Education, Identity Formation and Persisting Ethno-Religious Tensions in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Siri HETTIGE, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict involving the majority Sinhalese community and the Tamil minority came to an end in 2009. The not only ravaged the north and eastern part of Sri Lanka where the Tamil minority is largely concentrated but also adversely affected the rest of the country in many ways. So, many people not only felt relieved when the war came to an end but looked forward to sustainable peace as well. On the other hand, bringing about sustainable peace and reconciliation necessitated addressing long standing causes of the conflict through policies and interventions based on evidence. Since such a plan of state action did not materialize in the years following the war, political parties and civil society groups representing the interests of the minority Tamil became agitated and articulated their demand for policy measures to address the issue of national reconciliation. It is against this background that the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2015 resulted in a regime change actively supported by minority political parties. While the newly elected government explicitly recognized the need for a major policy change in the above regard, certain initial steps were taken to pursue national reconciliation as a major program of the government. On the other hand, the same moves also made the nationalist forces associated with the majority community resulting in renewed ethno-religious tensions in some parts of the country, this time also involving the country’s Muslim community. These developments cast doubts regarding the prospects for peace and reconciliation.

In this paper, I argue that the ethno-religious conflicts in the country are the result of a state policies pursued by successive post- independence regimes that continue to influence the formation of ethnic identities and perceived inequities between ethnic groups