“Can Reconciliation Heal Sri Lankan War Wounds?”
The Washington Post, June 14, 2015, p.A17
“When Parameswari Uthayakumaran saw her house last month for the first time in 25 years, she stood in the rubble and wept. All her belongings, the doors, even the tiled roof had been stripped away. She had last seen the house in November 1990, when her family fled from Sri Lankan gunships bearing down on her neighborhood, firing from the sky and littering the grass with leaflets telling Tamil families to leave the area. She had time to grab only a bit of sugar and tea. The Sri Lankan army declared the area a high-security zone, and the government only allowed families to return in April, six years after the end of the civil war that claimed more than 80,000 lives. … Since taking office in January, Sri Lanka’s new president, Maithripala Sirisena, has said that reconciliation in the country’s north and east — rent by nearly three decades of conflict between military forces and a violent insurgency of ethnic minority Tamils — is among his administration’s top priorities. … Sirisena’s government has begun returning land to families whose property is still being used by the military, as well as resettling those remaining in displacement camps or living with relatives — officially about 13,000 families, although civil society activists say the number is higher. … But Tamil leaders are not convinced that these efforts will be enough to unify the Tamil and Hindu north and east with the majority Sinhalese Buddhist south. They say that they are concerned that Sirisena’s moves are symbolic and don’t address issues such as the Tamils’ desire for greater autonomy and the withdrawal of troops. … Meanwhile, an investigation into the thousands who disappeared during the fighting is continuing. … The government’s process of returning land has been complicated, with only about 1,000 acres returned so far. That’s a small fraction of the nearly 10,000 acres of private land the government estimates is still in the hands of the military, according to Ranjini Nadarajapillai, the secretary for the country’s Ministry of Resettlement. Activists think this number is higher.”
Quickie analysis: An interesting look at the present and future of Sri Lanka’s divisions.