Charu Lata Hogg: Victory will be hollow without constitutional reforms

Share
Related Topics

Along with many other Sri Lankan observers, I have watched recent events unfold in the country in disbelief, horror and despair.

Cornered in a shrinking conflict zone in the north-east of the country, with little access to food, water or medicine since the beginning of this year, nearly 100,000 civilians have been the worst casualty of this fighting, which promises to reach its bloody denouement soon. Tamil civilians have paid a heavy price for their conflict, and their misery has largely been ignored.

Sure, the UN has issued strong statements and concerned governments have routinely expressed their outrage. But the response of the international community so far has lacked collective will.

With both the government and the Tamil Tigers violating the rules of war, an urgent and combined response is vital. The UN Security Council needs to act urgently to protect civilians; influential countries – such as Sri Lanka's largest bilateral donor, Japan, and neighbouring India – need to put pressure on a government heady with military success.

The end of the organised LTTE does not guarantee the end of terrorism in Sri Lanka, as continuing militant strikes suggest.

And the process brokered by Norway that led to a ceasefire agreement in 2002 seems truly dead. Only a new process, built on different foundations, has any chance of bringing sustainable peace. For now, President Mahinda Rajapakse's attempts at a negotiated settlement with the minority Tamil community have been dismissed by even the moderate Tamil leadership. The Sri Lankan government's "liberation" of the eastern provinces – a model they seek to replicate for the north – does not inspire confidence.

Daily killings, extortion and disappearances are a fact of life in the restive Batticaloa district. The government still has not devolved power to the Eastern Province, as promised in 1987 in response to demands for regional autonomy. After decades of brutal conflict, the government's desperate bid for the end game is understandable. But justice and pragmatism require a package of constitutional reforms that will offer Tamils real rights and an effective share in power. Until that happens, victory in the battlefield will remain hollow; an aggrieved minority at home and an embittered diaspora abroad will ensure that peace remains elusive in Sri Lanka.

Charu Lata Hogg is an Associate Fellow in Chatham House's Asia Programme

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?