Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Armed Conflict Termination in Sri Lanka: An Opportunity to End Displaced Life and Renew Tamil-Muslim Relations

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Armed Conflict Termination in Sri Lanka: An Opportunity to End Displaced Life and Renew Tamil-Muslim Relations

Article excerpt


The 30 years of local armed conflict in Sri Lanka that broke out between the state security forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) in early 1980s came to an end after Sri Lankan government demolished the LTTE in 2009. A termination of such civil war was highly hoped by the people displaced by the same armed conflict, mainly Tamils and Muslims, to be an opportunity to return to their homes ending their protracted displaced live. The termination was also widely interpreted by Tamil and Muslim communities as an opportunity to renew their onetime ethnic relations, which today remained vulnerably damaged after this armed conflict. The return and the renewal of Tamil-Muslim relations have been two most notable aspects that have received a dominant position in social development programme and Tamil-Muslim public discourse of the post-conflict Sri Lanka. This paper is an attempt to examine if the Sri Lanka's conflict termination has really served to end the displaced life and to bring Tamil-Muslim relations back. The paper focuses only on Muslims. This is a qualitative study. 11 Muslims, five from north and six from east, were recruited with purposive sample. The data was collected by one-on-one interviews with respondents and analysed with a descriptive method. The findings suggested that the conflict termination has hardly satisfied people's hope to end their displaced live and renew their former ethnic relations. The paper, therefore, proposed some recommendations that need to be effectively advanced by government, civil communities and even non-governmental actors.

Keywords: conflict termination, Tamil- Muslim relations, government, civil community, NGOs

1. Introduction

Sri Lanka, an Island, is a home to some 21 million people featuring an ethnic and religious diversity. The people of the country are ethnically divided into three major groups: Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. Sinhalese are the ethnic majority of the country, making up 74%. They are of Aryan origin, speak Sinhala and predominantly Buddhists. Sri Lanka's largest ethnic minority includes Tamils (18%). They receive their ethnic origin from south Indian Dravidian speak Tamil and are mainly Hindus. Tamils live in the north and the east. The second largest ethnic minority after the Tamils is Muslims. The Muslims (8%) are Moor in origin (Ali, 2004; McGilvray, 2011b; Mayilvaganan, 2008). However, Muslims later re-established their ethnic identity as Muslims based on their religion of Islam. This identity transformation was a local consequence of world-wide Islamic awakening in the early 20th century (Ali, 2004). This Muslim development was not unrealistic at all since ethnic identity could be characterised based on geography, family, culture, religion and even language (Mayilvaganan, 2008). Muslims have been a ubiquitous minority of the country. Around one-third (38%) of them is concentrated in the north and east and two-third or 68% of them live elsewhere in the island. While the Muslims outside the north and east speak Sinhala as their first language, their counter parts of the north and east use Tamil as their first language (Imtiaz & Hoole, 2011; McGilvray, 2011a; McGilvray, 2011b).

1.1 Inter-Ethnic Amity in Sri Lanka

Since before independence, ethnic relations in Sri Lanka between Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims have not been necessarily harmonious. The elements that were largely driven by ethno-religious- nationalistic ideals have seriously disturbed the relations among such ethnic groups by violently rioting against lives and interests of opposite groups. The Sinhala-Muslim riot of 1915 was a most serious incident that had badly compromised Sinhalese-Muslim harmony of pre-independent Sri Lanka. This communal riot directed with the blessings of Sinhalese-Buddhist- nationalists had targeted innocent Muslim lives and their economies (Ali, 1997; Ali, 2004; International Crisis Group [ICG], 2007). The July1983 ethnic violence, popularly called "the Black July," was an infamous incident that extremely sabotaged Sinhalese-Tamil relations of post-independent Sri Lanka. …

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