillai Prabhakaran. Another militant organisation, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO), was founded in the early seventies and revitalised in 1974.

The ideological and personal differences between the two top LTTE leaders, Prabhakaran and Uma Maheshwaran, led to the latter's departure from the organisation to form his own group called the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) in 1980. The Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), another militant group, was formed in 1975. Its subsequent split resulted in the emergence of the Eelam People's Liberation Revolutionary Front (EPRLF).

More than a dozen splinter groups came into being in the eighties. The militant leaders' quest for power and dominance within their organisations created their disunity. At the height of the conflict in the early eighties, all militant organisations actively participated in the conflict. But the LTTE emerged as the dominant party since 1986 by virtue of its armed strength. It also systematically eliminated its rival groups such as the PLOTE, the TELO and, to certain extent, the EPRLF. Several top TULF leaders, including Amirthalingam, were also killed by the LTTE as a part of its strategy to establish a one-party democracy in the future Eelam.

Both the CWC and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) could be regarded as associate parties in the conflict.[45] The CWC, headed by Thondaman, represents the Indian Tamils. Its main issue has been citizenship rights. The citizenship laws enacted soon after independence had disenfranchised a large number of its members. Although the citizenship issue was settled in the eighties, the Indian Tamils also have a depressed economic status in the island. Despite their ethnic linkage with the Sri Lankan Tamils, they have refrained from supporting the Eelam movement. Yet they were the victims of the Sinhalese-Sri Lankan Tamil ethnic rivalry. The 1981 and the 1983 violence directly affected the Indian Tamils, as a majority of them resided in the Sinhalese areas. In the event of the creation of a separate Eelam, the Indian Tamils would be left outside of it.

The SLMC's involvement in the conflict arises out of the fact that a large number of Muslims are settled in the territory envisaged for the Eelam. It is a vulnerable community which has experienced pressures from both the Sinhalese and the Sri Lankan Tamils to support their respective stance in the ongoing ethnic rivalry. In the past, the Muslims were subjected to intimidation and violence by the Tamil militants, especially the LTTE, for their non-cooperation with the Tamil movement.  

The Relationship Between the Parties

The intensity of the conflict behaviour in Sri Lanka developed during several phases. During the colonial period, the interaction between the parties was peaceful and orderly. The main technique which the Sri Lankan Tamils adopted in pursuit of their conflict goal was making petitions and memoranda to the British colonial government. They also boycotted election to exert pressure on the government to accept their demand for a larger representation in the legislature. [A major segment of the Tamil community reacted to the Donoughmore Constitution by boycotting the 1931 elections to the State Council]. The Sinhalese also submitted memoranda to the colonial administration. Since both communities channelled their demands to the colonial government, their conflict was not directed against each other.

The ACTC's decision to join the UNP government headed by D.S. Senanayake in 1948 was a part of the Sri Lankan Tamil strategy to win concessions through parliamentary support. The 1950s was an eventful decade in Sri Lankan history as the official language question threatened to disrupt inter-ethnic interaction on the island. The Federalists, who often compared themselves to Parnell's Irish Nationalists, believed that "unrelenting agitation and obstruction backed by a united and determined Tamil community eventually could force concessions from a Sinhalese-dominated government".[46] In the early phase of the language issue, the FP leaders sought to achieve an official language status for Tamil chiefly in the parliamentary arena. When parliamentary agitation proved ineffective, the Tamils adopted extra-parliamentary tactics. In February 1956 (i.e., before the introduction of the Official Language Bill in parliament), the FP organised a hartal in the Northern and Eastern provinces. At the time of the parliamentary debate on the proposed bill, the Federalists conducted a demonstration around the parliament building. In August 1956 (i.e., immediately after the enactment of the Official Language Act), the FP Convention at Trincomalee adopted the Gandhian technique of satyagraha (nonviolent resistance movement) as "a recognised political weapon in the hands of a weaker people against hard-hearted rulers".[47] The Convention threatened to launch a "non-violent direct action" if the Tamils' linguistic and federal autonomy demands were not accepted within one year.[48] The issuance of a threat by the FP altered the stance of the Sri Lankan government. When the scheduled date for satyagraha approached, Prime Minister Bandaranaike negotiated a settlement with the Tamil leader, Chelvanayakam, in 1957.

The Sri Lankan government and its factions (i.e., the Sinhalese Buddhist parties and interest groups) responded to the Sri Lankan Tamils' non-violent conflict behaviour with limited violence. This, in turn, evoked the Tamils' violent reaction. The FP's demonstration against the Official Language Bill in 1956 was disrupted and the demonstrators (including the Tamil leaders) were assaulted by a Sinhalese mob. This led to communal riots in the Eastern province. The mounting communal tensions and the FP's threat to launch a satyagraha in 1957 exerted pressure on the government to change its strategy. The result was the Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam Pact (B-C Pact, 1957). But the groups within the Sinhalese community neither endorsed the government's tactics nor the Pact. The Eksath Bhikkhu Peramuna (EBK), a militant Sinhalese Buddhist organisation, threatened to launch a satyagraha unless the Pact was abrogated.[49] Under heavy pressure from the factions within the Sinhalese community, Bandaranaike repudiated the Pact. What followed this was brutal Sinhalese-Tamil riots in 1958. Many Tamils were killed in the Sinhalese areas and several Sinhalese were killed in the Tamil majority provinces. The government declared an emergency and army-police action was ordered to quell the rioting. Several members and leaders of the FP and a Sinhalese chauvinistic group, Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna (National Libration Front), which instigated the violence, were placed under preventive detention for several months.[50] Soon after the restoration of normalcy, the Bandaranaike government adopted a reconciliatory measure by enacting the Tamil Language Act in 1958. It guaranteed the reasonable use of Tamil in the country (see below). A section of the militant Sinhalese Buddhists interpreted this as an attempt to compromise Sinhalese interests in favour of the Tamils'. As a result, Prime Minister Bandaranaike was shot dead by a Buddhist monk belonging to the EBP. Importantly, two or three persons who were convicted for Bandaranaike's assassination were members of his own SLFP. For two years after 1958, both communities consciously attempted to avoid violence.

Thus, the conflict behaviour of parties in the fifties was marked largely by low-intensity violence. This was mostly because of the highly active and deeply divided factions (especially in the Sinhalese community) whom the central leadership failed to contain within the limits of relatively orderly and non-violent interaction.

In the sixties the Tamils continued to pursue a combination of parliamentary and extra- parliamentary tactics, but more intensively than in the previous decade. In the March 1960 general elections, the PF contributed to a hung parliament. The FP, which had fifteen members in parliament, expressed its readiness to support the minority UNP government of Dudley Senanayake. In return, it sought the UNP leadership to accept some of the Tamil demands. These included the recognition of Tamil as a national language and its use in administration and the courts of law in the Northern and Eastern provinces. They also demanded the creation of autonomous regional bodies and the liberalisation of laws to grant citizenship rights to the stateless Indian Tamils.[51] The UNP outrightly rejected the demands on the ground that they aimed at reviving the B-C Pact which it had strenuously opposed. After the fall of the UNP government, the FP was prepared to support the SLFP to form the government on the same conditions. But, before the SLFP could decide on the FP's offer, the Governor-General announced a fresh election.

In February 1961 the FP launched a full-scale satyagraha movement in the Tamil areas which was kept in abeyance since 1956. The Sri Lankan government responded first with economic pressure by stopping the distribution of state-subsidised rice and suspending the payment of pensions. It then sent in the army and naval units to crush the movement. The Federalists relented at first, but soon resolved to convert their satyagraha into a civil disobedience movement. Chelvanayakam called upon the Tamil civil servants not to cooperate with the implementation of the Official Language Act.[52] He also inaugurated Tamil postal service on 14 April 1961 based in Jaffna. In response , the government proclaimed a state of emergency (which was in force for two years), arrested the FP leaders (who were held in detention for six months) and proscribed the FP.[53] After their release in May 1962, the Federalists again called for the renewal of non-cooperation and civil disobedience, but no action followed. In early 1964, the FP organised a Tamil only campaign in which it appealed to the Tamil-speaking civil servants to conduct all their business with the government in Tamil. Subsequently, it announced a direct action campaign, but this could not be organised in view of the general elections in March 1965.[54]

In 1965, the FP joined the coalition government headed by the UNP leader Dudley Senanayake. This enabled the FP in 1966 to obtain status for Tamil as a language of administration in the Northern and Eastern provinces. But it left the coalition in 1968 when the government did not implement an agreed plan to set up District Councils in Tamil areas. Thus, the conflict behaviour of parties in the sixties was not very violent except for the 1961 when the Tamil satyagraha. Importantly, the decade did not witness any mob violence.

In the seventies the conflict behaviour of parties became more intense. The Tamils' conflict pursuance strategy became violent. However, the moderate Tamil leaders continued to adopt non-violent methods. They combined the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary tactics with certain political programmes like the symbolic defiance of laws and a boycott of the government sponsored political programmes. The FP made use of the Constituent Assembly (which was set up to draft the 1972 Constitution) to bargain with the Sinhalese leadership on the Tamil demands for linguistic rights and federal autonomy. It asked for the division of Sri Lanka into five states in a federal system; for Tamil to be the language of administration and of the courts in the Northern and Eastern provinces; and for the mother tongue to be the compulsory medium of instruction for all Tamil children.[55] Thus, the FP gave up its original demand for parity of status to Tamil in favour of its more reasonable use and greater autonomy to the Tamil areas. Confronted with a majority of the ruling UF which was determined to reject the FP's demands, it withdrew from the Constituent Assembly in June 1971.

The formation of the TUF in 1972 was a part of the Tamil leadership's strategy to organise collective pressure tactics against the Sri Lankan government. In response to increasingly violent tendencies among Tamil youths, the TUF, in its inaugural meeting, adopted a resolution reiterating its commitment to non-violence in thought, word and deed.[56] Subsequently, it sought to use the legislative forum for bargaining. In July 1972, the party moved a resolution in parliament seeking an amendment to the constitution. Its "six-point" demand included: official language status to Tamil, citizenship rights to the Indian Tamils, revocation of the special privileges to Buddhism and equal status to all religions, abolition of untouchability and decentralisation of power.[57] The Front threatened to launch a non-violent direct action against the government in the event of non-compliance.

Instead of embarking on direct action against the government, the TUF undertook an act of symbolic defiance in the form of Chelvanayakam resigning from his parliamentary seat as a protest against the 1972 Constitution. In the by-election held in 1975, he won the seat with a vast majority on the main plank of establishing a free, sovereign, secular state of Tamil Eelam. This conveyed to the Sri Lankan government that the Sri Lankan Tamils were preparing the ground for a larger movement to achieve a greater goal (a separate state), and it was up to the Sinhalese to safeguard the unity of the country.

The Sri Lankan government's failure to respond appropriately to the changing conflict goals of the Tamils indicated its underestimation of the extent to which they were prepared to pursue their demands. The Tamil leadership perhaps sent the wrong signals, as even after its declaration to establish a separate state, the TULF attended the Parliament and contested the elections of 1977 on the plank of Eelam. Interestingly, the TULF's emergence as the single largest Opposition party in the elections had warranted its chief, Amirthalingam, to play the unenviable role of the Opposition leader in Parliament.

But the political and militant activities of the Tamil youths in the Northern and Eastern provinces in the early seventies were taken lightly by the Sri Lankan government. In addition to from staging demonstrations against the government's educational and employment policies, they were involved in the systematic elimination of the Tamil collaborators with the government and Sinhalese parties, the government representatives (belonging to the Tamil community) in the Tamil areas, and Tamil police and security personnel. Their violent activities became more intense in the later part of the seventies, especially after the formation of several militant organisations in the wake of the TULF's declaration of Eelam. They targeted all symbols of the Sri Lankan State in the Tamil areas.

The Sri Lankan government responded to the Tamils' assertion of equality in the Constituent Assembly (1970-72) initially by asserting the dominance of the Sinhalese. However, the police brutality against the Tamils at the Fourth International Tamil Conference in Jaffna in January 1974 illustrated the government's preference for coercive tactics to deal with political agitation. At the same time, the Sinhalese chauvinist groups responded to the Tamil militants' attack on the police with mob violence in 1977. There were "widespread killings, assaults, rapes and damage to Hindu temples in almost every area of the island".[58] When the Tamil insurgents intensified their activities, the Sri Lankan government enacted a legislation to proscribe the militant organisations in 1978. What followed was the enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1979. The government also declared emergency in Jaffna in 1979, during which the ethnic cauldron continued to simmer because of the high-handedness of the police and the army.

In the eighties, violence intensified. Except for two years (1980-82), the TULF could not continue with its parliamentary tactics because the leadership of the Tamil movement passed to militant groups. Moreover, the TULF members lost their parliamentary seats because they refused to swear an oath (under the newly passed Sixth Constitutional Amendment in 1984) to maintain the unity of Sri Lanka. Thereafter, the Tamil moderate leadership pursued an international campaign to gain support for their movement. The TULF leader, Amirthalingam, visited a number of countries to highlight the plight of the Tamils and the issue of human rights violations against the them.

Meanwhile, the Tamil militants intensified their armed activities against the Sri Lankan security forces in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Initially they waged guerilla warfare, followed by direct confrontation with the Army (1985-87), and subsequently reverted to guerrilla warfare again. Simultaneously, the militants mounted terror campaigns against the civilians in the Northern and Eastern provinces by killing several Sinhalese and Muslims. Such campaigns were intended to pressure the government to halt the army operations, to encourage the Sinhalese to leave the Tamil traditional homeland and the Muslims to support the Eelam movement. Furthermore, the militants extended their sphere of activities beyond the Northern and Eastern provinces to orchestrate several explosions in Colombo and the killing of several Sinhalese leaders in the country's capital.

The most important aspect of the militants' behaviour was that while directing their actions at a common adversary (the Sri Lankan government), they sought to harm each other as well as the moderate Tamil leaders. The LTTE was determined to kill several of its rival group leaders and some of the TULF leaders to establish its hegemony and to prevent them from compromising on Eelam. The Sri Lankan government also seemed to have fuelled internecine conflicts among the militant groups. It was suspected that the PLOTE struck a deal with the government in 1985 whereby it received money and arms to liquidate the pro-Indian militant groups.

While the Sri Lankan government adopted coercive means of both political and military nature, certain Sinhalese groups reacted with fury. Ethnic violence erupted in 1981 and 1983; the ferocity of the latter was unprecedented in Sri Lanka's history. Describing the magnitude of the 1983 violence, a noted scholar on Sri Lankan affairs observed:

The ethnic violence reached its frenzy on the black Friday of 29 July when rumours of the Tigers attacking Colombo led some of the Sinhalese to murder Tamils mercilessly in not only Colombo but other areas as well. In many instances the police and defence forces remained passive. In others, they encouraged the marauders. The fury of the mob violence found expression in insane forms in the killing and burning of Tamils both young and old. While some of the Tamils sought refuge with Sinhalese families, a large segment, numbering almost a lakh were huddled in camps with some being shipped to Jaffna. The loss in terms of life and property was bad enough but worse still was the feeling of insecurity among the Tamils.[59]

With the rise of Tamil militancy, the government intensified its military operations in the Northern and Eastern provinces. The Sri Lankan military underwent a rapid expansion by the late eighties, and the defence expenditure registered a steep increase every year (from rupees 560 million in 1978 to more than 10 billion in 1987).[60] Furthermore, the government procured arms and equipments from various external sources. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was widely used for the detention and even torture of Tamil youths in Colombo and other parts of the island. In 1985 the government was contemplating a law to provide death sentence to the militants.[61] The introduction of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution seeking the members of parliament to take an oath to maintain the unity of Sri Lanka, was a form of political coercion directed at the TULF leaders.

Thus, in the eighties, ethnic conflagration revolved around three types of violence: state-sponsored or state initiated violence, violence by the Tamil insurgents, and communal violence.[62] At present, both the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE are engaged in a low-intensity war in the Tamil areas. As such, violent coercion is the prominent form of conflict behaviour of both the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan Tamils. The forgoing demonstrates that the Tamils opted to adopt violent coercive forms of conflict behaviour only after their failure to achieve a compromise settlement through peaceful means. They used non-violence in pursuit of their conflict goals for nearly 25 years following independence.

 Patron Input

The nature and the extent of external support received by the parties varied at different phases of the conflict. Until 1983, the patron input for the Sri Lankan Tamils came solely from the Government and people of Tamil Nadu. Apart from passing official resolutions in the State legislature expressing concern over the violence against the Tamils, the State government and the opposition parties observed state-wide hartals (strikes) to urge the Central government of India to use its influence to safeguard the Tamil interests in the island. However, this related to specific incidents of mob violence inflicted on Tamils (in 1958, 1961, 1977 and 1981) and hardly had any tangible effect on the conflict. During the same period (until 1983), the Sri Lankan government was not in receipt of any input from patrons.

But the situation changed drastically after the July 1983 violence. Both the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan Tamils found several allies who, directly or indirectly, extended a wide variety of support to them.

The most important patrons of the Sri Lankan Tamils were the Government and the people of Tamil Nadu, the Central Government of India and the Tamil diaspora. Some of the revolutionary organisations around the world also provided support. Interestingly, both the Government of India and the Tamil Nadu government played a dual role of patron as well as opponent in different situations. Such a role was warranted by India's controversial role as an interested third party in the Sri Lankan conflict (see below).

Tamil Nadu provided tangible political and material support to the Sri Lankan Tamils. The State government had effectively mobilised public opinion in favour of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause, exerted pressure on the Central Government of India to protect their interests in the island, provided refuge to Sri Lankan Tamils (including moderate and militant leaders), allowed the Tamil militants to establish their base facilities in the state, and gave a huge amount of money to the LTTE in 1987. Financial support was also given to other militant groups to provide relief aid to the people in the war-torn Jaffna peninsula where they were subjected to hardships by the economic blockade imposed by the Sri Lankan government. At the same time, some of the opposition parties in the state vociferously demanded India's military intervention in Sri Lanka to create a separate state. They even sent an appeal signed by one million people to the UN Secretary General urging him to stop what they called the genocide of the Sri Lankan Tamils.[63] With Tamil Nadu's political and material support, the Tamil militants were able to increase their military pressure on the Sri Lankan government by the mid-eighties.

The Indian government's support to the Sri Lankan Tamils could be seen in four principal forms. Initially, in the wake of the July 1983 violence, it extended limited political support by expressing its concern over the ethnic violence and sympathies for the sufferings of the Tamils. It actively joined the Tamil Nadu government's several calls for a state-wide general strike in July 1983. Subsequently, it provided them with a limited material support by sending food and medicines to the people affected by the ethnic violence. For this purpose, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi set up a Sri Lankan Relief Fund in 1983 with the government's contribution of rupees 10 million. When the Jayewardene administration demonstrated its intention to find a military solution to the ethnic conflict, the Indian government responded by extending tangible political support to the Sri Lankan Tamils. The Indian diplomatic missions around the world, especially in the West, publicised the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils and sought Sri Lanka's donors to prevail upon Colombo to halt its military operations. India also raised the issue of human rights violations in Sri Lanka in various sessions of the Human Rights Commission, the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, and even the UN General Assembly since 1983.[64]

Simultaneously, in response to the increasingly hardened attitude of Colombo towards the militants, the Indian government provided them with military training, money and arms of a very moderate level, and allowed them to use Indian territory as a conduit of foreign arms and money. However, "the degree of Indian support and encouragement to [the] Tamil groups had also changed from time to time, depending upon the scale of influence and power among them and the extent of their political support with the Indian policy-line on the Sri Lankan issue".[65]

On some occasions, the Central Government of India and the Tamil Nadu government had acted in a manner antithetical to their role as patrons of the Sri Lankan Tamils. In the early 1985, as a part of its new approach to the peace process in the island, the Rajiv Gandhi administration hardened its attitude towards the Tamil militants by curbing their traffic in arms and men. Subsequently, when the LTTE refused to endorse a peace proposal in November 1986, the Tamil Nadu police undertook an operation to divest the militants of their arms and equipments. Thus, if the patron role of both the Indian government and the Tamil Nadu government was aimed at, inter alia, enhancing the Tamils' bargaining power vis--vis the Sri Lankan government, their pressure on the militants was designed to soften their attitude towards the peace process sponsored by India.

The Tamil diaspora, especially in the West, was another important patron both in political and material terms. Apart from material support to the various Tamil groups, a number of Tamil expatriate organisations in the UK and the USA undertook an active role of publicising human rights violations in Sri Lanka. It must be noted that the Tamil diaspora's influence formed one of the hurdles to direct US military assistance to Sri Lanka.[66]

In addition, some of the militant groups seemed to have received arms and equipments from commercial suppliers in various Western countries. Their links with various international revolutionary organisations in countries like Libya, Nicaragua and North Korea, and the radical factions of the PLO enabled them to receive military training too.

For the Sri Lankan government, the patron input came from several countries. After its failure to enlist direct military assistance from the UK and the USA, Sri Lanka hired the Channel Island Company of Keeny Meeny Services (comprising former British Air Service men) with the help of the British government and secured the assistance of the Israeli intelligence agencies, Mossad and Shin Bet, with the help of the US government to strengthen its intelligence and military training facilities. Pakistan extended support for training the Sri Lankan soldiers and officers. In fact, Pakistani military officers were reportedly involved in designing the battle tactics of the Sri Lankan Army against the Tamil militants during 1986-87. China was another country that made available to Sri Lanka a large quantity of cheap military supplies. Lately, Malaysia and South Africa seem to have supplied arms to Sri Lanka.

Overlapping Conflicts

The Sri Lankan government's involvement in the conflict with the Sri Lankan Tamils was concurrent (albeit not continuous, but intermittent) with its conflict with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)[the People's Liberation Front]. The peculiar feature was that in the context of the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict, the JVP could be viewed as a faction within the Sinhalese. But the same faction became the main adversary of the Sri Lankan government in another context.

Formed in the late 1960s, the JVP was initially a rural movement of the educated youth. Having consolidated its base in the rural areas, it became a powerful force in many urban or quasi-urban areas by the 1980s. The JVP's ideology was a hybrid of an unsophisticated and utopian version of ultra radical marxism and Sinhalese chauvinism and indigenism.[67] Its primary goal was to completely dismantle the existing political system and social order through armed struggle, and to establish a system based on its own ideology. It was in pursuit of this goal that the JVP launched an abortive insurrection in 1971 against the UF government headed by Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The Sri Lankan government had mobilised international military support to crush the insurgency.

Again, the JVP made a bid to capture power by force of arms in 1987-89. This time, it adventurism was a by-product of the ethnic conflict.[68] When India and Sri Lanka signed an agreement in July 1987 to settle the ethnic conflict (see below), the opposition of the Sinhalese Buddhist establishments was widespread. The JVP was one of the prominent organisations at the forefront of the Sinhalese protest movement against the Agreement. It considered India's involvement in the ethnic conflict, first, by supporting the Tamil militants and, then, by sending its forces to the Northern and Eastern provinces to implement the Agreement, as a part of its expansionist policy.[69] The JVP also perceived the Agreement as a tool for the consolidation of the Jayewardene regime which it wanted to overthrow. The Agreement also had a direct bearing on the JVP's functioning as a revolutionary organisation because, under the Agreement, the Sri Lankan forces were to be released from the trouble torn North-East to tackle the JVP insurgency in the Southern province.

That the JVP had successfully capitalised on the general Sinhalese Buddhists' discontent with the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement was evident from the popular support that it obtained which was sufficient to launch a campaign against the government. It unleashed a reign of terror by attacking UNP leaders and the Security forces. Widespread strikes called by the JVP crippled the country's economy. In late 1988, its campaign reached the peak, causing severe hardship even to those Sinhalese hardliners who had earlier favoured the JVP's movement against Indian expansionism and the betrayal by the UNP leaders of the genuine Sinhalese Buddhists. Yet the JVP's potential to capture power was limited. The organisation's destruction came in the mid-1989 when the Sri Lankan government headed by President Premadasa embarked on a systematic and large-scale military operation against the JVP, its sympathisers and suspects. The human cost of the extirpation was greater; nearly forty thousand people were killed in the operation during 1988-89.

 The Process of Conflict Management

Ethnic conflict management, in most cases, is a complex process.[70] Its complexity is attributed to the nature of issues and parties, the structure and organisation of the parties, and the control of the conflict management process by the adversaries' local constituencies. The complexity is more in the case of politicised ethnic conflict occurring in an ethnicised polity.[71]

There are three ways in which the process of conflict management can be conducted: unilateral, bilateral and multilateral.[72] The unilateral strategy involves the adoption of legislative measures or public policy making by the political incumbent. The bilateral mode of conflict management is characterised by direct negotiations between the political incumbent and the minority group leaders. The multilateral approach can involve, apart from the conflict group leaders, third party intermediaries who may undertake a wide spectrum of roles.

The process of conflict management in Sri Lanka has been a protracted one. Beginning in the late forties, several attempts involving three different approaches were made. Sri Lanka is a classic case of the mismanagement of ethnic conflict. Its process can be divided into three different phases. In the first phase (covering the period up to July 1983) the conflict management process was conducted by the conflict group leaders without any external involvement. The second phase (encompassing the period between July 1983 and March 1990) was marked by the external (India's) involvement in the peacemaking process.[73] The third phase (since March 1990) is again characterised by indigenous attempts to manage the conflict.

The First Phase: Indigenous Exercise

Although the nationalist movement was split along ethnic lines, Sri Lanka's independence was not followed by any intense Sinhalese-Tamil rivalry. The prime reason was that the ruling UNP leadership made a conscious effort to achieve consociationalism.[74] Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake sought to establish an equilibrium of political forces by forging somewhat a less grand coalition government comprising of the political elites of both the majority and minority communities (the exception to this was the Indian Tamils). The ACTC joined the government in 1948 on the basis of responsive cooperation with the Sinhalese. In return, its leader G.G. Ponnambalam was made a cabinet minister.

A consociational spirit also pervaded the Constitution of 1948. It devised the electoral system in such a way that minorities received some representation. First, the modification of the territorial principle by providing weightage to the sparsely populated areas ensured the Sri Lankan Tamils a measure of additional representation in the Central legislature. Second, provisions were made in the constitution to create a separate electorate for a community which was substantially concentrated in an area where the majority of the inhabitants belonged to a different racial or religious groups. Third, the constitution incorporated provisions for multi- member constituencies in areas where the intermixing of ethnic groups rendered the carving of a separate electorate for them impossible. In the realm of minority rights, the guarantees against legislative discrimination contained in Section 29 of the Constitution were significant. Also, the setting up of independent public service and judicial service commissions ensured impartiality in recruitment and promotion of the members of the minority communities. Finally, the constitution of a second chamber (the Senate) consisting of elected and appointed members with a suspensory veto power was designed to involve the minorities in the decision- making process.[75]

These constitutional arrangements were not sufficient to settle the conflict, but adequate enough to contain ethnic rivalry. However, their effectiveness was completely lost when the mainstream Sinhalese parties indulged in electoral competition on sensitive issues like language and religion. Fresh institutional mechanisms were then needed.

Efforts were made in the fifties to achieve inter-ethnic accommodation on the issues of language and autonomy. In response to the widespread Tamil reaction to the Sinhalese only policy of the SLFP government, Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike initiated direct negotiations with the Tamil leadership. This culminated on 26 July 1957 in the signing of an agreement between Bandaranaike and Chelvanayakam (B-C Pact). It contained a formula for the decentralisation of powers accompanied by de facto linguistic autonomy in the Tamil areas. According to the Pact, Tamil was recognised as the language of a national minority and its use for administrative purposes in the Northern and Eastern provinces was assured. The Pact also undertook to establish Regional Councils with powers relating to agriculture, education, and other matters including the selection of settlers for government-sponsored colonisation schemes.[76]

The B-C Pact made a genuine attempt to evolve a compromise framework for conflict management. The Pact was worked out through a process of direct negotiations between the conflict group leaders without the involvement of any intermediary. This revealed the existence of a good channel of communication between them, and their desire for inter-elite cooperation to eliminate inter-ethnic rivalry. In terms of conflict growth, it indicated that the Sinhalese- Tamil conflict was still in its initial stages and, as such, was easily amenable to any serious effort for settlement.

However, the Pact was not acceptable to the local Sinhalese Buddhist constituencies. Before the ink could dry, they rose in revolt. Prime Minister Bandaranaike found himself branded as anti-Sinhalese and his Pact was condemned as a sell-out. Interestingly, the anti- Pact campaign emerged not only from the ranks of opposition parties and the Sinhalese Buddhist organisations, but also Bandaranaike's own SLFP. The very forces which he himself had unleashed by his Sinhalese-only campaign in 1956 had vociferously opposed the B-C Pact. The Pact was thoroughly politicised to the extent that it threatened Bandaranaike's political survival. Under these circumstances, the SLFP leader set his choice clearly for his sustenance in power rather than managing ethnic rivalry and tension. His decision to abrogate the Pact in 1958 was thus borne out of pure political expediency.

Two important inferences could be drawn from this incident. First, the support of the internal political forces is essential for the success of a peace process in ethnic conflict. Second, the conflict group leaders are susceptible to pressure by their local constituencies. Even if Bandaranaike was determined to proceed with the implementation of the Pact in the charged atmosphere of 1957, its success in terms of achieving inter-ethnic accommodation was not certain.

The abrogation of the Pact had convinced the Sinhalese community. At the same time, Bandaranaike sought to convince the Sri Lankan Tamils by taking an unilateral step to enact an Act in September 1958. It provided for the use of Tamil in education, public service examinations, and "prescribed administrative purposes" in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.[77] These concessions were too little to satisfy the Tamil leaders. But the Sinhalese chauvinistic groups considered it another attempt to compromise Sinhalese interests in favour of the Tamils. The result was that S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was assassinated by a Buddhist monk in September 1959.

This violent action against the conflict group leader by a member of his own local constituency had caused a severe set-back to the entire conflict management process. With the death of Bandaranaike, a figure of moderation in the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict was removed from the process. His successor and wife, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, was more inclined to satisfy the militant Sinhalese Buddhist interest groups and she did not implement the 1958 Language Act. During her Prime Ministership in 1960-65, she took few steps to redress the Tamil grievances. Her determination to implement the Official Language Act of 1956 in its letter and spirit and, at the same time, to ignore the growing linguistic and autonomy demands of the Tamils exacerbated the conflict.

Electoral incentives lay behind some initiatives for conflict management from 1965-70. In 1965 the spirit of consociationalism was restored when the FP joined the coalition government headed by the UNP leader, Dudley Senanayake. This alliance was forged on the basis of an agreement between the leaders of both the parties in which some modified elements of the abortive B-C Pact formed key features.[78] As regards the decentralisation of powers, Dudley Senanayake first made a pledge to establish Provincial Councils. Later, anticipating widespread Sinhalese opposition declared a reduction in the territorial limit of the unit of devolution to the district level. Now, it was the turn of the SLFP to campaign against the UNP government's ethnic reconciliatory measures. It aligned with the Sinhalese Buddhist pressure groups to oppose the proposed District Councils Bill. The political forces unleashed by the SLFP's campaign proved too powerful for the UNP government that it withdrew the Bill in mid-1969 without even publishing it in a draft form.

The seven years of SLFP rule (1970-77) were characterised by virulent ant-Tamil strain. Had Sirimavo Bandaranaikee refrained from becoming overtly an anti-Tamil with her education and employment policies, the conflict may not have escalated so dramatically. Thus, the SLFP regime planted the seeds of guerilla warfare.

In the late seventies, there was a growing realisation among some of the Sinhalese that the mismanagement of the conflict by the successive regimes in the past led to its exacerbation. In its 1977 election manifesto, the UNP itself acknowledged that the Tamils faced numerous problems and promised to redress them if it was voted to power. Although it dishonoured its major electoral promise of summoning an All Party Conference to settle the conflict, the UNP adopted certain conciliatory policies. The 1978 Constitution recognised Tamil as a national language and a language of the courts and administration in the Northern and Eastern provinces. This, in a way, resembled the language formula contained in the B-C Pact which the UNP had opposed earlier. Furthermore, the introduction of the second preference voting system in the election of the Sri Lankan President and the system of proportional representation in parliamentary elections were expected to enhance the importance of minority votes in the victory of the Sinhalese parties. This would demand the Sinhalese leadership's moderation in ethnic appeals which, in turn, would facilitate the process of inter-ethnic accommodation.[79] However, the constitutional primacy to the Sinhalese language and Buddhism despaired the Tamils.

The UNP government's sincere efforts to work out a structural arrangement for the devolution of powers indicated the seriousness with which it began to view the Eelam movement. In the process of evolving an institutional framework, a "quasi mediator" undertook a role as passive facilitator of communications between the government and the TULF in 1979.[80] He successfully brought the adversaries together. This resulted in the government's decision to appoint a 10-member presidential commission to outline the institutional framework for decentralisation. The TULF agreed to participate in the commission, but the SLFP refused to join it. It also opposed the Development Councils Act which the UNP government enacted on the basis of the Commission's recommendations in 1980.

Despite its inadequacies, the District Development Council (DDC) system appeared to be the first major exercise towards decentralisation of powers to satisfy the Tamils' autonomy demand.[81] Previous political initiatives in 1957-58 and 1966-68 had been thwarted by the Sinhalese chauvinistic groups. Given the rising aspiration for Eelam, the Tamils' negative response to the DDC system seemed to indicate that political solutions mooted in the fifties and the sixties would no longer be viable in the eighties. With the intensification of the violent campaign for separation by the Tamil militants, a powerful constraint operated within the TULF leadership. They did not want to be seen by their supporters as compromising on the Eelam demand. Finally, the Tamils' total rejection of the DDC system came in the wake of the July 1983 violence. The violence also changed the entire conflict management process.

Thus Sri Lanka is a classic case for mismanagement of ethnic conflict. Some of the windows of opportunity for inter-ethnic accommodation in the fifties and the sixties were missed by the Sinhalese leaders in the process of their electoral competition. Even some of the measures undertaken to contain the conflict did not satisfy the escalating goals of the Tamils.

Three points emerge from the foregoing analysis of the conflict management process in Sri Lanka from 1948-83. First, electoral incentives can be an obstacle to conflict management.[82] Second, the adversaries' local constituencies hold the key for the success of the conflict group leaders' conflict management behaviour. Third, the appropriate timing for initiating an effective conflict management process is the early phase in the conflict life-cycle.

The Second Phase: External Involvement in Peace process

In the aftermath of the July 1983 violence, the structures and processes that were adopted earlier for managing the conflict could not be continued, as there was a complete breakdown of communication between the adversaries, Eelam was a non-negotiable issue for the Tamil leadership, including the moderates, and the conflict behaviour of the parties became increasingly violent. In this environment the resumption of any meaningful peace process was possible only with the involvement of an intermediary. India stepped in to play the unenviable role of a mediator between the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan Tamils.[83]  

India's Interest in the Conflict.

India's decision to undertake such a role was borne out of its interest in the conflict. In the wake of the 1983 violence, the Sri Lankan government embarked on a large scale search for patrons. It sought a military settlement to the conflict and an insurance against a vaguely formulated threat from India. Several missions were sent to various friendly countries like the USA, the UK, China and Pakistan for military support. Some of them (China and Pakistan) readily extended direct military support of a limited nature. Others (the US and the UK) lent indirect support. The United States was instrumental in arranging the services of the Israeli intelligence agencies for the Sri Lankan Army's operations against the Tamil militants. In May 1984, Washington even allowed the Israelis to set up their interest section in the US Embassy in Colombo. The UK's indirect support seemed to be in the form of financing the Sri Lankan government to hire the services of the former British Air Service personnel to train its commando units.[84] India viewed with concern such an intrusion of foreign mercenaries in its vicinity, and feared a spill-over into India.

Sri Lanka's gestures to the West also impinged on India's security sensitivities in the South Asian region. Desperate to win US support, the Jayewardene administration allegedly extended refuelling and recreation facilities to the visiting US naval ships. It sought to make itself closer to the Western strategic interests by granting a contract for leasing oil storage tanks in the strategic harbour of Trincomalee to a Singapore based US company. The contract was subsequently revoked when India exposed some manipulation in selecting the tender. Finally, Sri Lanka entered into an agreement with the US in December 1983 to set up a powerful Voice of America station on the island. It was expected to be the largest radio station outside the US. India's apprehension was that the VOA could be used for intelligence purposes for the US Navy in the Indian Ocean.[85]

In normal circumstances, Sri Lanka's desire to join the Western strategic initiatives in the Indian Ocean would not have aroused India's security concerns. But the strategic environment in the region was such that Colombo's gestures were viewed with concern by India. It must be noted that the ethnic violence broke out in 1983 when the Second Cold War was in its height. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and the Super Power rivalry in the Indian Ocean were two prominent issues directly concerning the states of South Asia. It was thus natural for any foreign policy to take a serious view of strategic alignments in the region.

Thus, if India's regional security concerns were responsible for its interest in the conflict, so was the threat to its internal stability stemming from the ethnic violence in Sri Lanka. The July 1983 violence evoked a spontaneous indignation of the people of Tamil Nadu, the first state which raised the voice of secessionism in the Indian union. The political parties put various demands on the Central Government of India. Some wanted New Delhi to take steps to influence the Sri Lankan government to ensure the security of the Tamils. Others took a more militant stance, and demanded India's military intervention to create a separate Eelam. When India refused to heed the demands, sectarian forces emerged within the ranks of some of the opposition parties. Some of them even attempted to revive the old demand for a separate Dravidastan. Under these circumstances, India could ill afford to ignore the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu. Thus, it was the "compulsion" and not the "rationalised motivation" that designed India's interest in the conflict. Its compulsion was to "preserve" its "unity, integrity and identity" and to ensure the success of its very difficult nation building experiment.[86]

The exodus of Tamil refugees to India was another factor which developed India's stakes in the conflict. Their number was more than a hundred thousand. Apart from economic burden, they caused social burden to India. Tamil Nadu became a play-ground for a variety of anti-social activities by the Tamil militants. Not only this, the ethnic violence also posed a threat to Indian nationals in the island.

Thus India was affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka. As such, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi maintained that Sri Lanka could not treat India as "just other country" in the conflict.[87] In undertaking the mediatory role between the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan Tamils, India was therefore an interested third party.[88]

Parties' Preference for Mediation

Initially, the Sri Lankan government developed a good deal of internal resistance to India's involvement in the conflict as peacemaker. Three reasons could be advanced in this regard. First, in view of India's open sympathy with the Tamils and clandestine support to their militants, the Jayewardene administration suspected that India's role would not be impartial. Second, for the Sri Lankan government, the acceptance of the Indian mediation would mean endorsing India's regional hegemony, which Sri Lankan foreign policy sought to counter. Third, and more importantly, Sri Lanka seemed to be over-confident of securing direct Western military support to crush the Tamil militancy. When the West refused to live up to this expectation, the disappointed Sri Lankan government was left with only two options - to accept India either as a mediator, thereby safeguarding the island's territorial integrity, or as an intervenor aligning totally with the Tamils to pose a threat to the island's sovereignty. The Sri Lankan government had reluctantly chosen the first option.

India's offer was easily acceptable to the Sri Lankan Tamils. Some of the Tamil groups, especially the moderates, hoped that India's role would be supportive of their original conflict goal (greater autonomy). Not all the militant groups were committed to the peace process sponsored by India. In accepting India's intermediary role, some of them like the LTTE had a clear motive of securing maximum empowerment by India. (Once it was empowered, the LTTE sought to set the limit for India's role).

Thus it was India's power and potential to control the conflict structure and process that enabled it to impose its intermediary role on the adversaries. It was powerful not only because of its strong military-bureaucratic establishments and other infrastructure necessary for undertaking an intermediary activity, but also the relative weakness and dependence of the adversaries on India to achieve their respective conflict goals.

 Role and Strategies

India's role and strategies were not uniform throughout the period of its involvement in Sri Lanka.[89] Initially, when India began the peace process in August 1983, its intention was to play a limited role of facilitator of communication between the adversaries. Both Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her emissary, G. Parthasarathy, held direct talks with President Jayewardene and the TULF leader Amirthalingam, aimed at persuading them to initiate dialogue between them without any pre-condition. The first success came when the Sri Lankan President agreed to conduct talks with the moderate Tamil leadership without insisting that they formally renounce their Eelam demand. The TULF leadership also undertook to accept an alternative to Eelam within the framework of Sri Lanka's sovereignty and territorial integrity.[90]

But their declaration to hold direct talks could not be translated into action because there was no reasonable framework or basis for conducting the negotiations. The gap between what the Tamils wanted as an alternative to Eelam and what the Sri Lankan government was prepared to give was enormous. This demanded India's expanded role, from facilitator of communication to formulator of proposals. Parthasarthy formulated a set of proposals on the basis of his discussions with President Jayewardene and the TULF leaders. Popularly called as Annexure-C, it envisaged the creation of Regional Councils through the merger of DDCs in each province, the recognition of Tamil as a national language, the constitution of High Courts in each region, a national policy on land settlement and the representation of ethnic groups in the army and police in proportion to their national position.[91]

As for the Sri Lankan government's desire, these proposals were placed before the All Parties Conference (APC) which was convened at Colombo in January 1984 to evolve a national consensus. The TULF participated in the deliberations largely under India's persuasion. The SLFP refused to associate itself with the exercise in the APC. But the inclusion of the Buddhist Sangha made the failure of the APC more imminent. A section of the clergy, joined by the hardliners within the UNP, vociferously opposed any unit of devolution larger than the DDC. They viewed the TULF's demand for Regional Councils as a first step towards Eelam. Thus the impasse in the negotiations led to the collapse of the APC in September 1984.

It must be noted that the peace process in 1983-84 was conducted against the background of continuing armed fighting between the Sri Lankan Army and the Tamil militants. The militants lacked legitimacy as representatives of the Tamils. This was indicated by their exclusion from the APC by the Sri Lankan government.

When the negotiations in the APC became increasingly tough for the Tamils, India embarked on a new strategy to strengthen their bargaining power through the technique of "empowerment".[92] India supplied arms and extended training facilities to the militants, and publicised the issue of human rights violations against the Tamils in the international fora. The underlying assumption was that the militants' empowerment would intensify their insurgency in the North-East. This coupled with the international pressure (especially from Sri Lanka's aid donors) would form a greater force to compel the Sri Lankan government not only to give up its military approach but also its tough position in negotiations with the Tamils. Expectedly, a serious peace process would enhance India's intermediary role. This, in turn, would enable India to achieve security rewards from the Sri Lankan government.

The technique of empowerment did not yield any result either for India or the Tamils in 1983-84. The Sri Lankan government not only rejected the Annexure-C but also involved in large-scale vitriolic tirades against the mediator. To be effective, the empowerment of the weaker party should reach a point where bargaining can take place and the stronger party gives up its tough position in negotiations. This means that empowerment should be a continuous process; the required level of empowerment is determined by the stronger party's response to the peace process.

The adoption of empowerment techniques lowered the credibility of the mediator in the eyes of the Sinhalese. India tried to convince the Sinhalese of its sincere commitment to preserve the island's unity and integrity, its opposition to secession, its abiding interest in the restoration of peace and harmony in the country, and its desire to work for a viable political settlement.[93] The aim of doing so was to make its intermediary role acceptable to the Sinhalese.

The continuation of India's mediatory activities in 1985 required it to discontinue the process of empowerment. It also tried to harden its attitude towards the militants on matters such as the transit of arms and men. The Indian mediator, Romesh Bhandari, seemed to have even assured the Sri Lankan government of certain information on the Tamil militants' activities in Tamil Nadu.[94] This change of approach had convinced President Jayewardene who trusted Rajiv Gandhi to maintain Sri Lanka's integrity and sovereignty.[95] An important part of India's new approach was the concrete effort to involve the Tamil militants in negotiations. This fulfilled the militants' desire for legitimacy and recognition by the Indian and Sri Lankan governments.

As a first step towards direct talks between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil groups, India successfully worked out a twelve week cease-fire between the Army and the militants in the North-East. This paved the way for the first round of talks between the adversaries in the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu on 8 July 1985. The choice of Thimpu illustrated India's intention to conduct the exercise in a neutral setting. But, although the Indian government was a mediator, the country did not provide a neutral atmosphere because of the Tamil militants' presence in Tamil Nadu. India was set to play only a limited role in the talks, leaving the task of evolving the peace package with the adversaries. India was present in Thimpu through its diplomatic contingent, but it did not try to influence the negotiation process.

The first Thimpu experiment collapsed because of the intransigent position of both the Sri Lankan delegation and the Tamil groups. While the former merely reiterated the formula which the UNP government presented in the APC in 1984 (i.e., devolution of powers at the district level and nothing more), the latter insisted that any peace package should include four cardinal principles - recognition of Tamil as a national minority, the Northern and Eastern provinces as the Tamil traditional homeland, Tamils' right to self-determination and fundamental rights of all Tamils.[96] In the second round of Thimpu talks, which began on 12 August 1985, each side rejected the other's proposal in no uncertain terms. India's sincere efforts to persuade them to take an approach of moderation so as to make the peace process more meaningful, met with failure. Disappointed with the lack of sincerity of both delegations in Thimpu, India ordered the deportation of three Tamil leaders for their alleged role in scuttling the Thimpu talks. [It revoked the order later under Tamil Nadu's pressure].

The failure of the peace process in Thimpu illustrated two points. First, direct negotiations between the adversaries without a commitment to evolve a broad alternative formula would make the entire exercise unproductive. Second, if the adversaries are intransigent in their attitude, alternative formulas can be evolved only with the mediator's involvement as a formulator of proposals. In other words, the Thimpu experiment instructed India to take an active part in the peace process if it wanted to evolve a meaningful framework for the settlement of the conflict.

But India was not immediately inclined to expand its in this way. It feared that, given the intransigent position of the adversaries, any peace formula designed by it would meet the same fate of the Annexure-C in 1984. This was particularly so because from the Tamil militants' desire to pursue an independent line in negotiations, free of India's pressure and direction. This was reflected in their efforts to forge a greater unity among themselves in the mid-1985. Such a move was also designed to build up a strong military pressure on the Sri Lankan government so that it would pursue the peace process according to the terms and conditions of the militants.

For almost a year after the failure of the Thimpu talks, India concentrated on evolving a comprehensive framework through an exchange of proposals between the adversaries. The assumption underlying India's strategy was that before embarking on a direct talks between the adversaries, somewhat a common ground should be established between them. India continued to persuade the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil groups to formulate their own proposals and counter-proposals. Apart from acting as a messenger who transmitted draft proposals from one party to the other, India clarified the views of the conflicting parties on specific issues which were lacking in clarity. Then, each party's views were passed on to the other. This formed a direct input to the formulation of proposals. Both the Sri Lankan government and the TULF had exchanged several proposals through India. At the same time, the militants had rejected all the government proposals and insisted on the cardinal principles (which they put forth in the Thimpu talks) as a basis for any negotiation. Finding the militants' position tough, India urged them not to oppose the TULF's talks with the Sri Lankan government. When the TULF leadership held a closed door meeting with President Jayewardene in July 1986 under India's persuasion, the militants questioned the legitimacy of their action. The LTTE leader even claimed that the Tamils had full trust in the militants alone.[97]

By mid-1986 it had become clear that this limited intermediary role of India would not yield any concrete result. India then decided to hold discussions with the Sri Lankan government on the obstacles to a meaningful peace process. A high-level Indian delegation led by a Central minister, P. Chidambaram, visited Colombo in May 1986. Talks were also held between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene during the latter's visit to India in November 1986.

In the meantime, efforts were made to bring the militants around the negotiating table with the Sri Lankan leadership. The LTTE, which became militarily strong by 1986, was recognised as a pre-eminent group by India. Under the Central government's pressure exercised through the Tamil Nadu government, the LTTE supremo, V.Prabhakaran, met President Jayewardene when he visited India in November 1986.[98] But Prabhakaran's rejection of the Sri Lankan government's proposal had invited further pressure from the Indian government. Under New Delhi's directive, the Tamil Nadu government undertook a limited action aimed at dis-empowering the LTTE. It came in the form of police raids in the LTTE camps and restriction on the militants' movements in the State. Under these circumstances, Prabhakaran himself decided to return to Jaffna (Northern province).

The LTTE's entrenched position on Eelam became very clear by the end of 1986. But some of the other groups (moderates as well as militants) were prepared to accept a peace package which would create a Tamil linguistic unit (by merging the Northern and Eastern provinces together) and ensure a grater devolution of powers to the Tamil province. The Sri Lankan government forthrightly rejected the merger demand. Even its proposals to decentralise powers did not satisfy the Tamil groups like the TULF.

With the stalemate persisting in the peace front, India opted to expand its role in December 1986. Two Indian ministers held an extensive talks with both the Tamil and the Sinhalese leaders in Madras and Colombo. This resulted in the formulation of a new set of proposals called the 19 December proposals. The main thrust of these proposals was to carve out a Tamil linguistic unit in the Northern and Eastern provinces. This was to be accomplished by excising the Sinhalese dominated Amparai district from the East and linking-up the remaining two districts with the North. As regards devolution of powers to the Tamil areas, the latest proposals made a definite advance on the earlier peace packages.[99]

The India proposals evoked a mixed reaction from the conflicting parties. While the LTTE's rejection of these proposals was more open, the other groups merely expressed their reservations. President Jayewardene accepted them first, but retracted subsequently under pressure from the hardliners in his cabinet. Worse, the Sri Lankan government embarked on a large-scale military offensive to forestall the LTTE's unilateral declaration to form Eelam on 1 January 1987. This and the imposition of an economic embargo on Jaffna made the civilian life miserable. Tamil Nadu reacted sharply to these developments. The Central Government of India came under a heavy pressure to safeguard the Tamil interests in the island.

In early 1987, Indian mediation was at the cross-roads. The Indian Prime Minister's fervent plea for stopping the war was ignored by both Colombo and the militants. With the adversaries opting for a military approach to the conflict, India's mediatory efforts became meaningless. Finally, in February 1987, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi announced the suspension of all mediatory activities of his government.

It is pertinent to say that India suspended its mediation because the dominant adversaries did not want it any more. As an interested third party for more than three years, India could not accept its alienation from the conflict structure by the adversaries. This was for the same reasons that it undertook the mediatory role. Moreover, a complete victory either for the Sri Lankan government or the Tamil militants in the war was considered to be inimical to India's perceived interests. Under these circumstances, India decided to intervene in the conflict, which took place in the form of para-dropping of food and medicines in Jaffna on 4 June 1987 as a protest against the military moves of the Jayewardene regime. The mission (code-named Operation Eagle) was undertaken by the Indian Air Force in violations of Sri Lanka's air space.

The Indian intervention had a limited but an important objective. It was for both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil militants to give up their military approach and to accept India's mediatory role. The question that arises here is why did the Indian intervention appear to be supportive of the Tamil militants when they were equally inflexible in their attitude on the Eelam issue and rejective of the peace process. The answer lies in the Sri Lankan government's objective in launching the offensive in the Northern province and the relative strength of the combatants in the war.

The Sri Lankan Army was given a clear mandate to occupy the territories controlled by the LTTE. Having succeeded in bringing a large chunk of the LTTE-held areas under its control by May 1987, the Army was set to take over the Jaffna peninsula. The LTTE could not withstand the military pressure from the rejuvenated Sri Lankan Army. It was certain to loose control of the Jaffna peninsula. The fall of Jaffna would mean the fall of the LTTE. The Tamils would also loose their bargaining power if the militants lost their military strength. Such a situation would enable the Sri Lankan government to impose a settlement on the Tamils from a position of strength. This was what the Jayewardene administration had been trying very hard to achieve.

The Army's victory over the Tamil militants was not acceptable to India because it would lead to its complete alienation from the conflict. Its preference was for a military stalemate so that the adversaries would be compelled to seek a political settlement of the conflict. The expectation was that such an approach would provide India with a definite chance to resume its mediatory role. Since the chance for a military stalemate was bleak due to the power disparity between the combatants, India opted to put a halt to the military moves of Colombo. Its limited military intervention did achieve its objectives; the Jayewardene administration stopped its military offensive and lifted the economic blockade on the Jaffna peninsula.

The immediate aim of the Indian government after the suspension of the military offensive was to resume its intermediary role. Within a fortnight of the Indian military action, steps were taken to enlist Colombo's acceptance of the Indian mediation. Having lost its credibility as a mediator, India did not approach the Sri Lanka leadership directly. Rather, it used the good offices of an Indian journalist whose letter to his friend and one of trusted lieutenants of President Jayewardene (Gamini Dissanayake) outlined India's desire to resume its mediation and to guarantee the implementation of any agreement reached between the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan Tamils. The conditions attached to the offer were: non-resumption of military operations in the North and a complete lifting of economic embargo on Jaffna.[100]

President Jayewardene welcomed India's offer. But he envisaged a new role for India. He wanted it to be a direct participant in the conflict and not a mediator. He insisted that any agreement to settle the conflict must be between the two governments and not between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil groups.[101] It must be noted that he proposed the same role for India as early as in August 1986. In envisaging such a role, the Sri Lankan President's objective was very clear. He wanted to use Indian power to modify the conflict goals of the Tamil militants, especially the LTTE whose position was very much entrenched in Eelam. In other words, by seeking India's direct participation, President Jayewardene was ultimately aiming for an intervenor role for India.

When the offer for direct participation came in 1986, India's rejection was forthright. But it hesitantly accepted the offer in 1987. Another major incentive for this came from the Sri Lankan government's willingness to accommodate its regional security concerns. Hectic negotiations between the two governments in June-July 1987 culminated in the formulation of a bilateral agreement, which Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene signed on 29 July 1987.

Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement

Before analysing the efforts of the Indian and Sri Lankan governments to secure legitimacy for the Agreement, a brief outline of its provisions is presented here:[102] The preamble of the Agreement underlined the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. This implied that India would stand against the forces seeking the division of the island. The preamble also acknowledged the multi-ethnic character of Sri Lanka and recognised the distinct cultural and linguistic identity of each ethnic group. This provision had a far-reaching implication for the Sinhalese Buddhist ideology which conceived of Sri Lanka as a Sinhalese-Buddhist nation. The Northern and Eastern provinces of the island were recognised as a traditional homeland of the Tamils. Both the provinces were to be temporarily merged to form a single Tamil linguistic unit with an elected Provincial Council, a Governor, a Chief Minister and a Board of Ministers. But their permanent merger would be decided by the people of Eastern province in a referendum to be held before 31 December 1988. The Agreement provided for cessation of hostilities, the surrender of arms held by the militants, the lifting of the emergency in the North-East, and the return of the Sri Lankan security forces to barracks within a specified time frame. The Sri Lankan President would grant a general amnesty to all political prisoners and those who were accused, charged and convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other emergency laws. Finally, and more importantly, the Agreement provided an official language status to Tamil along with Sinhalese and English.

The Agreement and its Annexure listed a wide range of obligations to be discharged by India. India undertook to guarantee the implementation of the Agreement. It also agreed to take the following steps in the event of the Tamil militants' refusal to accept the Agreement. First, Indian territory would not be made available to the militants for their activities prejudicial to Sri Lanka. Second, the Indian Navy would cooperate with the Sri Lankan Navy to prevent the Tamil militants' activities from affecting Sri Lanka. Third, Indian military assistance would be extended to Sri Lanka, as and when requested, for the implementation of the Agreement. The request came immediately. India sent a contingent peace-keeping force on 30 July 1987. All these commitments were high enough to characterise India's role as an active participant in the conflict.

In return, India received security rewards. In the letters exchanged between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene, Sri Lanka agreed to reach an early understanding with India about "the relevance and employment of foreign military and intelligence personnel". It also agreed not to give Trincomalee or any other ports for "military use by any other country in a manner prejudicial to India's interests". Further, it undertook to review the foreign broadcasting stations in the island to "ensure" that any facilities set up by them would not be used for "any military or intelligence purposes". Finally, Sri Lanka agreed to undertake the restoration and operation of the Trincomalee oil tank farm as a joint venture with India. India, on its part, agreed to deport all Sri Lankans engaged in secessionist or separatist activities, and also provide military training facilities and supplies for the Sri Lankan security forces.[103]

Seeking Legitimacy for the Agreement

The major task facing the signatories to the Agreement in the months following July 1987 was to secure legitimacy for the peace package.[104] However, in deeply divided societies, the task of securing such legitimacy is generally difficult.[105] In some cases, peace packages promote one group's identity related interests at the cost of another. And, the victimised groups attempt to delegitimise the peace formula.

President Jayewardene's task, to begin with, was to secure the support of his cabinet colleagues and other UNP leaders. Equally important was the support of the opposition parties and the Sinhalese Buddhist interests groups. For Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the task was even more challenging. He had to secure the support of the Sri Lankan Tamil leaders as well as his local constituencies in India, especially Tamil Nadu. Finally, both India and Sri Lanka aimed for international support to achieve external legitimacy for their Agreement.

The international support came promptly. Except for Pakistan's vociferous criticism and China's restrained response, many countries readily endorsed the bilateral Agreement as a step towards peace and normally in the region. Among those leaders who complimented the signatories to the Agreement were the US President Ronald Reagan and the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

President Jayewardene found it difficult to sell the Agreement to the Sinhalese. Although he obtained the parliament's approval for it, consensus was lacking both in his party and ministry. The SLFP considered the Agreement as a betrayal of the Sinhalese. More importantly, the entire spectrum of Sinhalese Buddhist fronts were mobilised at short notice by various Sinhalese parties to obstruct the implementation of the Agreement. The hostile forces not only unleashed a reign of terror in Colombo and other parts of the island, but also a spate of selected killings of the supporters of the Agreement.[106] The assassination attempt on President Jayewardene on 18 August 1987 and the assault on Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a sailor at the guard of honour ceremony in Colombo on 30 July 1987 were illustrative of the Sinhalese hardliners' attempt to delegitimise the Agreement.

The Sinhalese hardliners believed that the Agreement virtually conceded the Tamil homeland demand by providing a temporary merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces. They were also upset that the Indian government, instead of the leaders of the Tamil groups, signed the Agreement with the Sri Lankan government, as the Sinhalese hardliners considered that this was a domestic issue. The popular Sinhalese perception was that Sri Lanka agreed to the Agreement under India's pressure to "carry out its own pledges to effect a political solution to the ethnic crisis".[107] Finally, the Sinhalese perceived that India exploited Sri Lanka by wining security rewards. The SLFP leader, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, maintained that "Indians have achieved much more than they dreamed of achieving". She stated that Sri Lanka became "an Indian protectorate" through the Agreement.[108] In fact, the presence of Indian troops on the island encouraged the anti-Agreement forces. They drew strength from their deep-rooted fears of India to mobilise the Sinhalese Buddhist opinion against the Agreement.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was able to sell the Agreement in India without much difficulty. Although the opposition parties in Tamil Nadu were sceptical, no open rejection came from them. The ruling party in the state stood fully behind the Indian Prime Minister's peace initiatives. In the national context, while the Left parties accepted the agreement, other opposition parties endorsed it with some reservations.

Expectedly, India's major difficulty was getting the support of the Tamil groups, especially the LTTE. Before the signing of the Agreement, India consulted them at two levels. The first involved a less strenuous effort to convince the non-LTTE groups to endorse India's new role. They had obvious reservations, particularly on the temporary merger of the North- East and ambiguity on the devolution package. They were very reluctant to accept a peace formula which did not ensure an unconditional permanent North-merger. Further, the Agreement did not spell out the amount of powers which the Tamil province would enjoy under the proposed Provincial Council framework.

Nevertheless, the non-LTTE group leaders were prepared to endorse the Agreement. The Indian leadership seemed to have made an assurance that they would try to rectify the shortcomings of the proposed framework to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils. And, even if such an assurance was not forthcoming, the dependent [on India] non-LTTE Tamil groups did not have sufficient power to restrain the determined Indian government from signing the Agreement.

The process of consultation at the second level was more challenging because the group which was to be dealt with was the LTTE. The LTTE leadership's entrenched position on Eelam was already known. When Prabhakaran displayed his disapproval to India's move to sign the Agreement, various strategies were used by the Indian leadership to win his support. First, negotiations were conducted with him by the Indian officials in Jaffna. Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Ramachandran, tried to persuade Prabhakaran to accept the proposed Agreement. Finally, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi held direct talks with the LTTE leader, leading to a fragile understanding on 29 July 1987 whereby the LTTE seemed to have agreed to endorse the Agreement.

In evolving such an understanding, the Indian Prime Minister's assurance to provide certain rewards to the LTTE formed an important incentive. It was revealed later that India agreed to recognise the LTTE's dominance in the proposed political set-up in the North-East, assured security to the Tamils in the Northern and Eastern provinces until an adequate Tamil security system was created, and more importantly, promised to pay a relief fund on monthly basis for the maintenance of the LTTE until the formation of the interim government in the North-East.[109] The amount promised was five million rupees per month; one instalment was paid by september 1987.[110]

In the end, such incentives failed to win the support of the LTTE. The group's extremist tendencies from August-October 1987 proved that Prabhakaran's intention was to delegitimise the Agreement. This became more evident when the LTTE attacked the pro-Indian militant groups and killed hundreds of Sinhalese in the first week of October 1987. India then decided to use military pressure on the LTTE, and a full-scale war broke out between the LTTE and the Indian Peace-keeping Force (IPKF) in mid-October 1987. The war lasted for more than two years.[111]

The use of force by India had transformed its role. India once again became an intervenor in the conflict. But, unlike the previous intervention (through the para-dropping action), the present one was different in its objectives. Furthermore, it was an invited intervention. The Agreement clearly authorised India to undertake such a role.

The cost of intervention was heavy for the intervenor as well as the LTTE. More than 1200 soldiers (including a good number of officers) were killed and about 2500 injured. India spent more than $ 180 million for the operation. The LTTE's casualty figure was also high - nearly 1500 dead and 2000 wounded. Above all, several hundreds of civilians were dead or injured in the IPKF-LTTE war.

Yet the LTTE could not be forced to accept the Agreement. India's failure was attributed to a combination of logistical and political reasons. First, the LTTE intermingled with the civilian population. Second, India was not clear as to what it wanted the IPKF to achieve - either the liquidation of the LTTE or weakening it into submission. Third, in the course of the IPKF operation, the Sri Lankan government itself developed interest in delegitimising the Agreement. The new regime of President Premadasa, who himself did not accept the Agreement, was not only reluctant to devolve powers to the Provincial Councils but also built bridges with the LTTE. He gave political and military support to the LTTE to fight the IPKF.

Colombo's increasing tendency to delegitimise the Agreement questioned the continuing IPKF operation against the LTTE. President Premadasa exerted enormous pressure on India to withdraw its forces from the island. He also tried to normalise relations with the LTTE leadership by holding peace talks during May 1989-June 1990. Both of them held the IPKF as their common enemy, and the common objective was to send the Indian soldiers back home. When India insisted on the full implementation of the Agreement as a pre-requisite for the withdrawal of the IPKF, the same government that had invited India to underwrite the Agreement was now asking India to abandon it. For the Premadasa regime, the conflict was an internal issue and the IPKF was an interventionist force.

The IPKF's withdrawal in March 1990 without fulfilling the objectives laid down in the Agreement led to its delegitimation. The Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE recommenced their armed fight in June 1990. The Agreement became a dead letter when the peace process in 1991-92 was conducted outside its framework.

India's role in the Sri Lankan conflict was intriguing. Beginning as a mediator, it became a intervenor at the end. Such a substantive role transformation of an intermediary is not entertained by existing theoretical constructs. Based on the Sri Lankan experience, one could argue that the interventionist role of an intermediary occurs not because of conflict escalation, but because of the changing conflict behaviour of the adversaries, the unaltered interest of the intermediary in the conflict, and the trends in the peace process. Not all the intermediaries opt to play the interventionist role after abandoning their original mediatory role, and all those who undertake such a role are highly interested leverage mediators. The possibility of substantive role transformation is high in complex ethnic conflict because of its unique structural characteristics. One of the most relevant structural variables in this regard is the asymmetrical relationship between the conflicting parties. At the same time, the adversaries in the conflict accept the expanded role of an intermediary mostly when the perceived cost of their rejection is much higher than their acceptance.

 The Third Phase: Internal Exercise

If power mediation-cum-intervention fails to achieve an enduring settlement of an ethnic conflict, what could be the next conflict management method preferable to the adversaries? Will they accept another intermediary to restart the entire peace process? Or, will they prefer an indigenous exercise again? The existing conflict theory does not seem to have a definite answer. Given the political incumbent's desire to control the peace process and to achieve a settlement at a low cost (i.e., without much compromise on its part), its first preference would be to keep the conflict internal. It probably would opt for a third party intermediary only in a situation where the other party is in a position to impose a settlement from the position of its strength. On the other hand, if the minority ethnic group leaders (or militants or insurgents) have lost their power to bargain effectively with the political incumbent or are facing the prospect of an imposed settlement by the political incumbent, a third party-controlled peace process would probably be its most preferred choice.

In Sri Lanka, the conflict structure became an indigenous exercise after India's withdrawal. In August 1991, the Sri Lankan Parliament constituted a committee to search for peace on the island. Headed by an opposition party (SLFP) member of parliament, the 45- member Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) was represented by almost all the parties in parliament. If the PSC's strength lay in the fact that all major Sinhalese parties were its members, its weakness was that the LTTE was not involved in the exercise.

As per the mandate of the PSC, any political package to settle the conflict should be evolved through a consensus among the committee members. This means that peace proposals were not to be adopted on the basis of majority vote. This was because that the PSC was dominated by the UNP and the SLFP members with 23 and 12 seats, respectively. The Tamil and the Muslim parties had only 10 members.

Thus, consensus was the key word in the exercise. But the question which confronted the Tamil leaders was how to arrive at a consensus when the mainstream Sinhalese parties acted in a manner that indicated that they were courting Sinhalese votes. That both the parties were using the ethnic issue for political one-upmanship was evident from their non-committal role in the PSC. Feeling vulnerable to the political sniping from the Opposition, the UNP did not spell out its proposal to reach a consensus on the merger issue. Instead, it wanted the SLFP to take the initiative to work out a consensus. But the SLFP preferred to know the stand of the UNP before it put forward its proposals on the North-East merger issue. If the UNP were to adopt an anti-merger stance, the SLFP would not take the risk of antagonising the majority Sinhalese opinion on this major plank.

Nevertheless, the non-LTTE Tamil groups took the entire exercise in the PSC seriously. Their decision to take a united stand on the Tamil issue testified to their desire to conduct serious bargaining with the Sinhalese leaders. In June 1992, the CWC leader Thondaman worked out a minimum programme in consultation with other groups and presented it to the PSC. The four-point formula called for the unconditional permanent merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces, greater devolution of powers to the Provincial Councils, and institutional units and constitutional safeguards for the protection of the interests of the Muslims and the Sinhalese living in the Tamil areas. Other salient features of the Thondaman proposals were: the creation of a High Court for the Province, exclusive control of the Provincial government over the state lands, the establishment of a Provincial police force, the setting up of a Provincial Planning Commission, and the granting of powers to the Provincial government to enjoy full control over public finance as well as to pursue foreign aid. According to the proposals, the ports and harbours, and even provincial television and broadcasting came under the Provincial List. The Reserved List included subjects like defence, foreign affairs and currency.[112]

By any standard, the Thondaman proposals were asking more than what the Sinhalese were prepared to concede. The proposals were not even considered for a serious discussion in the PSC; the Sinhalese parties had rejected them instantly. They also opposed a compromise peace formula worked out by the PSC Chairman, Mangala Moonesinghe himself.

The UNP and the SLFP abandoned their non-committal role in the PSC in December 1992 when they jointly (perhaps, for the first time) worked out a peace formula. It envisaged for devolution of powers on the Indian model to the de-merged Northern and Eastern Provincial Councils without changing the unitary character of the Sri Lankan constitution. [113] What made the entire exercise in the PSC a farce was the Sinhalese members' decision to adopt the UNP-SLFP proposals as a consensus formula of the PSC regardless of the rejection by Tamil members. The PSC eventually ground to a halt in the early 1993 when the Tamil members withdrew from it.

The conflict management behaviour of the UNP and the SLFP leaders in the PSC showed that their desire was to evolve a Sinhalese peace package to settle the Tamil problem. The Tamils' weak bargaining position was thus exposed in the PSC.

Obstacles to Peace

The desire for an enduring peace in Sri Lanka has been high among both the Sinhalese and the Tamils. But their commitment to compromise on their respective conflict goals is low. This makes the creation of a peace constituency all the more difficult. Since 1992, there has been no serious effort to end the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka.

North-East Merger Issue

One of the most important obstacles has been the absence of a consensus on the issue of a permanent merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces. According to the Agreement, a referendum was to be held in the East to decide whether its temporary merger with the North under the Provincial Councils Act of 1987 should continue or both the provinces be sundered apart. The referendum was originally scheduled to be held on or before 31 December 1988. But both the Agreement and the Act vested the Sri Lanka President with the discretion to delay the exercise if necessary. As such, the President, in a series of roughly half-yearly postponements, put off the referendum owing to the Tamils' unwillingness to face it in the East and continuing violence in the North-East. The Tamils unanimously affirm that the merger of the two provinces is non-negotiable. For them, a Tamil linguistic unit can be the only alternative to Eelam.

The Tamil's opposition to referendum is shaped by the demographic reality in the Eastern Province. The population distribution is such that no single community-- Tamils or Muslim or Sinhalese-- can carry a vote on its own. Pitchforked between the Tamils and the Sinhalese, the Muslims hold the key to the outcome of a referendum. The Tamils (both Sri Lankan and Indian) account for about 42 % of the total population in the East, while the Sinhalese and the Muslims, 21 % and 32.3 % respectively. In district-wise terms, Batticaloa is the only district out of three in the Eastern Province where the Tamils are in a majority (72 %), while the Sinhalese and the Muslims account for 3.4 % and 24 % respectively. The population in Trincomalee district is more or less equally distributed among all three communities (Sinhalese--33.6 %, Tamils--36.4 % and Muslims--29.0 %). In Amparai district, the Tamils form a minority community (20.4 %), the Sinhalese account for 37.8 % and the Muslims are the majority (41.5 %). Thus, Batticaloa is a Tamil dominated district, Amparai is a Muslim majority district and no community holds a predominant position in Trincomalee district.[114]

As the Muslims will play a crucial role in deciding the course of the referendum (as and when it is held), a probe into their likely response to the Tamils' North-East merger demand is needed. Despite the fact that the Muslims in the North-East speak Tamil, they uphold their distinct group identity. They consider themselves as Tamil speaking people, but not Tamils in ethnic terms. In this context, a Muslim leader stated that "there are two communities--the Tamils and the Muslims--in the Tamil speaking region and it should not be misconstrued to mean and include the Tamil community alone".[115] Stressing the Muslims' separate ethnic identity in the island, another leader asserted:"This country is the home not merely of the Tamils and Sinhalese but also of a third nation, the Ceylon Moors".[116] The Muslim's have supported some of the various Tamil demands since the forties, but they have also opposed many. But their opposition to the Tamil Eelam demand was strong. The reason can be found in the following statement of a Muslim leader:  

In the event of a partition, the Muslims would become a mini minority within a minority. No Muslim would like to be a minority (sic) in a so-called Tamil State in which another minority will assume majority status. It would militate against our own self-preservation as a community.[117]

When the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement was signed, some of the Muslims did not welcome the provisions regarding the North-East merger. Their fear was that in the merged North-East, they would be placed at the mercy of the Tamil community. As such, they demanded for a separate Muslim majority provincial council by linking together the Muslim dominated areas in the East.

The Tamils might have accepted the conditional North-East merger clause of the Indo- Sri Lanka Agreement if they were sure of getting the Muslim support at the referendum. In which case the UNP leadership might not have agreed even for the conditional merger. At present, the North-East merger is a ticklish issue. Neither the Sinhalese nor the Tamils are prepared to compromise, and no attempt is being made to break the deadlock.

The Unitary Constitution

Coupled with the North-East merger issue is the more complicated problem of devolving of powers to the Provincial Councils. While the Tamils' objective is to achieve at least a semi- federal system which would give greater autonomy to the North-East, the Sinhalese seek to maintain firm Central control over the Tamil areas. In this regard, the centralising features of the Sri Lanka Constitution and the strong centralising tendencies of the State add complexities to the issue of power sharing in the island.[118] The administrative structure of the Provincial Council, set up under the Provincial Councils Act of 1987, consists of a Governor appointed by the President, an elected Council, a Chief Minister from the Council, and a Board of Ministers (with not more than five members). Under the 13th Amendment to the 1987 Agreement, powers and functions of the Centre and Provinces are enumerated under three lists. The Provincial Council List specified the responsibilities and powers of the provinces on almost 37 subjects. The Reserved List delineated the domain of the Centre on nearly 16 items. The Concurrent List authorised both the Provinces and the Centre to legislate in about 36 specified matters, subject to the over-riding powers of the Centre.[119] Although some of the Sinhalese commentators maintain that the 13th Amendment has changed the Constitution into a quasi-federal one, and that the current constitutional provisions are not different from the federal system in India,[120] the truth is altogether different.

A careful scrutiny of the 13th Amendment reveals that the Centre has retained its centralising powers and devolved powers to the provinces in a limited form. The Centre enjoys overriding powers not merely in respect of the Concurrent List and the Reserved List but also with regard to the formulation of national policy on all subjects and functions. Another drawback of the Sri Lankan model of devolution under the 13th Amendment is that the Provincial Councils are heavily dependent on the Centre for financial resources. Most of the powers relating to taxation have remained with the Centre. As such, the resource generating capacity of the provinces is limited. The total revenue of a province constitutes only a tiny fraction (5 %) of the national revenue.[121]

What the Tamils want is greater power sharing between the Centre and the Provinces which would have to go beyond what the 13th Amendment has hitherto provided, which effectively means a semi-federal structure. There are obvious limitations to this within the present unitary constitution. Federalism is still a dirty word to the Sinhalese. They also view federal autonomy as the first step towards the creation of Eelam. So long as their resistance to at least a quasi-federal set-up is high, a deadlock on the devolution issue is inevitable. This could well prove to be an obstacle to peace in Sri Lanka.


The LTTE, in its present stridently armed form, constitutes a stumbling block to peace in Sri Lanka. Peace is not possible unless the LTTE is either totally disarmed or altered sufficiently to make it willing to come to the negotiating table. It is the only group in control of the Jaffna peninsula as the others have been functioning from Colombo. For fear of losing their lives and property, the Tamils living in the North dare not oppose the LTTE. Hence, they submit to the rules of governance now in place.

In the past, despite its entrenched position on Eelam, the LTTE indicated its willingness for peace talks when it found it difficult to stand up to the offensive of the Sri Lankan Army. But time and again, it called for negotiations and then went back on its word. It used the cease- fires to regroup, rearm and to attack the government forces afresh. With this bad track-record, the Sri Lankan government does not show much interest in peace talks without militarily weakening or defeating the militants. The LTTE has isolated itself so completely that the Sinhalese resistance to any negotiation with it has become even more intransigent.

Thus the Sri Lankan government at present addresses the ethnic conflict more as a military problem than a political issue. With its fast growing economy, the government does not face constraints any longer to finance the war. But the Army has been finding it hard to register a definite military victory over the LTTE. Its present strategy is to kill as many LTTE men as possible, and to prevent them from infiltrating into Colombo to attack the political leaders. But there is a question mark over the LTTE's willingness to join the peace process even after being militarily weakened. It can return to fight a guerrilla war. As a ruthless group with an entrenched position on Eelam, it can also disrupt any political process initiated under any peace plan.  

The Sinhalese Pressure Groups

It is important to note that the Buddhist pressure groups play a significant role in shaping the frontline Sinhalese parties' rigid stance on the Tamils demand for North-East merger and autonomy. This is because the parties primarily derive their electoral strength from the Sinhalese Buddhist organisations. No party can survive in the country's competitive electoral process without the collective support of the Buddhist monks. As such, their opinions on matters of national importance always find place not only in the policy formulations of the government but also the programmes of the major opposition parties.

The Buddhist monks and other interest groups have been hostile to the North-East merger and autonomy to the Tamil areas. Their contention, which is often expressed openly, is that since the Sinhalese are the legitimate heirs to the island, the conflict should be settled according to their terms and conditions. This is contrary to the aim of defensive Tamil nationalism which is grounded on the principle of ethnic equality.


The conflict waging in Sri Lanka is a long-drawn out event. It is between two equally determined ethnic groups with highly incompatible goals. The changing dynamics of the conflict have been marked by the changing conflict goals and the conflict behaviour of the parties. This paper has underlined the linkages between goal escalation and violent coercive conflict behaviour of the parties. The Sri Lankan conflict also illustrates the fact that in ethnic conflict the intra-party factions contribute enormously to the overall intensity of the conflict through their violent coercive conflict behaviour. It also reveals that goal escalation accompanied by an increase in the intensity of the conflict tends to involve patrons whose input into the conflict structure intensifies it. Also evident in the Sri Lankan case is the effectiveness of competitive electoral process on limiting the conflict management options of the political incumbent.

The persistence of a hurting stalemate in the peace process in Sri Lanka testifies to the intractability of the conflict. While the conditions for intractability arise from fundamentally different perceptions, motives or ambitions and consciousness of the Sinhalese and the Tamils, its sources are mainly produced by their competing interests in territory and power.

Finally, the Sri Lankan conflict illustrates that the outbreak of ethnic violence is not a sudden phenomenon. Rather, it is the outcome of a gradual process facilitated by the failure or non-employment of conflict management mechanisms. An ethnic conflict generally passes through different stages in its life cycle to attain the phase of exacerbation marked by intense violence and tensions. Some of the possible stages which could be identified against the background of the conflict in Sri Lanka are: grievance building, alienation, polarisation, mobilisation, consolidation, escalation, low-intensity hostilities, high-intensity hostilities, stalemate, de-escalation, and settlement. The first three stages of the conflict are more or less at the perceptional level for the ethnic group (in the most cases the minority) which is seeking a better deal in the polity and society.

Grievance building is the stage where the minority group develops a feeling of resentment or injustice at having been unfairly treated by the dominant ethnic group (in most cases the majority). If its grievances are not seriously addressed, the ethnic group tends to develop a feeling of alienation from the national mainstream which in course of time will lead to a complete polarisation of the society along ethnic lines. It must be noted that the basic goal of the minority group at these stages is to achieve an affirmative action by the government to redress its grievances; and the means adopted in this connection are purely constitutional. Yet these stages are not always marked by intense protest movements as the way of articulating demands. Appropriate steps to manage the conflict at this level would yield positive results before the conflict becomes intractable. Failure on the part of the political incumbent to accept the legitimate demands of the minority group will cause them to use ethnic identity as a catalyst for mobilisation and action.

Ethnic mobilisation is a political action undertaken by the group leadership with a view to achieving a maximum backup to the group's demands. It is at the stage of mobilisation that the possible change of original conflict goal of the group (e.g.,from affirmative action to systemic change or autonomy) is considered. But the new goal is put into the general agenda only in the wake of the political incumbent continuing with its negative response and if the process of mobilisation of ethnic support is complete and consolidated. Although mobilisation is still a political exercise, elements of violence or threat of violence come to feature in the consolidation stage. The escalation stage comes quickly if the parties adopt violent coercive tactics in the consolidation stage. The escalation stage can be explained not only in terms of escalation of goal (e.g.,from systemic or institutional change to secession) but also escalation of confrontation involving conventional military violence. If the level of military confrontation is low, the intensity of hostilities will also remain low. The level of hostilities will rise (civil war) when military confrontation increases.

It may be assumed that although ethnic conflicts are mostly with asymmetrical power distribution between the parties, it is difficult for the dominant adversary to achieve an outright victory over the weaker party when the conflict life cycle has reached the civil war stage. This is because the conflict enters such a stage only when the weaker party acquires the capability to inflict and sustain damage, otherwise, there is a stalemate. In the stalemate stage the adversaries are more amenable to peace initiatives. A third party involvement with the stated objective of achieving a settlement between the adversaries may result in the de-escalation of the conflict. The de-escalation stage is characterised not only by de-escalation of military confrontation (through a cease-fire) but also by a reconsideration of the conflict goals (e.g., from secession to autonomy demand). A successful third party mediation is marked by the settlement of the conflict between the adversaries leading to the restoration of peace ; its failure means a revival of hostilities. The conflict is thus pushed back to the stalemate stage or the stage of high-intensity or low-intensity hostilities.

A word of caution is in order. Our intention in drawing the conflict life cycle in the manner presented above is merely to demonstrate that each ethic conflict (except irredentist movements) passes through several stages in its life and each stage provides ample opportunity for conflict management. This is however not to claim that all ethnic conflicts pass through the stages outlined above. Some conflicts may remain latent for some period, then erupt suddenly only to subside again, only to explode again, and thus the cycle continues. It should also be emphasised that conflict development (accompanied by goal escalation and escalation of tensions) is a process which comes into being as a result of conflict mismanagement. The Eelam movement in Sri Lanka is amongst them.


[1]. A study estimates the total economic costs of political violence in Sri Lanka during 1983-88 at $ 4.2 billion. John M. Richardson,Jr and S.W.R. de A. Samarasinghe, "Measuring the Economic Dimensions of Sri Lanka's Ethnic Conflict", in S.W.R. de A. Samarasinghe and Reed Coughlan, eds., Economic Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict: International Perspectives (London: Pinter Publishers, 1991), pp.194-223. For a study on the same subject, see L.Ross and T.Samaranayake, "The Economic Impact of the Recent Ethnic Disturbances in Sri Lanka", Asian Survey (Berkeley), vol.26, no.11, 1986, pp.1240-55. As regards the loss of civilian lives, it seems likely that more than twenty thousand people were killed in the last ten years.

[2]. An intractable conflict is one which is not easily amenable to any meaningful resolution and thus is endemic to the given society. For a conceptual clarification, see Louis Kriesberg, et al., eds., Intractable Conflict and their Transformation, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1989).

[3]. Population figures are from Sri Lanka, Ministry of Plan Implementation, Department of Census and Statics, Census of Population and Housing 1981, General Report, vol.1,(Colombo, 1986), table.9.7, pp.118.

[4]. Urmila Phadnis, Ethnicity and Nation-building in South Asia, (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1989), p.43.

[5]. The basic premise on which the Tamils put forth the `traditional homeland' concept has been that they lived as the dominant community in the two areas from ancient times. A Tamil Kingdom, which was finally established in the 13th century with Jaffna as capital, exercised its control over the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka. The kingdom continued as a separate entity (except during 1450-1467, when it was seized by a Sinhalese Prince, Sapumal) until its annexation by the Portuguese in 1619 and occupation, later, by the Dutch in 1656. Finally, it was the British colonial rule which abolished the separate system of administration which hitherto existed along racial lines, and brought the entire island under a unified administrative set-up in 1833. See S. Arasaratnam, Ceylon (Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall, Inc.,1964), pp.98-116, 124-72; Satchi Ponnambalam, Sri Lanka: The National Question and the Tamil Liberation Struggle (London: Zed Books, 1983), chapters 2 and 3.

[6]. The Sinhalese, on the other hand, hold the view that most of the areas in the Eastern province had never been a part of the Jaffna Kingdom. As such, a Sinhalese historian termed the theory of `Tamil traditional homeland' as a "political myth", based on a "fragile foundation of pseudo-historical data and demography". K.M. de Silva, Traditional Homeland of the Tamils of Sri Lanka: A Historical Appraisal, International Centre for Ethnic Studies Occasional Paper, No.1 (Kandy, Sri Lanka, 1987); Ibid., "Separatism in Sri Lanka: the `Traditional Homelands' of the Tamils" in Ralph R. Premdas, et.al., eds., Secessionist Movements in Comparative Perspective (London: Pinter Publishers, 1990), pp. 32-47.

[7]. Census of Population and Housing, op.cit., Table.9.7, pp. 118.

[8]. A Tamil leader, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam told the Sinhalese: "We are not asking for the division of the country by this [Eelam] movement. We are only trying to regain what we have lost [during the colonial period]". Sri Lanka, National State Assembly Debates, vol.20, no.10, 19 November 1976, col.1965.

[9]. Kumari Jayawardena, "Class Formation and Communalism", Race and Class (London), vol.26, no.1, Summer 1984, p.60.

[10]. The Duttugamunu spirit pervades the mind of the militant Sinhalese Buddhists who compare the present ethnic conflict with the mythical episode involving King Elara and Prince Duttugamunu. Evidently, the Sinhalese thugs who carried out the July 1983 violence against the Tamils claimed that they were the followers of Duttugamunu. See Serena Tennekoon, "Some Reflections on Historical Revisionism and Nationalism: The Divayina Debate on Ethnicity and Social Change", South Asian Bulletin, vol. 6, no.2, Fall 1986, p.29.

[11]. Quoted in Jayawardena, op.cit., p.61.

[12]. On the beleaguered nature of the Sinhalese language vis-a-vis the Tamil language, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike told the Sri Lankan Parliament: "The majority of the Sinhalese felt that as Tamil was spoken by so many millions in other countries and possessed a much wider literature...it would have an advantage over Sinhala...Also they felt that not only in the Northern and Eastern provinces was there a majority of Tamils, but that there was a large number of Tamil people in the Sinhalese provinces...and all this would create a situation where the natural tendency would be for the use of Sinhala to shrink and probably in the course of time almost to reach the point of elimination". Ceylon, Department of Information, The Government and the People: A Collection of Speeches made by the Prime Minister of Ceylon, the Hon. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (Colombo, 1959), pp.13-14.

[13]. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike stated in 1955: "In most of the towns and villages, in business houses and in boutiques, most of the work is in the hands of Tamil speaking people which will inevitably result in a fear, and I do not think an unjustified fear, of shrinking of the Sinhalese". Ceylon, Department of Information, Towards a New Era: Selected Speeches of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike made in the Legislature of Ceylon, 1931-1959 (Colombo, 1961), p.295.

[14]. The Ceylon National Congress (CNC) was formed in 1919 by the Sinhalese and Tamil elites with Ponnambalam Arunachalam with its first President. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, a Tamil, was the first Sri Lankan to be elected to the Legislative Council in 1912 after defeating a Sinhalese candidate. His brother, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was the first president of the Ceylon Reform League in 1917.

[15]. C.R. Mitchell, The Structure of International Conflict (London:Macmillan, 1981), p. 4.

[16]. Vivienne Jabri, Mediating Conflict: Decision Making and Western Intervention in Namibia (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), p.18-19.

[17]. Mitchell, op.cit, p.41.

[18]. Ibid, p.37.

[19]. Ibid, p.29.

[20]. R.J. Rummel, "Dimensions of Conflict Behaviour Within and Between Nations", in Jonathan Wilkenfeld, ed., Conflict Behaviour and Linkage Politics, (New York: David Mckay co.Inc., 1973), pp.59-106.

[21]. Raymond Tanter, "Dimensions of Conflict Behaviour Within Nations, 1955-60: Turmoil and Internal War", Peace Research Society (International) Papers, vol.III, pp. 159-84.

[22]. Tanter's conception of internal war differs from Eckstein's in the sense that the former uses the term in the more restricted sense rather than the latter's broader sense.Eckstein defines internal war as "attempts to change by violence, or threat of violence, a government's policies, rulers, or organization". Included in this conception are revolutions, civil wars, guerrilla wars, localized rioting, terrorism, mutinies, and coup d'etat. Harry Eckstein, "Introduction: Toward the Theoretical Study of Internal War", in Eckstein, ed., Internal War: Problems and Approaches (New York:Free Press of Glencoe, 1964),pp.1 and 3.

[23]. Louis Kriesberg, Social Conflicts, (Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice- Hall, Inc., 1982), p.15. For Jabri, the intensity of the conflict behaviour is determined by "the degree to which parties seek to harm each other by using more or less severe forms of coercion". Jabri, op.cit, p.18.

[24]. I have classified here under each type some of the possible external support to the secessionists identified in a study by Alexis Heraclides, The Self-Determination of Minorities in International Politics (London: Frank Cass, 1991), pp. 248-49.

[25]. Louis Kreisberg, "Interlocking Conflicts in the Middle East", in Kriesberg, ed., Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, vol. 3, 1980 (Greenwich, Connecticut: Jai Press Inc, 1980), pp. 100-102.

[26]. The CNC itself was split on the issue of the Sinhalese opposition to the Sri Lankan Tamils' demand for a reserved seat in the Sinhalese dominated Western province.

[27]. Robert N. Kearney, Communalism and Language in the Politics of Ceylon (Durham: Duke University Press, 1967), pp.33-34.

[28]. It was popularly called as the `fifty-fifty' scheme, i.e., parity of representation of the majority community with all the minorities in the legislature.

[29]. This could be seen in the enhancement of the representation of the minorities, prohibition of discrimination in legislation against any community and the creation of a second chamber (Senate) with a suspensory veto (see below).

[30]. For a succinct account of the language issue in the 1950s, see W. Howard Wriggins, Ceylon: Dilemmas of a New Nation (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 169-269.

[31]. See Robert C. Oberst, "Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka", Publius (Denton, Texas), vol.18, no.3, Summer 1988, pp. 175-94.

[32]. Data for the table are from P.Sahadevan, India and the Tamil Problem in Sri Lanka, 1965-85, M.Phil Dissertation, Jawaharlal Nehru Univrsity, New Delhi, 1986, pp. 154-56.

[33]. For instance, with electoral considerations in mind, the Centre had bifurcated the Tamil dominated Batticaloa district to create the Amparari district in 1963. Often, the Sri Lankan Tamil leaders protested against the Centre's attempt to merge several traditional Tamil villages with predominant Sinhalese electoral districts. For details on the implications of the colonisation programme, see Chelvadurai Manogaran, Ethnic Conflict and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka (Honolulu:University of Hawaii Press, 1987), pp.78-114.

[34]. For details on the university admissions problem between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, see K.M. de Silva, "University Admissions and Ethnic Tension in Sri Lanka, 1977-82". in Robert B. Goldmann and A. Jeyaratnam Wilson, eds., From Independence to Statehood: Managing Ethnic Conflict in Five African and Asian States (London: Frances Pinter Publishers, 1984), pp. 97-110, and Chandra Richard de Silva, "Sinhala- Tamil Relations and Education in Sri Lanka: The University Admissions Issue-- The First Phase, 1971-77", in Goldmann and Wilson, Ibid, pp. 125-46.

[35]. Chandra Richard de Silva, Ibid, Table.9.4, pp. 138-140.

[36]. See S.J. Tambiah, "Ethnic Representation in Ceylon's Higher Administrative Services, 1870-1946", University of Ceylon Review, vol.13, nos.2 and 3, April-July 1955, pp.113-34.

[37]. S.W.R. de A. Samarasinghe, "Ethnic Representation in Central Government Employment and Sinhala-Tamil Relations in Sri Lanka: 1948-1981", in Goldmann and Wilson, op.cit, pp.173-84.

[38]. See Neelan Tiruchelvam, "Ethnicity and Resource Allocation", in Goldmann and Wilson, op.cit., pp.185-95.

[39]. Ibid., "The Politics of Decentralisation and Devolution: Competing Conceptions of District Development Councils in Sri Lanka", in Goldmann and Wilson, op.cit., p.198.

[40]. In the same period, the British colonial government could also be viewed as one of the parties supporting, by and large, the Sinhalese position on various issues.

[41]. Marshall R. Singer, "Prospects for Conflict Management in the Sri Lankan Ethnic Crisis, in Joseph V. Montville, ed., Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1989), p.264.

[42]. A. Jeyaratnam Wilson, "Ethnic Strife in Sri Lanka: The Politics of Space", in John Coakley, ed., The Territorial Management of Ethnic Conflict (London: Frank Cass and Co., 1993), p. 147.

[43]. Kearney, op.cit., pp.93-98.

[44]. LTTE, Political Committee, Liberation Tigers and Tamil Eelam Freedom Struggle (Madras: Mackkal Achchakam, 1983), p. 25.

[45]. An `associate party' may be defined as a group which does not directly participate in the conflict, but is affected by the conflict and has a stake in its outcome.

[46]. Kearney, op.cit., p.107.

[47]. The FP leader, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam's statement in parliament, quoted in Ibid, p.107.

[48]. C. Suntheralingam, Eylom: Beginnings of Freedom Struggle (Colombo: Arasan Printers, 1967), p.32.

[49]. See Wriggins, op.cit, pp.266-67.

[50]. See for details Tarzie Vittachi, Emergency '58 (London: Andre Deutsch, 1958).

[51]. Kearney, op.cit, p.108.

[52]. The Hindu (Madras), 31 January 1961.

[53]. James Jupp, Sri Lanka: Third World Democracy (London :Frank Cass, 1978), p.183.

[54]. A. Jeyaratnam Wilson, Politics in Sri Lanka 1947-1973 (London: Macmillan, 1974), p.167.

[55]. Ibid. p. 168.

[56]. W.A. Wiswa Warnapala, "Sri Lanka in 1972: Tension and Change", Asian Survey, vol. 13, no.2, February 1973, p.223.

[57]. Sri Lanka, National State Assembly Debates, vol.1, no.5, 4 July 1972, cols.348-49.

[58]. The Sansoni Commission (which was set up to enquire the violence) reported this. Virginia a. Leary, Ethnic Conflict and Violence in Sri Lanka (Geneva: International Commission of Jurists, 1984), p.20.

[59]. Phadnis, op.cit, p.203.

[60]. See Mayan Vije, Militarisation in Sri Lanka (London: Tamil Information Centre, 1986), pp.23-24; and Srikant Mohapatra, "Sri Lanka: Threat Perception and Defence Build-up", Strategic Analysis (New Delhi), vol. 15, no.3, June 1992, pp. 239-62.

[61]. Indian Express (Madras), 6 June 1985.

[62]. Phadnis, op.cit, p.201.

[63]. See Shelton U. Kodikara, "Internationalization of Sri Lanka's Ethnic conflict: The Tamil Nadu Factor", in K.M. de Silva and R.J. May, eds., Internationalization of Ethnic Conflict (London: Pinter Publishers, 1991), pp. 107-114.

[64]. K.M. de Silva, "Indo-Sri Lanka Relations, 1975-89: A Study in the Internationalization of Ethnic Conflict", in Silva and May, op.cit, p.84.

[65]. S.D. Muni, Pangs of Proximity: India and Sri Lanka's Ethnic Crisis (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1993), p.67.

[66]. Ibid., p.57.

[67]. See Mick Moore, "Thoroughly Modern Revolutionaries: The JVP in Sri Lanka", Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge), vol. 27, part.3, July 1993, pp.593-642.

[68]. The JVP's position was divided on the Tamil Eelam movement. A section of the leadership sought to disapprove it, and the other wanted to forge a cooperation with the Tamil militants to launch a united revolutionary movement against the government

[69]. The danger of `Indian expansionism' had been one of the `five lectures' which the JVP leader, Rohana Wijeweera, used in training sessions for the new party cadres.

[70]. By management, we mean those political arrangements undertaken by the political incumbent to accommodate the minority ethnic group's genuine identity-related interests to the extent that it would curtail the conflict growth and prevent the ethnic turbulence from becoming an enduring part of the political landscape of the given conflict-riven society. At the same time, it is not anticipated that the process of conflict management would achieve an enduring harmony between the groups which experienced bitter inter-ethnic conflict.

[71]. Ethnic conflict is politicised when political parties seek to bring in their political contests the ethnic or segmental issues. Ethnicized polity is characterised by the government's involvement in a `partisan way' in public policy arena which impinge on the values and interests of the ethnic groups.

[72]. Zartman identifies only two ways--unilateral and bi-or multilateral. I. William Zartman, "Negotiations and prenegotiations in Ethnic Conflict: the Beginning, the Middle, and the Ends", in Montville, ed., Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies, op.cit., p.511.

[73]. India's involvement in Sri Lanka's peace process began in the wake of the July 1983 violence. It ended its peacemaking role when it withdrew its forces from the island in March 1990 (see below).

[74]. Arend Liphart advocates four principles to establish a consociational democracy: grand coalition government, constitutional vetoes, proportional representation and communal autonomy. Arend Lijphart, Democracy in Plural Societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), pp. 25-44.

[75]. Wilson, op.cit., pp.189-265.

[76]. Ceylon, House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates, vol, 30, cols.1309-1311.

[77]. Ceylon, Department of Information, The Official Language and the Reasonable Use of Tamil (Colombo: Government Press, n.d), pp.41-44.

[78]. For the Text see Manogaran, op.cit., p.190.

[79]. See Donald L. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), pp. 639-43.

[80]. A "quasi-mediator" is someone who is a member of one of the conflicting parties who provide mediatory services between the adversaries. Louis Kriesberg, "Formal and Quasi-Mediators in International Disputes: An Explanatory Analysis", Journal of Peace Research, vol.28, no.1, February 1991, pp. 19-28. The quasi-mediator in Sri Lanka was Professor A.J. Wilson, a close relative of Chelvanayakam.

[81]. See Tiruchelvam, "The Politics of Decentralisation ..." op.cit., pp.203-209, and K.M. de Silva, "Decentralisation and Regionalism in the Management of Sri Lanka's Ethnic Conflict", International Journal of Group Tensions, vol. 19, no.4, Winter 1989, pp.325-330.

[82]. Contrarily, Horowitz argues that electoral incentives can be a "technique" as well as a source of "motives" for conflict reduction. Donald L.Horowitz, Ethnic Conflict Management for Policymakers", in Montville, op.cit., p.118.

[83]. The entire gamut of India's activities since 1983 cannot be viewed under the framework of `mediation'. Initially, India's chosen role was to broker peace between the adversaries. But it abandoned this role to become an `intervenor' towards the end. The present section attempts to identify the factors and forces that contributed to its substantive `role transformation' (from mediation to intervention).

[84]. Muni, op.cit., pp.51-54.

[85]. Ibid, pp. 54-59.

[86]. Statement made by J.N. Dixit, India's most controversial High Commissioner in Colombo, who contributed very much to India's Sri Lanka policy during the Rajiv Gandhi rule. The text of his speech was published by the United Services of India in its journal. U.S.I Journal (New Delhi), no.497, July-September 1989, pp. 249 and 251.

[87]. Her statement in Parliament on 5 August 1983. The Statesman (New Delhi), 6 August 1983.

[88]. For details on the type of rewards for third party intermediary activities, see C.R. Mitchell, "The Motives for Mediation", in C.R. Mitchell and K. Webb, eds., New Approaches to International Mediation (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1988), pp. 39-45

[89]. There is a very large literature on the Indian involvement in Sri Lanka since 1983. Some of the notable works are Muni, op.cit., Silva, "Indo-Sri Lanka Relations...", op.cit., pp. 76-106; Ibid, "The Making of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord: The Final Phase--June-July 1987", in K.M. de Silva and S.W.R.de A. Samarasinghe, eds., Peace Accords and Ethnic Conflict (London: Pinter Publishers, 1993), pp. 112-55; Ralph R. Premdas and S.W.R. de A Samarasinghe, "Sri Lanka's Ethnic Conflict: The Indo-Lanka Peace Accord", Asian Survey, vol.28, no.6, June 1988, pp. 676-90.

[90]. The Hindu (Madras), 1 December 1983.

[91]. For the text of the Annexure-C, see Muni, op.cit., pp.204-205.

[92]. Empowerment may be defined as a "third-party activity of conferring power on a weaker party in a conflict perceived as asymmetric with the aim of making the weaker party a `realistic' negotiating power". A.J.R. Groom and K. Webb, "Injustice, Empowerment, and Facilitation in Conflict", International Interactions, vol.13, no.3, 1987, p.264.

[93]. Statement by A.A. Rahim (Minister of State for External Affairs) in Parliament. Economic Times (New Delhi), 4 April 1984.

[94]. Times of India (New Delhi), 6 May 1985.

[95]. See his interview to the Hindu, 11 April 1985.

[96]. Times of India, 17 July 1985.

[97]. The Hindu, 22 August 1986.

[98]. In enlisting the LTTE's involvement in negotiation, India used the services of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M.G. Ramachandran, because of his clout on the group. In fact, the LTTE was patronised by Ramachandran's government; it was instrumental in empowering the LTTE more than other groups.

[99]. The Hindu, 20 December 1986.

[100]. Silva, "The Making of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord...", op.cit., p.119.

[101]. Ibid, p.125.

[102]. The text of the Agreement,its Annexure and the letters exchanged between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Jayewardene were published by India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India-Sri Lanka Agreement (Delhi: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 1987).

[103]. Ibid., pp.11-12.

[104]. By legitimacy, we mean the `undiluted support and commitment' of all social and political forces operating within the conflict structure to the conflict management behaviour of the conflict group leaders. In the case of Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement, it needed `external legitimacy' (by foreign countries) too because India committed its armed forces for implementing the Agreement.

[105]. Kumar Rupesinghe, "The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement 1987, and Conflict Resolution in Sri Lanka", South Asia Journal (New Delhi), vol. 2, no.3, 1989, p.289.

[106]. For details see S.W.R. de A. Samarasinghe and Kamala Liyanage, "Friends and Foes of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord", in Silva and Samarasinghe, Peace Accords and Ethnic Conflict, op.cit, pp. 156-72.

[107].S helton U. Kodikara, "The Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of July 1987: Retrospect", in S. U. Kodikara, ed., South Asian Strategic Issues: Sri Lankan Perspectives (New Delhi: Sage, 1990), p.166.

[108]. Telegraph (Calcutta), 7 August 1987.

[109]. Revealed by the LTTE Political Committee's paper published in N. Seevaratnam, ed., The Tamil National Question and the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord (New Delhi: Konark Publishers, 1989), pp. 203-23.

[110]. The Hindu, 26 April 1988.

[111]. For an extensive analysis of the role of the IPKF, see Muni, op.cit., chapter. 5.

[112]. CWC, Peace and Political Stability in Sri Lanka: A Memorandum from the CWC Submitted to the Select Committee of Parliament of Sri Lanka to Recommend Ways and Means of Achieving Peace and Political Stability in the Country, 10 December, 1991 (typed).

[113]. P.Sahadevan, "Failure of Peace Process in Sri Lanka", Mainstream (New Delhi), vol.31, no.10, 16 January 1993, p.25.

[114]. The population figures are according to the 1981 Census. Census of Population and Housing, op.cit.

[115]. Statement by the SLMC leader, M.H.M. Ashraff in his article, "The Muslim Community and Peace Accord", Lagos (Colombo), vol.26, nos.3 and 4, December 1987, p.55.

[116]. Quoted in Kearney, op.cit., p.103.

[117]. Quoted in Urmila Phadnis, "Political Profile of the Muslim Minority of Sri Lanka", International Studies (New Delhi), vol.18, no.1, January-March 1979, p.31. [118]. See Urmila Phadnis, "Role of State in Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka", in Peter Schalk, ed., Lanka (Uppsala, Sweden, Uppsala Universitet, 1990), pp. 238-59. [119]. See Ariya Abeysinghe, Devolution of Powers and the Provincial Councils System : A Historical cum Politico- Administrative Perspective, Quest 98, Centre for Society and Religion, Colombo, 1989. [120]. For instance, see H.L. de Silva, An Appraisal of the Federal Alternative for Sri Lanka (Dehiwala, Sri Lanka: Sri Devi Printers, 1991). [121]. Abeysinghe, op.cit., p.48. For various such criticisms, see C. Suriyakumaran, Devolution in Sri Lanka: Origin and Concepts, Colombo, CRDS Monograph Series No.1, April 1991.