Arend Lijphart, the great theorist of consociationalism, advocated federalism and consociational democracy as solutions to the problems of plural societies. He defined consociational democracy in terms of four principles which deviate from the Westminster model of majority rule: grand coalition, mutual veto, proportionality and segmental autonomy. 1 But he emphasized that for any of these principles to become operational, 'the political elites of the rival parties would have to cooperate, not compete.' In the present essay, we shall examine the failure of the consociational principle to provide a lasting solution to problems of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon until 1972). While we do not suggest that there was a conscious effort at emulation of the model, it seems to have been followed unconsciously to a limited extent for some years, though without much success.
In looking at the Sri Lanka experience of ethnic minority management, we begin by outlining the ethnic balance. This is followed by an overview of the evolution of ethnic policy and by an examination of the issue of territoriality. We conclude with an analysis of the extent to which ethnic relations in Sri Lanka have been aggravated by inter-communal resource competition.
Sri Lanka is a multiethnic country comprising two linguistic groups-Sinhalese (mainly Buddhists and all Sinhalese-speaking) and Tamils (mainly Hindus and all Tamil-speaking), and a Muslim community (mainly Tamil-speaking, but with a significant section bilingual). The Indian Tamils of nineteenth century origin (all Tamil speaking and overwhelmingly Hindus) constitute a fourth component of the island's