No Real Return?: Peacebuilding and Justice in Post-War Sri Lanka

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Tara QUINN, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, United Kingdom
After nearly three decades of civil war, the formal end of fighting in Sri Lanka in 2009 has led to a peacebuilding process that is more of a 'waiting game' for local actors. The values and assumptions underpinning this process, however, and its implications for dealing with social and economic injustice and inequality in local contexts, are in need of more scrutiny. Sri Lanka provides a compelling demonstration of the challenges faced by civil society actors and international organisations to influence a strong, centralised state, but many of these challenges are also part of working with local elites and civil society actors around the world. The sometimes-fraught relationship between establishing peace and enabling systems of justice also illustrates how the shifting focus on reconciliation and restorative justice can play out in a variety of ways on the ground.

Against this background, my paper asks how peacebuilding and transitional justice processes in Sri Lanka (led by state, local and international NGO actors) address demands for land restitution and restorative justice, how this relates to the expectations and lived realities of affected individuals and communities, and how these expectations are managed. The arguments are based on PhD fieldwork research conducted in Sri Lanka in 2017-2018, primarily focused on the Eastern Province.