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Unformatted text preview: 7 Peace in its Wake? The 2004 Tsunami and Internal Conflict in Indonesia and Sri Lanka 1 Jason Enia is a Ph.D. candidate in Politics and International Relations at the School of International Relations, University of Southern California. P EACE IN ITS W AKE ? T HE 2004 T SUNAMI AND I NTERNAL C ONFLICT IN I NDONESIA AND S RI L ANKA Jason S. Enia Almost every recent natural disaster that has occurred within a zone of conflict has been followed by expressions of hope from both diplomats and journalists that the disaster might somehow lead to peace. In order to assess whether the concept of disaster diplomacy has any merit, more systematic comparative research is needed, contrasting cases where disaster diplomacy seems to have been present with cases where it has not. As a step in this direction, this article explores the differing outcomes with respect to the separatist conflicts in Indonesia and Sri Lanka that followed the 2004 tsunami. In each of these cases, the tsunami provided an opportunity for separatist groups to sup- ply critical public and private relief goods and thereby send a powerful signal about the functional legitimacy of their respec- tive claims to autonomy. In this way, the tsunami affected the separatists relative bargaining strength, creating an atmosphere more inclined toward peace in Indonesia and renewed civil war in Sri Lanka. The differing narratives suggest that the world pay more attention to post-disaster conflict zones given their positive and negative dynamic potential. I NTRODUCTION In August 2005, eight months after the tsunami that killed almost 130,000 8 Jason S. Enia Indonesians, the Indonesian government signed a tentative peace agree- ment in Helsinki with the rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM). The agreement, among other things, called for GAM rebels to surrender their arms in return for a promise of amnesty from the Indonesian government. It was a hopeful sign in a conflict that had disrupted life on the northern tip of Sumatra since 1976, killing over 12,000 people. Almost immediately, the agreement was hailed in the press as a victory for disaster diplomacy the notion that natural disasters can open up space for peaceful diplomatic interaction between states or domestic factions in conflict (e.g., Aglionby 2005). In Sri Lanka, however, the story was quite the opposite. Eighteen months after the tsunami, the majority Sinhalese-led Sri Lankan government and the separatist group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers), were headed for civil war (Huggler 2006). Prior to the tsunami, a 2002 cease-fire agreement that had halted two decades of combat between the government and insurgents had been steadily crumbling, and hostility between the government and the separatists seemed to be escalating. The conflict had killed almost 65,000 people since the early 1980s. However, in the months following the tsunami, which killed over 30,000 Sri Lankan...
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