Sri Lanka: the role of colonization in the conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils.
My presentation will focus on Sri Lanka and especially on the conflict which is going on there since 30 years, between the Sinhalese government and the Tamil separatists.
We don’t receive a lot of informations about it and, those we get are difficult to analyse so we’ll try to look at the roots of the conflictwhich may be found in the colonial period.
Sri Lanka, officially known as “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka” is an island nation located about 30 km of the southern coast of India. It was formerly known as Ceylan.
It represents nearly 20 millions of people for a density of about 320 inhabitants per square kilometre. Obviously: density is the greatest on the western coast andespecially around Colombo which is the economic & commercial capital city and the most populated city of Sri Lanka.
The official languages are Sinhalese and Tamil which are the dialects of the 2 main ethnies of the island (Sinhaleses and Tamils). English is spoken by nearly 10% of the population, mainly for commercial and scientific purposes.
Sri Lanka has been granted independence in 1948 from theUnited Kingdom.
This is its flag which represents the multiethnicity of the island. Indeed the yellow colour represents the Sinhalese people while the 2 stripes on the left stand for the minorities (green stands for the Muslim community/ orange stands for the Tamil community). The lion is the emblem of Sri Lanka since many centuries and the 4 leaves in the corners represent the sacred tree under whichthe Buddha meditated.
I give you some figures, some economic indicators. I let you read them.
What is important to know is that these figures have really to be took with caution. Indeed it has been very difficult for me to find precise figures as both sides of the conflict try to manipulate it to their advantage..
The three pictures on the right aim to show you the different landscapes youcan admire in Sri Lanka: from beaches to savannah trough tropical forests.
Here are some social and development indicators: what is striking here is the high literacy rate (about 90 % of the population is able to read and write). You can also notice the fertility rate: 1.9 child per woman which means that Sri Lanka has managed its demographic transition.
All these figures lead Sri Lanka to the99th position in the HDI rank.
I will now tackle the demographic and ethnic issue and this will lead us to the conflict itself.
Here are the main ethnic groups of Sri Lanka: the main group is the Sinhalese community which represents nearly 70% of the population, they are traditionally Buddhists.
Tamils represents nearly 15% of the Sri Lankan population. You notice that there is a distinctionbetween Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian origin Tamils. Indeed the Indian origin Tamils are the Tamils brought by the British colonisers in order to work in the tea plantations, we’ll look at it later.. Tamils are traditionally Hinduists.
The moors are the descendants of Arab traders and are by tradition Muslims.
The Veddahs are the first inhabitants of the island, the aborigines. Nowadays theyrepresent a small community who lives in the national park.
Malays come from Malaysia and the Burghers are the Métis people (from the different colonisations).
What is striking about the demography of the island is the repartition of the different ethnies on the territory. Indeed you see that they don’t really “live together”: Sinhalese people are concentrated in the southern part of the islandwhile Tamils are in the Northern and eastern parts of the territory. Trough this we come to the conflict itself.
Indeed the two protagonists of the conflict are the Sinhalese government and the Tamil independentist group named Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)(“eelam” meaning “state”). The LLTE want the independence of the territory where the Tamil population lives.
You can notice on...
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