Friday, April 4, 2008

Impossible dream - Sri Lanka's triumphant government

From Economist.com

FOR a quarter of a century, Sri Lanka’s bloody ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils has sputtered on, with periods of all-out war and low-intensity insurgency, ill-observed ceasefires and frequent terrorist atrocities.

It had become conventional wisdom that there was no military solution. The government could not be ousted and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which had brutally monopolised the Tamil struggle, could not be defeated.

That is still conventional wisdom outside Sri Lanka. But in Colombo, the scent of victory is in the air. The outside world’s efforts to persuade the government to pursue a peaceful solution are floundering.

Indeed, so confident is the government that its foreign minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, this week gave a speech in London entitled “Post-conflict development: Efforts of a democracy”.

He was talking mainly about the east of the country, where the Tigers have been routed, thanks to a split in their own ranks. The holding of local elections in the area in March for the first time in 14 years was a fillip for the government’s self-confidence.

These elections let the government show that it was possible to “reintegrate” one part of the Tigers into mainstream Sri Lankan politics; the party formed by the breakaway Tigers, the TMVP, did quite well.

Mr Bohollagama was able to point to this as a model for the continuing conflict in the north, where the Tigers still control two of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts.

He stressed that his government was committed to a political process. But it has abrogated the ceasefire it signed with the Tigers in 2002 (which had admittedly become a largely meaningless cover for an intensifying conflict).

And he quoted approvingly the words of Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband, that “military victories never provide solutions, but they can provide the space for political and economic solutions to be found. And without military power, the result can be more bloodshed.”

Yet this is somewhat to misrepresent the position of Britain and most other countries on Sri Lanka. They tend to emphasise the first bit of Mr Milliband’s aphorism: that there can be no military solution.

And many are not convinced that the government of Sri Lanka is doing enough to pursue a political settlement. But they are finding it hard to influence it.

They do not want to do anything to give comfort to the Tigers, with its appalling record of murder, terrorism and extortion. So India, for example, helps the Sri Lankan army with some training and equipment.

So does America, despite having earned the wrath of Sri Lanka’s government for the State Department’s annual human-rights report, which this year highlighted the failure to curb assassinations, abductions and disappearances.

In the search for a lever over the Sri Lankan government’s policy, many eyes have lighted on an unlikely instrument: Sri Lanka’s clothing exports.

The European Union gives Sri Lanka preferential tariff treatment under a scheme known as “GSP Plus”. Largely as a result, Sri Lankan garment exports are booming: they make up half of all Sri Lanka’s exports, 67% of its industrial production and 10% its of GDP, employing 270,000 people directly and 700,000 indirectly. The EU accounts for 45% of Sri Lanka’s garment exports.

The scheme comes up for renewal this year and Sri Lanka is engaged in a campaign to ensure that the war does not get in the way.

It has even taken the initiative with a “Garments without Guilt” campaign, advertising itself as an ethical and green producer (if not necessarily the lowest-cost) without child or bonded labour, discrimination or pollution.

Loss of the tariff privileges might not have the disastrous impact the industry claims. But the battle to keep them may at least bring some benefits to those working in the industry—if not to those being killed and injured in Sri Lanka’s war.

1 comment:

  1. "...Sri Lanka’s bloody ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils..."

    There is no ETHNIC CONFLICT in Sri Lanka. if you look at how the people live in Sri lanka you will see that more that 54% of the Tamil population lives among the Majority Singhalese and the other minority Muslims without any problem. Just being a Tamil does not make you a terrorist.
    only a few power greedy Tamil warlords are running this LTTE terrorism. Even most of their carders in the front lines are FORCIBLY RECRUITED, mostly aged between 12-20 years of age. The escaped carders who surrender to the Sri Lankan Armed forces tells their story of being abducted and put in the front line while the LTTE Terrorist leaders are behind the lines in safe bunkers.

    LTTE Terrorists have force a low in their captive area that a person from every family must join the LTTE Terrorist group. Now many families are trying to flee the terrorist held areas but the roads are mostly guarded by the terrorists. so these families with small children escape the LTTE Terrorists through jungles and by the sea through tretures jurnies. Just becouse they want to live, and dont want to die in some LTTE Terrorist bunker or trench.

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