gfiles magazine

April 17, 2013

Hope and despair in Sri Lanka

sri lanka ll mehrotra
Hope and despair in Sri Lanka
All the major players seeking to resolve the Sinhala-Tamil imbroglio in the 1990s became victims to the violence. Despite differences, all were dedicated to preserving Sri Lanka’s unity and sovereignty.
wELL before my arrival in Sri Lanka in 1989, the challenge posed by Tamil militancy had assumed very serious dimensions. To meet this, President J R Jayewardene ordered his military chief to stamp out terrorism in the northern and eastern provinces in all its forms. The brutal suppression of Jaffna Tamils under the emergency and the destruction of the Jaffna library in 1981 rendered the Tamil United Liberation Front’s moderate style of politics under Amirthalingam untenable in the eyes of his own constituents. Members of parliament from TULF declined to take oath for the sovereignty, unity and integrity of Sri Lanka as required under the constitution after their election. President Jayewardene’s tough policy concerning the Sri Lankan Tamils thus proved counterproductive. It gave a fillip to militancy rather than eliminated it.
As Tamil massacres followed and stringent measures were imposed such as cutting off food and medical supplies to the heartland of Sri Lankan Tamils, they took refuge in India in large numbers. India intervened with airdropping of humanitarian supplies in the area only to be branded by the Sri Lankan government as an aggressor. As a consequence, relations between the two countries touched a nadir. Ultimately negotiations between President Jayewardene and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi resulted in a peace agreement on 29 July 1987 with the objective of resolving Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict and to take care of India’s security concerns...Read More

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