Creating Peace in Sri Lanka: Civil War and Reconciliation

By Robert I. Rotberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
A Political Culture of Conflict
Jayadeva UyangodaA DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC of Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict is the determination displayed by both parties--the state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)--in seeking a decisive military breakthrough. In terms of the commitment to war and intensity of the military activity demonstrated by the state as well as by the LTTE, there is hardly a parallel anywhere in the world. Their mutual determination is such that, unless a miracle occurs, the war is likely to continue for many years.Against such a backdrop, a solution guaranteeing the minimum conditions for peace and reconstruction would require the following two measures:
1. Termination of the present war between the state and the LTTE through an agreement between them.
2. A political agreement on the nature of ethnicity-based power-sharing and its satisfactory implementation.

Given the nature of the conflict, achieving these two goals will be exceedingly difficult. The post-April 1995 phase of the conflict has been characterized by an unrelenting escalation of violence. 1 Violence has not only bred further violence; it has also reinforced the belief, equally shared by both parties to the conflict, that a decisive outcome on the battlefield might have a direct bearing on a future political settlement. Maintaining parity in offensive capabilities, gaining control of new or lost territory, and inflicting on the adversary maximum human and material losses have thus become strategic objectives of both the Sri Lankan state and the LTTE. There is no evidence to suggest that the two parties have reached, or are

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