More Worrying News from Sri Lanka

January 16, 2008

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The continued violence in Sri Lanka seems to have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.

Last week, the Council on Foreign Relations published an interview with Ahilan Kadirgamar, the spokesperson for the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, where he described the increase in violence there since the government declared the end to the (admittedly flawed) 2002 cease fire agreement with Tamil separatists.

The situation in the country has deteriorated considerably over the last eight days. Two members of parliament have been assassinated since the government’s abrogation of the cease-fire agreement. There have been a number of bomb blasts, fighting that’s going on in the north. 2008 looks quite bleak for Sri Lanka.

The BBC reported today that 23 people were killed and more than 60 were wounded in a bus attack in south-eastern Sri Lanka as the cease fire between the government and Tamil separatists moves towards a formal end.

This civil conflict between Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic groups has been on-going for almost 25 years at the cost of at least a hundred thousand lives. The 2002 ceasefire agreement brought rays of hope for an end to the fighting, but attacks by both sides (with civilians in the middle) have been on the increase since 2006. The International Crisis Group describes inflexible and unrealistic demands of both sides, worsened by the brutality of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacks and the intransigence of President Rajapaksa’s hard-line leadership, as the key factors behind the inability to resolve this crisis.

When I think back on the awful devastation Sri Lankans suffered as a result of the 2004 Tsunami, it seems incredible that some sort of collective pain threshold has not yet been reached that might propel its leaders to broker a political solution to end this conflict. Recent news however does not look promising.

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