Sri Lanka: An Ethnocratic State Endangering Positive Peace in the Island

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Nirmanusan Balasundaram


Although proclaimed as a democratic republic, the Sri Lankan state is strongly controlled and ruled by Sinhala Buddhist influence due to a deep engrained belief that the island belongs to the Sinhala Buddhists. The modus operandi of the Sri Lankan state apparatus outlines the ethnocratic characteristics of the state. This mono-ethnic and mono-religious attitude has led to the widening and deepening of the discrimination against a particular ethnic group known as the Tamils who traditionally inhabit the North and East of the island. Ethnocracy continues to be defended and justified by the state in the name of sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security and has led to further polarization of the already divided ethnic groups. As a consequence and outcome of the ethnocratic nature of the Sri Lankan state, a bloody war erupted between successive governments of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). After nearly 38 years the prolonged war came to a brutal end in May 2009 amidst blatant violations of international law. However, the root causes of this conflict, which occurred due to ethnocratic nature of the state, have not yet been addressed resulting in the continuation of the ethnic conflict despite the end of the war. 

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Nirmanusan Balasundaram, Independent scholar

Nirmanusan Balasundaram is an independent researcher and freelance journalist. Nirma has frequently engaged with international actors including academics, diplomats, human rights organisations, civil society members, journalists, politicians and concerned actors in Geneva, Brussels, Washinton DC and London on issues surrounding human rights, reconciliation, justice and accountability in Sri Lanka.