Sri Lanka’s Failed Peace Process and the Continuing Challenge of Ethno-territorial Cleavages

by Asanga Welikala, p.255-274 in’Territory and Power in Constitutional Transitions,’ Oxford University Press, March 12 2019

Sri Lanka’s failed peace process and the continuing challenge of ethno-territorial cleavages Welikala 2019


This chapter examines why the peace process in Sri Lanka failed to find a constitutional settlement for the country’s ethno-territorial cleavage, and even enthroned a government hostile to Tamil aspirations for regional autonomy. It first provides a historical background on the ethnic division between Sinhalese and Tamils before turning to the period of constitutional engagement in Sri Lanka, focusing in particular on the Norwegian-facilitated peace process between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and highlighting its various weaknesses as a model of conflict transformation and constitutional transition. The chapter also analyzes the outcomes of the peace process and the lessons that can be drawn from it. Two features of Sri Lanka’s political culture that became evident in the failure of the peace negotiations are identified: the hyper-competitive nature of party politics and the elitism of constitutional politics.

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