Whilst Sri Lanka and its international allies labour to present an image of emerging 'post-conflict' normalcy - and even of 'reconciliation' in the offing - events in Jaffna this week made clear the country's future is exactly the reverse. The military's desecration of the ashes of LTTE leader Vellupillai Pirapaharan's mother, and its anxious, violent efforts in preceding days to prevent public mourning of her death underline not only the popular sentiment amongst Tamils, but the state's unshakable insecurity. In short, the seventy-year long antagonism between the Sinhala ethnocracy and the Tamil people will endure and grow. This is not a matter of ancient hatreds, but of state policy and the politics to come.
In the run up to last month's referendum in South Sudan, it was widely accepted that the overwhelming majority would opt for independence. Similarly, even before Kosovo unilaterally declared independence two years ago, it was widely agreed that the majority of its people endorsed the move. What is striking, therefore, is what went before in these places. Sudan's civil war raged for four decades before the 2005 peace agreement. And when the international community ended the post-Cold War firestorm in the Balkans with the 1995 Dayton Accords, the Kosovars, despite their pleas, were actively excluded. Instead, they were told to make the best of it under Serbia's rule.
When Sri Lanka's military finally defeated the Liberation Tigers in May 2009, having also slaughtered tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, President Mahinda Rajapakse and the rest of the Sinhala establishment were confident that not only would the Tamils now meekly acquiesce to Sinhala rule, but so would the international community. They were wrong on both counts. Not only have the Tamils endured the ravages inflicted on them during and after the war, they still stubbornly insist on their demand for self-rule. On the other hand, rather than embrace the Sinhala ethnocracy, the international community is doggedly pursuing its transformation into a liberal market democracy.