Sumedha Senanayake in Dissent:
Sri Lanka, a small teardrop-shaped island off the southern tip of India, has a population of approximately 21 million, with the majority Sinhalese comprising 70 percent of the population, Tamils 18 percent, and Muslims 9 percent.
The twenty-six-year civil war in Sri Lanka has become one of the world’s forgotten conflicts, despite leaving 70,000 people dead, as estimated by numerous media sources. After several failed attempts at a viable peace agreement—including a six-year Norway-brokered ceasefire that ended in January 2008—Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has put all his weight behind a massive military onslaught to defeat the LTTE. Military spending has swelled to about 20 percent of the national budget and, unlike past governments, the Rajapaksa administration has given the military its full support to defeat the LTTE.
But a military operation alone, however successful it may be, will not bring a lasting peace to Sri Lanka. In 2007, the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) claimed its first major victory since it launched its current military offensive in mid-2006 by wresting control of the Eastern Province from the LTTE. Now after a series of crucial military victories by the SLA, the government says that it is on the verge of defeating the LTTE and ending a conflict that has left the country’s economy in shambles.