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Sri Lanka’s Suppression of Tamil Separatism

Sean Mcdonald
Bentley University
Sean Mcdonald
Bentley University
Bruce Vaughn
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper will explore the Sri Lankan state’s recent reassertion of its sovereignty and territorial integrity over the separatist movement led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE], which was centered largely in the northeastern periphery of the country, and seek to derive a clearer sense of the lessons learned by various stakeholders to the conflict. The Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan state’s forceful reintegration of Tamil areas may lead some observers to the conclusion that military solutions can bring an end to separatist challenges to the state. Others may emphasize that human rights abuses and strife related to the conclusion of the LTTE’s struggle may sow the seeds for future tensions and potential conflict between the Sinhalese state and the Tamil minority. What do contending interpretations tell us about the future disposition of the Tamil periphery of the Sinhalese state? An examination of the tepid international community’s response to human rights abuses associated with the end of the conflict is also in order. To what extent were Western human rights concerns tempered by fears that China was gaining geopolitical leverage with Sri Lanka by providing assistance without concern for how the government was prosecuting its war against the LTTE. The paper will also explore how the final stages of the war, with increasing cooperation between the Rajapakse government and China which led to Chinese development of port facilities in Hambantota, have played a role in the evolving geopolitical rivalry between India and China in the region.