University of Tasmania
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Post-conflict reconciliation in Sri Lanka : a sociolegal analysis

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:18 authored by Fernando, SMM
The objective of this thesis is to address the reconciliation problem in Sri Lanka. It addresses two research questions: (a) whether the transitional justice mechanism proposed by the international community can help build reconciliation in Sri Lanka? and (b) what alternative mechanisms can be implemented in support of these mechanisms to reconcile the divided communities? Sri Lanka ended 30 years of civil war in 2009. However, a successful reconciliation mechanism has not yet been implemented. Currently, Sri Lanka experiences significant ethnic division and this may lead to the recurrence of the civil war. The international community proposed the implementation of mechanisms for reconciliation including truth commissions and hybrid courts. The thesis argues that these classical mechanisms, even though useful, are not sufficient. Hence, an additional mechanism is required to address the Sri Lankan reconciliation problem. To address the identified research questions, this thesis uses three main concepts: Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), structural violence and the capabilities approach. TWAIL demonstrates that the third world people's perspective must be represented in the reconciliation mechanisms. From a third world people's perspective, increased structural violence as a result of the civil war is the key factor that prevents reconciliation. This thesis defines structural violence as the violence arising out of particular social or institutional structures, which results in providing privileges to one communal group to the detriment of others, creating antipathy within the disadvantaged group. The thesis argues that any mechanism for reconciliation should address the problem of increased structural violence. To address increased structural violence, the thesis suggests the use of the capabilities approach as developed by Amartya Sen. The capabilities approach is designed to enhance wellbeing and the quality of life by considering the opportunities of the people, individual abilities, available resources and personal values. It suggests that the victims of the civil war should be included in domestic political and economic mechanisms. The current Sri Lankan political situation does not allow minority groups, such as the Tamils, to effectively participate in politics. One way of addressing this problem is the implementation of an effective power sharing mechanism. The thesis introduces three reform proposals: (a) to elect a Governor from each Provincial Council; (b) to implement national government consultative committees and (c) to implement a permanent minority seat to represent the Tamils in the government. The thesis argues that as a result of the civil war structural violence in economic terms has increased. To address this problem the thesis introduces reform proposals to ensure war-victims' inclusion in the economic process by: (a) enacting anti-discrimination laws (b) reducing the number of military personnel from the North and the East (c) developing the capabilities and skills of the individuals and (d) allowing suitable credit facilities. These reform proposals explicitly address the key factors that restrict minority Tamils' inclusion in the domestic economy. These proposals come within the capabilities approach which focuses on enhancing the wellbeing and quality of life of the people.


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