Sri Lankan Civil War (1983 - 2009)


The roots of the Sri Lanka conflict lay in British colonial policy which controlled the island from 1802 until 1948. During the early 1800s, the British brought Tamils from mainland India to work on the various plantations for tea, coffee and rubber, changing Sri Lanka's the demographic make-up. Upon independence, Sinhalese nationalism dominated the political sphere and introduced discriminatory policies against the Tamil minority straining relations and sparking protests. Armed Tamil resistance first came in the form of assassinations of moderate Tamils and opposition politicians in the mid-1970s. However, it was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's (LTTE) attack on checkpoint Four Four Bravo, which marked the turning point, sparking pogroms against Tamils in Sinhalese majority areas. This incident, known as Black July, is widely considered to the beginning of the civil war.

The first round of peace talks were backed by India, which had deployed the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in 1987, and led to the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. The Accord was successful in persuading the majority of insurgency groups to lay down arms. However, the strongest Tamil insurgency group, the LTTE, was not party to the talks and refused to disarm, sparking direct conflict between the IPKF and the LTTE until IPKF withdrawal 1990. Following the withdrawal, the LTTE consolidated their power in the North and East sparking another intense and bloody war with the central government that lasted until 2002 when another peace process was launched under the auspices of Norwegian negotiators. The second round of peace talks, however, only continued until April 2003 and in March 2004, a large faction of LTTE cadres split from the main organization damaging LTTE unity. The LTTE were defeated militarily by a large-scale government assault in 2009, however, the conditions for peace remain uncertain.

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