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Unformatted text preview: COMMENTARY Economic & Political Weekly EPW June 26, 2010 vol xlv nos 26 & 27 35 What Next in Post-War Sri Lanka? Sumanasiri Liyanage Sumanasiri Liyanage ( [email protected] ) teaches political economy at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. There is a lack of sincerity on the part of the Sri Lankan government in implementing packages for devolving power to the Tamil majority provinces and there is a continued adherence to the “security paradigm” in addressing the ethnic tensions in the country. The present government’s policies therefore run the risk of renewing Tamil exclusivist national politics that could rely on militarism in the future. T he focus in this essay is not what happened in the past but what can be envisioned in the near future, particularly with regard to the n ational question in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan se- curity forces comprehensively defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE ) one year ago. However, the transforma- tion of peace writ small that was achieved in May 2009 to peace writ large has yet to be achieved and the steps taken in that direction are, in my opinion, inadequate. Although the simultaneous operation of so many variables in complex situations makes predictions almost i mpossible in social science, it is possible to identify future scenarios through the analysis of key drivers that undergird future changes. Here I identify four key drivers and four scenarios, though one is a very remote possibility. Context and Drivers Vacuum in Tamil Nationalist Politics: The comprehensive military defeat of the LTTE and the decimation of its entire leadership have created almost an un- bridgeable vacuum in Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka. All other trends in Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka revolved round their a ttitudes towards the LTTE when the latter enjoyed an unchallengeable mili- tary c apability. The two options that were available to other Tamil nationalist par- ties were either to be a proxy to the LTTE (Tamil National Alliance) or to be an opponent of it (Eelam Peoples Democratic Party – EPDP , Tamil United Liberation Front – TULF , Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal – TMVP ). When the LTTE were decimated, none of these two tendencies were in a position to present a viable Tamil nationalist political position. There are no signs that this political vacuum will be filled in the i mmediate future. The Rise of Exclusive Sinhala National- ism: The second contextual factor that is a determinant in future scenarios is the presence of Sinhala exclusivist nationalism, the manifestation of which may be traced in the mid-1990s. Since the first years of this century, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna ( JVP ) and Jathika Hela U rumaya have been in intense competition to emerge as the most prominent and vocal Sinhala party....
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