Civil War Ends in Sri Lanka: Now to Secure the Peace
On May 19, 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka declared that South Asia's longest-running civil war was over. This marked the military defeat of the armed struggle of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The war's toll on this small island nation of 20 million continues to be debated, with perhaps upwards of 100,000 killed, scores of thousands wounded, and hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced, some for as long as 20 years.
In the wake of military victory, the President of Sri Lanka insisted that the grievances of minorities would be addressed to secure a lasting peace. Human rights concerns were raised, however, throughout the conflict and increasingly in the final days of pitched battles in the east where thousands of civilians were trapped between the armed combatants. One of the largest refugee camps in the world sprang up in the North as the military contained almost 300,000 civilians who had escaped the combat fields in the final weeks of the war. Access to the camps continues to be limited.
In the absence of independent monitoring, concerns have been raised as to the fate and condition of the civilians detained. The government continues its screening process, indicating that they will resettle the refugees as soon as substantial de-mining has taken place throughout the North and East and hardened loyalists to the LTTE have been identified.
Look in the FIELDWORK section for an overview of the current activities of NP teams as they respond to the changed political and military situation. The continued presence of internationals helps build the confidence of communities suffering the fear and distrust that comes with living in a state of war and violence for a generation.