Creating Peace in Sri Lanka: Civil War and Reconciliation

By Robert I. Rotberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
The Dangers of Devolution: The Hidden Economies of Armed Conflict

Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake

As for the war machine in itself, it seems to be irreducible to the State apparatus, to be outside its sovereignty and prior to its law: it comes from elsewhere. Indra the war god is in opposition to Varuna no less than to Mitra. He can be no more reduced to one or the other than he can constitute a third of their kind. 1

On both sides many of the combatants see themselves as caught up in a war that has lost all meaning for them. All choices seem unenviable. 2

SRI LANKA's armed conflict has generated a momentum and logic which exceeds its root cause--often glossed over as ethnic conflict--even as it has invented new collective identities. Yet, few of the numerous analyses of the conflict have asked how war transforms identities, borders, and territories, or generates the ethnicization and polarization of hybrid collective identities. 3 Anthropological analyses of ethno-national political violence in Sri Lanka have rarely moved beyond the phenomenon of urban "riots," in which the lives and property of many Tamil speakers have been destroyed, or the presumption that Sinhalas and Tamils exist as self-evident social groups.

This chapter argues that the armed conflict begun sixteen years ago between the military forces and the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelain (LTTE) could sustain itself long after devolution or a regional power-sharing agreement which concedes autonomy to minority Tamil-speaking peoples of the north and east is reached as a means to end the conflict. As in Bosnia, Somalia, and Afghanistan, where war became the continuation of "economics by other means" and a way to acquire otherwise illegitimate profit, power, and protection, Sri

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