Sri Lanka has been facing militant activities for last one and half decade. The root problem lies in British rule over the country and subsequent political mishap after independence. The development leading to ethnic clash in 80s can be traced as below:
Sinhalese (74% at present) has been majority and Tamil (18% including Indian Tamils who were migrated to Sri Lanka during British rule to work in plantations) has been minority group of Sri Lanka. The ethnic Clash between the two groups was induced by ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of the British. They gave preference to Tamil in service sector, education, profession and economy, thus, creating hatred for Tamil in the minds of Sinhalese.
After independence Sinhalese tried to establish their dominance in economic and political matters using their numerical superiority.
Just before independence, Tamil people voted overwhelmingly against Sinhalese United National Party (UNP) in 1947 election, in relation of which government disenfranchised the entire community and rendered its members stateless by citizenship act of 1948 and 1949.
Since most of the members of Tamil Congress which represents Tamil identity and led by G. G. Ponnambalam voted in favour of Bill, Siv Chevanayakam split away to from Federal Party.
The Sri Lankan government showed no response to Tamil demand for greater autonomy and devaluation of power. On the contrary, measures were taken to alter the demographic composition of the northeastern part of the island by making arrangements for the settlement of non-Tamils in the region which has traditionally been regarded as the natural habitat of the Tamils.
Before independence, it was decided to have both Tamil and Sinhalese as the official language but it was replaced by only Sinhalese by official language act which caused dissatisfaction and anger among Tamils. Meanwhile, Federal Party observed other Tamil. Party to form Tamil United Front (TUF) and then Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF). Till now, TULF is demanding Tamil nationhood within Sri Lanka framework, and not separated independent homeland.
The Constitution of 1972, adopted Buddhism as state religion – TULF boycotted the constitution of 1972 and passed ‘Tamil Eelam’ resolution in 1976 for the struggle for a separate homeland.
The 1970 educational policy tried to discriminate Tamil people on the pretext that Sihalese were underprivileged so they needed an upper hand over their Tamil counterparts. Under this standardization programme of the government, Tamils had to score higher than indentically situated Sinhalese students.
Recent Development: Although pact making and breaking is not new to Sri Lanka government and LTTE, the ceasefire agreement of 22 Feb, 2002 is the first one since 1994. The Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickramsinghe and the LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran have signed the Norway brokered peace pact, according to which extremist group will stop their activities and, on other hand, government accepted their following demands:
(i) A line of control do demarcate territory under the LTTE has been drawn, the boundary of which to be interpreted by a foreign ceasefire monitor.
(ii) Six conflict hit districts (Jaffna… etc.) to have monitoring mission to handle peace violation cases.
(iii) No use of religious and educational institutes for military activities.
(iv) No arrest or search operation during the ceasefire.
(v) Forceful recruitment prohibited.