Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Real Roots of Sri Lanka's Crisis

From today's Wall Street Journal Asia.

Regarding "The Economic Key to Sri Lankan Peace" (op-ed, May 4): The British who ruled Sri Lanka for nearly 150 years applied a "divide and rule," method to control the rebellious majority by providing a disproportionate share of political power to the submissive minority. This is the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

In 1885, out of 819 schools in the country, 300 schools were in Jaffna where Tamils were the majority (99%). This was a strategic move by the colonial rulers to breed the necessary intellect to rule the majority. By the time Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, the major civil service bureaus and military were dominated by the educated Tamils. For instance, the first native commander of the Sri Lanka army and the first native commander of the Sri Lanka navy were Tamils. Consequently, the majority Sinhalese (80% of the population at that time) introduced affirmative action to remedy this injustice -- an attempt the elite Tamil minority construed and propagated as "discrimination."

Open economic reforms in 1978 sealed the fate of the Jaffna Tamils, especially the youth, who witnessed the collapse of their agricultural economy by sagging demand as markets were flooded with foreign products. Tamil nationalistic leaders, fantasizing a homeland for 100 million Tamils in the world, exploited this situation.

The West has clearly identified the potential of Sri Lanka, and I hope it also realizes the true nature of the problem in Sri Lanka and will help it eradicate terrorism.

Sanjeewa Karunaratne
Vernon, Conn.Vernon, Conn.
Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124154921967788351.html

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