Creating Peace in Sri Lanka: Civil War and Reconciliation

By Robert I. Rotberg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE

Devolution and the Elusive Quest for Peace

Neelan Tiruchelvam

LEONARD WOOLF, the literary critic and publisher, was a colonial civil servant in Ceylon from 1904 to 1911 and served both in Jaffna in the extreme north and in Hambantota in the deep south. Many years later, in 1938, as an adviser to the British Labour Party, he reflected on the questions of minority protection and constitutional reform. He argued in favor of a constitutional arrangement which would ensure a large measure of devolution through a federal system based on the Swiss model. Woolf said: "The Swiss federal canton system had proved extraordinarily successful under circumstances very similar to those in Ceylon, i.e., the co-existence in a single democratic state of communities of very different size, sharply distinguished from one another by race, language and religion."1

Despite the foresight of Woolf six decades ago, Sri Lanka's failure to lay down the constitutional foundation of a multi-ethnic society based on equality, ethnic pluralism, and the sharing of power has exacerbated the ethnic conflict. As a consequence, Sri Lanka has been besieged for years by ethnic fratricide and political violence. 2


Minority Demands for Protection and Autonomy

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the universality and complexity of ethnic problems and the need to devise strategies, programs, and structures for the management of ethnic conflicts. Several multi-ethnic polities

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