I don’t want to be seen as reflexively comparing everything to Rwanda, but Sri Lanka’s situation bears some similarities as well: an extremist (and terrorist) group of violent separatists, squashed by an aggressive military offensive, creating a dangerous glut of displaced persons and the need to deftly manage potentially volatile post-conflict ethnic politics. And now, Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, seems to be taking a page from Paul Kagame’s book in simply declaring that there is no such thing as ethnicity in Sri Lanka. And his seemingly sincere words of reconciliation — spoken, not insignificantly, in the Tamil language — notwithstanding, my legitimate concerns of ethnicity-based reprisals were not exactly assuaged by this comment by Rajapaksa:
“There are no minority communities in this country. There are only two communities, one that loves this country and another that does not,” he said.
I don’t think that kind of confrontational rhetoric is exactly the way to win the hearts and minds of moderate Tamils still interested in some sort of autonomy. The dangerous ambiguity and Manichean articulation of patriotism in this statement should give pause to anyone worried about the fragile state of post-LTTE society in Sri Lanka.
(image from flickr user indi.ca under a Creative Commons license)