The Constitutional Practice of Ethno-Religious Violence in Sri Lanka
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 September 2018
Ethno-religious violence in Sri Lanka is a chronic problem, and it can be sustained even without the active support of a particular government. This understanding of violence prompts further reflection – both on the factors that drive such violence and the complex relationship between ethnicity, religion, and the Sri Lankan constitution. This article delves into the post-war context in Sri Lanka and examines how and why ethno-religious violence has persisted regardless of the government in power. It is presented in three sections. The first analyzes the current state of ethno-religious violence in Sri Lanka. The second offers a hypothesis on why such violence has persisted despite the democratic transition of January 2015. It argues that democratic transitions alone cannot prevent chronic ethno-religious violence due to certain factors that serve to entrench violence within the country’s constitutional practice. The final section discusses the relationship between ethno-religious relations, the nature of the Sri Lankan constitution, and the space for meaningful constitutional reform. It concludes that the Sri Lankan state – informed by Sri Lanka’s ‘political constitution’ – embodies a certain structural dispensation towards ethno-religious violence. Until this fundamental dispensation is in some way transformed, meaningful religious freedom and power sharing will remain elusive aims.
- © National University of Singapore, 2018
DPhil candidate (University of Oxford). Research Director, Verité Research.
The author wishes to thank Dr Benjamin Schonthal, Dr Dian A H Shah, Dr Kumudu Kusum Kumara, Dr Mario Gomez, Dr Nishan de Mel, Dr Asanga Welikala, Shamara Wettimuny, Sanjayan Rajasinhgam, Dr Godfrey Gunatilleke, Dr Nimal Gunatilleke, Dylan Perera, Thiago Felipe Alves Pinto, Deepanjalie Abeywardana, and Mohamed Aaseem for their generous time in reviewing drafts and ideas, and for their valuable feedback. This research is part of a project funded by the Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore.
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