Returning Home to Sri Lanka to Face Difficult and Delicate Questions in Perilous Times

By Kakuchi, Suvendrini | Nieman Reports, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Returning Home to Sri Lanka to Face Difficult and Delicate Questions in Perilous Times


Kakuchi, Suvendrini, Nieman Reports


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

After living in Japan for decades, I returned to my native Sri Lanka in 2007 for a new job. It was no ordinary homecoming. I moved to the capital city of Colombo to be director of the local office for Panos South Asia, an institute that aims to foster democratic, just and inclusive societies by working with the media. I remained there for nearly three years, working with local journalists at a time when a civil war was devastating the nation.

It is only now, months after I returned to my home in Tokyo that I have realized just how unprepared I was for my stay in Sri Lanka. At the time of my assignment, I had spent about 25 years--or more than half my life--in Japan. Yet Sri Lanka--with its natural beauty, my childhood friends, former journalist colleagues, and an army of relatives, with whom I had remained in close touch over the years--was not unfamiliar to me. No, what I'm referring to is how unprepared I was to be part of a society that was in the throes of a violent ethnic conflict spanning more than three decades. Having been out of the country for most of those years, I had been spared the horror of the military shelling and the ground battles that consumed the daily lives of civilians in the north. And in the rest of the country, grinding uncertainty faced people who worried endlessly about falling victim to the terrorist bombs that destroyed public places from time to time.

I was not unaware of these hardships and I felt great empathy for my family, friends and fellow Sri Lankans, but the hard truth was that I had not grasped the emotional complexities that had developed during a long period of war and how they affected ordinary citizens, such as the generation born after 1983 that has never known peace. This meant acknowledging media censorship as well as self-censorship, the rising appeal of nationalism, the ugly polarization between ethnic groups, and a public wariness toward foreign entities and their local partners that were mainly civil society organizations advocating a peaceful solution.

A History of Conflict

The island of Sri Lanka lies like a delicate pearl in the Indian Ocean with just 18 miles of sea separating the northern end of the country from the Tamil Nadu state in India. Historically, Sri Lanka was ruled by three kings. A Tamil king presided over the Hindu north, and Sinhala kingdoms dominated the southern and central regions of the island. British colonization united the country for more than 100 years until Sri Lanka obtained independence in 1948 and installed a parliamentary democracy.

Sri Lanka has seen many periods of ethnic rioting, including attacks by Sinhala mobs on Tamil civilians. Seventy-five percent of the 21.5 million residents of Sri Lanka are Sinhala, 14 percent are Tamil who share cultural similarities with southern India, and 8 percent are Muslims who speak Tamil; other ethnic minorities make up the rest of the population. Under the majority rule of democracy, some elections have threatened minority aspirations for equal language and cultural rights. Several key political decisions, such as creating a Sinhala Buddhist state, have been particularly traumatic, especially for the Tamil-speaking minorities. These ethnic tensions led to a violent armed struggle for a separate Tamil state in the north that ended with the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militant group in May 2009 after several failed attempts at a negotiated peace.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Returning Home to Sri Lanka to Face Difficult and Delicate Questions in Perilous Times
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.