Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka
The Sinhalese and Tamils
Shen Zhen Yao
Lee Zheng Lin
Guo Bing Kun
• Brief Introduction
• History of the conflict
• Long term political solutions
• Ensuring long term social stability
~Statistics of many ethnic groups in Sri Lanka~
-The peopling of Sri Lanka has been a continuous process of
migrants from India with indigenous and other earlier
-The Sinhala or Sinhalese (74%)
-the Sri Lankan Tamils, who inhabit the north and east form
-Indian Tamils (19th century migrants for work on
plantations) 5.6% of the population
~THE ORIGINAL SETTLERS~
-The original settler and the most powerful and
dominating of settlers were the Sinhalese.
-Sinhalese occupied most of Sri Lanka, and
Sinhalese kingships and royal families governed
various regions of the island.
-The Sinhalese people, though they were the
majority, lived peacefully with the non-Aryan
populations of the island.
~ARRIVAL OF THE TAMILS~
-Originated from the southern part of India.
-Various tribes from southern India invaded and
settled in northern parts of the island, spreading
down the northeast and northwest coasts.
-Due to the differences in religion and language and
tensions over land rights, the Tamil Kingdom of
Jaffna was often at war with Sinhalese kings
-The conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sinhalese has
grown during the past couple of decades on the island of
-The history of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka is the history of
emergence of consciousness among the majority
community, the Sinhala, which defined the Sri Lanka
society as Sinhala-Buddhist, thus denying its multi-ethnic
The growth of this consciousness impinged on the minorities
in Sri Lanka to the extent that internal resolution of the
problems become impossible.
-An essentially domestic problem, arising from a minority
ethnic group's attempts to overcome acts of
discrimination and oppression, acquired over time a
regional and an international dimension
~External colononisation and its effects~
-In 1505, the Portuguese landed on Sri Lanka and
successfully negotiated a trade agreement with the
Sinhalese Kingdom of Kotte.
-Dutch forced them out in 1658.
-The colony remained firmly in Dutch hands until the middle
of the 18th century, when British imperial ambitions in
India brought Britain to Sri Lanka in attempt to drive the
Dutch from the Indian subcontinent.
-When british assumed control of the country, they built the
island’s society around
plantation agriculture, and initially began with the main crop
-However due to the lack of labor and the various agricultural
disasters throughout the 19th century,ethnically similar
Indian Tamils were brought in to work on plantations.
-effectively created a new ethnic rivalry on the island,
Severing 900 years of Sinhalese and Tamil coexistence
-Through WW1, Ceylon was colonised
-major Sinhalese and Tamil political organizations banded
together to form the Ceylon National Congress.
-The British colony of Ceylon gained independence from
Britain in 1948 after passage of the Ceylon Independence
-The first prime minister,Don Stephen Senanayake,was
-He claimed to preserve the Sinhalese hegemony as a
descendant of the original Buddhist monarchs.Thus, he
passed legislation to disenfranchise and even deny
citizenship to many estate Tamils who were brought to
Ceylon from India by the British
-This angered the tamils who then formed the Tamil Federal
Party and wished to create a Tamil state on Ceylon.
-New prime minister,Solomon West Ridgeway Dias
Bandaranaike, was elected.
-Discrimination against the Tamil people continued as
Sirimavo continued to promote Sinhalese hegemony.
1978 - 2002
-Rise of the LTTE (Liberation tigers of Tamil ealam
-strongest of the militant Tamil separatist groups
materializing from the former Tamil Students’ Movement
-Responsible for many bombings and criminal activities
-Coincidentally, TULF (tamil united liberation front) have
long pursued the creation of a separate tamil nation.
-TULF lost representation in the government due to a defeat
in the voting tables.
-The indian government took numerous attempts as mediating
the Sinhalese and the Tamils but to no avail.
-Thus, armed intervention was utilized
-However this failed due to the inability to differenciate
guerillas from citizens, resulting in the killings of about
200 innocent civilians.
-President Premadasa, the elected president in 1993 , was
-Peace talks with the LTTE took place when Chandrika
Kumaratunga was elected as president.
-LTTE accpeted the peace treaty only under 4 conditions :
1. The embargo of food, gas, and other supplies to the North was
to be lifted.
2. Tamil fishermen should be allowed to fish in the North.
3. A military camp should be removed from the North.
4. LTTE members should be able to carry guns in the government-
-Agreement was made over the first two terms but the thirld
and fourth were still under serious colnsideration
-LTTE extended the dateline for the terms to be met but
backed out of the agreement in April 1995
-LTTE continued to commit terrorist activities throughtout
-Finally in 2002, a formal ceasefire was declared between the
LTTE and the Sri Lankan government, moderated by the
2002 – 2008
~Beginning of the war~
-A new crisis leading to the first large-scale fighting since
signing of the ceasefire occurred when the Sri Lankan
government closed down the A9 Highway which is the
only affordable access for the Jaffna peninsula people to
southern Sri Lanka. The Government closed the road to
deprive the Jaffna peninsula people which counts more
than 600,000 of their basic human needs such as food,
medicine etc., which led to the rise in price for
commodities which is already higher than most people can
afford to buy,
-in retaliation LTTE closed the sluice gates of the Mavil Aru
reservoir and cut the water supply to 15,000 villages in
government controlled areas.
• Government bombed the reservoir and LTTE opened the
• Government military forces continued their attack on
LTTE posts around the reservoirs.
• The war between LTTE and Sri Lankan government
started on July 21, 2006
• LTTE wasn’t so successful, losing to the government
forces at almost all the battles.
• Many leaders of LTTE were killed.
• LTTE murdered then Sri Lankan Foreign Minister
Lakshman Kadirgamar, a Tamil well-respected by foreign
• Other countries lost their faith in LTTE being the “victim”
in the conflict
• In January 2, 2008, the Sri Lankan government officially
pulled out of the Ceasefire Agreement. Donor countries
USA, Norway and Canada show deep regrets.
• LTTE mentioned its disappointment as it respected the
CFA and was ready to follow it 100%.
(CFA was considered as defunct since the beginning of war in
Long term political solutions
• Recognizing the fragility of the Sri Lankan government,
significant changes must be made in order to ensure a
peaceful and successful state in the future. Recent
developments have proven that the leaders of the Sri
Lankan government are willing to cooperate with the
• President Kumaratunga’s resolve to form an agreement
with the Tamil rebels will be a main factor in determining
the future of the Sri Lankan government.
• If Kumaratunga follows her current plan, peace between
the Sinhalese and the Tamils will be a possibility.
• Under a new governmental plan, the Sri Lankan
government will have the ability to bridge the gap between
the Tamil rebels and the government which has been
preventing peace for twenty years.
~Incentives~ (Tsunami Aid)
• Sri Lanka has been promised about $3 billion in
tsunami relief, on top of $4.5 billion promised in
reconstruction help to follow a peace settlement.
• This monetary offer will accelerate reconstruction
plans and help develop the Sri Lankan
• This aids the peace process by giving the
government incentive to form an agreement.
~Local government integration~ (After agreement)
• Integration of the Tamil people into government at
the municipal level.
• Norway to oversee the process
• Following peaceful Tamil integration and
assimilation into government on the municipal
level, integration should commence at the
provincial level. (future years)
• National political integration should begin with
ongoing Norwegian oversight (future years) .
• The integration should include equal
representational rights for Tamils and Sinhalese.
• The Tamil and Sinhalese people should have the
right to join any political organization of their
Ensuring Long-Term Social
• By planning the reconciliation, education, and economic
development of Sri Lanka, we can attempt to mitigate
repercussions of the conflict.
According to a Médecins SansFrontières study, 10 percent
of Sri Lankans have witnessed the death of their child, 48
percent have been separated from their family, and 24
percent have had a member of their family attempt suicide
People must reconcile and form a new national identity
Government must provide equal treatments
• Create a new generation of responsible, informed,
successful Sri Lankans
• Sri Lankan government needs to modify and expand its
current education system use language, a former boundary
between the Sinhalese and the Tamils, as a uniting factor
for the Sri Lankan people
• Increase number of libraries and standards of instituition
~ Economic Development~
• Ensure that ethnic violence does not again erupt
• Establishment of a national apparel or clothing brand
because Sri Lanka’s top exports are apparel and textiles.
• Gain strength in the global market
• Create new jobs for the Sri Lankan people
• Since this will tie the economic futures of the two people
together it will decrease the likelihood of future conflict
The conflicts that happened in Sri Lanka is very
serious. Coupled with the damages done by the
tsunami, Sri Lanka had suffered greatly. To be
able to reach the peace agreement, the Tamils and
the natives should work together to form the Sri
Lankans and do their best for Sri Lanka