Free «Political Crisis in Sri Lanka» Essay Sample

Political Crisis in Sri Lanka

Over decades now, the political crisis remains a substantial problem in Sri Lanka. The civil war that had lasted for more than 25 years majorly contributed to the political crisis that Sri Lanka faces today. It includes terrorism and violence from extremist groups, political instability, weak political systems, inequality, and diplomatic isolation. The political crisis has a direct impact on the economic development and growth of the country. Therefore, the situation in Sri Lanka has contributed to the financial constraints, lack of investors from other states, drop in its currency value, and high-interest rates.

Overview

The civil war is considerably related to the political crisis in Sri Lanka. The civil war has been dominant in Sri Lanka for a substantial amount of time, and its effects are still felt today. It began in 1983 as a result of the conflict between the Tamils, a minority group, and the majority of the population (Winslow & Woost, 2004). The Tamils formed a militant group that fought the government in an attempt to create an independent state for itself.  The civil war went on until May, 2009, when the government finally defeated the Tamil Tigers forcing them to surrender.

It affected the economy to a considerable degree by claiming a huge number of the population and also displacing hundreds of thousands who remain internally displaced persons up to date. Between 80,000-100,000 people died as a result of the civil war. In 2013, the United Nations declared another figure of about 40,000 people who died in the last phase of the civil war, which the government dismissed off claiming the actual figure was about 10,000 people (Jeffery & Kim, 2014). Since 2009, Sri Lanka has been accused of the crimes against humanity by international communities. In March, 2014, UNHCR proposed to investigate on the matter which was strongly opposed by the government. In June, 2014, the UN hired experts to advice on the investigations.

Background of the Civil War

The Sri Lankan population comprises of the Sinhalese, who are the majority, the Lanka Tamils, the Muslims, and the Tamils, who are the minority. The war became a political rivalry between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. It began when the British were still the colonizers of the country, and they seemed to favor the Tamils. In 1948, Sri Lanka and then Ceylon passed a law that discriminated the minority group of the Tamils. This act made it difficult for the Tamils to have a citizenship. An estimate of the 700,000 Tamils was rendered stateless (Clarance, 2006). In 1956, the Sinhala Only Act was passed, which replaced English as the formal language with Sinhala. It was done deliberately against the Tamils so that it would be difficult for them to work in Sri Lanka. The Tamils who worked as civil servants were forced to quit their jobs for the lack of fluency in Sinhala.

The Tamils felt discriminated and, therefore, decided to have peaceful demonstrations to fight for their rights. However, in 1958, the protests became violent riots, in which many Tamils perished. In the late 1960s, many groups emerged that led to more protests (Clarance, 2006). In 1970, a policy discriminating against the Tamil students entering the university was imposed by the government, which forced the Tamil students to obtain higher marks than the Sinhalese to join the university. Other forms of discrimination continued against the Tamils, including the religion as Buddhism was made the main religion. Throughout the 1970s, many liberal groups were formed to advocate for the rights of the Tamil minority group. At this point, militia groups were formed by the opposition, which recruited young boys who were unemployed and believed that the situation would revolutionize the country (Winslow & Woost, 2004).

In the late 1970s, militia groups were formed, and the most prominent were the Tamil Tigers who carried out violent attacks in protest against the government. They carried out many assassinations against government officials. Between 1983 and 2009, the militia groups and the government engaged in a war (Jeffery & Kim, 2014). The militia groups carried out attacks, in which they massacred innocent civilians in their homes and public places. At this point, the Tamils who were against the violent attacks distanced themselves from such acts and joined the government to fight against those extremist groups. During this period, many groups attempted to facilitate negotiationsbetween the government and the opposition. However, the attempts to restore the peace failed immensely. For instance, in 1987, the Tamil Tigers carried out 378 suicidal attacks, which were considered to be the largest in the world. There were several attempts by the government to settle down the violent acts of the militia group, such as trying to amend the constitution, which failed. For instance, between 1991 and 1993, the LTTE militia group carried out terrorist attacks by massacring the Sinhalese civilians and forcing the Muslims out of their homes. It was referred to as Eelam War 2. At this point, India, which had tried to pause conflicts between the militia groups withdrew from its peace keeping mission in Sri Lanka. (Wilson & Woost, 2004)

With the election of the president of Kumaratunga in 1994, there was a hope for the end of the war. The president was determined to negotiate with the Tamil Tigers in order to put an end to the war. One year later, after several negotiations with the Tigers, there was no hope for peace. The LTTE continued to attack; and between 1995 and 2000, the militia group had shot airplanes and brought them down, they had sunk Navy ships and killed thousands of innocent people (Winslow & Woost, 2004). There was also a suicidal attack that had been launched in an attempt to assassinate the president in 1999 which did not succeed.  

In mid-1990s, there was an attempt for peace by human rights groups, which estimated over 1 million people as IDP's. Many movements and organizations assisted in conducting of peace conferences and rallies for peace. There was also a massive support from the international community against the acts of terror. For instance, the US aided the Sri Lankan government with resources to fight the militia groups. The Norway government also stepped in with the peace talk between the government and the Tamil Tigers which was successful. In 2009, the war came to an end. (Clarance, 2006)

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Current Political Crises in Sri Lanka

Terrorism and violence from extremist groups have for many years affected every aspect of the Sri Lanka’s economy. As highlighted above, the efforts were put in place to eradicate all those terrorist groups, namely the Tamil Tigers. However, terrorist threats from religious groups are still eminent, and this remains a political crisis in Sri Lanka. The violent attacks that were led by the Tamil Tigers deprived people of voting rights, especially in the northern parts of the country (Jeffery & Kim, 2014). The government failed to reconcile all the regions after the war came to an end, and this continues to pose a threat to the government due to the lack of proper political structures in the region.

The political instability remains a considerable problem in Sri Lanka. It has been faced by previous governments which constituted of parties with violent disagreements. Despite the effort to create the political stability, the political party formation remains a key issue. Political parties without an equal presentation form the majority of the government and opposition. Therefore, it means that disagreements on various social and economic policies will always result in violence. For instance, the latest elections in Sri Lanka were held eight months before the election date. In addition, Sri Lanka has had a series of changes in terms of the power of government officials at a high rate. In the nearest past, people have died as a result of the riots due to political divisions. In turn, this has had a negative effect on the economy, especially due to the lack of investors and low tourism. Eventually, it has led to the economic recession in Sri Lanka (Jeffery & Kim, 2014). The political instability has eventually led to a weak political system.

The Sri Lanka's weak political system has led to the insecurity and threats from extremist groups. The political system in Sri Lanka has been under pressure from the international community for the lack of a good governance. The system has been characterized by the corruption, bribery, and substantial government expenditures, rather than pushing for new agendas and ideas and funding them altogether. Besides, the government expenditures are not transparent to the citizens of Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is not accountable to the people which is a factor that has contributed to the corruption. The lack of accountability has also led to the mismanagement of funds, which have been allocated to various government departments. For instance, a case where an MP had spent 2 million rupees on gambling (Jeffery & Kim, 2014). Many political leaders have amassed wealth from the funds that are meant for the government projects. Again, different institutions of the political system have been manipulated by politicians to their advantage. For instance, the Bribery Commission has been compromised and cannot independently verify the political corruption.

The inequality in Sri Lanka still remains a political crisis. It continues to rise in the distribution of resources which can pose a major threat to the political system. The civil war, which had been prominent in Sri Lanka for 25 years, was brought about by the inequality between the majority group and minorities (Jeffery & Kim, 2014). It still continues in Sri Lanka with regard to the distribution of resources, equal representation of people in the parliament and others. The government has failed to implement policies which can eradicate these inequalities. For instance, there has been a case of the unfair representation of various groups in previous political parties, where the majority formed the government. It meant that the minority groups were scarcely or not represented at all. The government, therefore, should put in place structures that allow an equal representation for all in the formation of political parties, for example, a coalition government.

Sri Lanka faces a diplomatic isolation from the rest of world. During the civil war, in which so many people died, many organizations focused on protecting human rights were putting pressure on the government. However, the government did not handle the situation diplomatically. For instance, the UN estimates that the number of people who died in the last phase of the civil war is about 40,000 people, but the government opposed this figure totaling it to about 9000 people (Jeffery & Kim, 2014). It was perceived by other states as an effort of the Sri Lanka's authorities to undermine human rights activists. The support of UNHCR in Sri Lanka has reduced over the years due to the choices which continue to undermine human rights.

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 In 2013, the Sri Lanka's government was accused of not complying with the UN demand in addressing human rights concerning violent acts that were conducted during the civil war such as rape, torture and others. It caused an increase in the isolation from other countries. For instance, Canada threatened to withdraw its finances if Sri Lanka's head of state chaired common wealth in 2014. Again, other states were willing to fund an investigation into the war crimes which had been committed in Sri Lanka if the government refused to do so. It continues to be a key issue in Sri Lanka, in terms of which other states continue to focus on the report for human war crimes (Jeffery & Kim, 2014). The diplomatic isolation can have a negative impact on the country. For instance, in cases, where Sri Lanka requires an aid, such as relief food and relief doctors, other states can refuse to cooperate with it. Consequently, people suffer due to the government's choices.

Implications of the Political Crisis on Sri Lanka’s Economy

Decline in trade with the rest of the world due to the political instability is one of the implications. The demand for its exports have reduced, which has led to the decline in world prices. In turn, it has affected the currency negatively, whereas the Sri Lankan Rupee continues to gradually lose its value against the dollar. The tourism industry has also been affected negatively with a low turnout in the number of tourists. The lack of investments from other states has affected the economy in a negative manner. The political instability creates the income uncertainties for investors and, therefore, they hesitate to invest (Winslow & Woost, 2004). Even in cases, where foreign companies have invested, they continue to scale down their operations, thereby reducing the GDP of Sri Lanka.

In conclusion, the political crisis is still evident in Sri Lanka, and it continues to impact negatively the economy of the country. Fortunately, Sri Lanka and neighboring countries have come together to eradicate terrorism and violent acts of extremist groups in the society. Again, the current government in Sri Lanka is working towards a better country by adopting short-term and long-term policies which are meant to create the political stability. However, it is going to take a long time before the results can be seen. The political crisis, therefore, remains a problem for Sri Lanka.

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