The Forgotten Conflict

Honor Mishcon (England, AC 07-09)

Everyone is aware of the situation in Gaza, the bombings in Mumbai and Barak Obama’s inauguration, but little seems to be mentioned about an ongoing conflict in a small country in the Indian Ocean: Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has two major ethic groups: the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The Sinhalese are mainly Buddhists and speak Sinhala. Whereas, The Tamils are practice Hinduism and have their own language, Tamil that is completely different from Sinhala. The Sinhalese have the majority in population and after the British rule that favored the Tamils; Sinhalese Nationalism broke out at the end of the British rule slipping the country in two. The south was monopolized by the Sinhalese and the North became Tamil country. Due to this separation Tamils moved towards having self-rule and their own government. This led to Civil War breaking out in the 1983 and has since then claimed 60,000 lives.

‘The Tamil Tigers’ are a militant group that has done everything from suicide bombs, fighting openly with the Sinhalese army and capturing and killing innocent bystanders. This conflict has scared Sri Lanka that could have the potential to be an incredibly profitable country as it has damaged Sri Lanka’s economy and tourism.

Sri Lanka took another blow in 2004 when the whole East side of the country was hit by the Tsunami. A temporary cease fire meant that aid work could be carried out especially in the North as this area was the worst hit and is the poorest region in the country. During this time I went to a town called Kinniya South of Trincomalee, to help rebuild a preschool. The devastation even months after the Tsunami was incredible and still there was such a military presence and fear that the fighting would start again. It inevitably did in 2005 with violence escalating into 2008 with a suicide bombing and armed combat claiming hundreds of lives.

The most recent development this January is the Sinhalese army capturing the northern town of Kilinochchi, which was in Tamil Tiger possession for ten years and is their administrative headquarters. This is a colossal victory for the Sinhalese and the current President Mahinda is urging the rebels to surrender.

However, even though the Tamil Tigers have committed some monstrous acts is their cause still justified? There are obvious culture clashes between the groups making a unified solution quite difficult. In many ways their struggle is similar to those of the Palestinians. So why is the world turning a blind eye? Such as, the international panel leaving and refusing to continue investigating the human rights abuses. Why is no super-charged, super-power sweeping to the rescue or the UN lobbying for a peace agreement? Without some form of peaceful settlement and not just waiting for the Government forces to overthrow the Tigers; there will always be resentment, hostility and discrimination building until another violent conflict breaks out.    

– United World College Student Magazine –


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