Why is Sri Lanka so poor

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The few finds from the time before the introduction of Buddhism hardly allow any concrete statements. The immigration of Australoid people is dated back to 500,000 years ago. In the Paleolithic Age (Palaeolithic) the nomadic inhabitants lived in small groups, armed with arrows, hand axes and stone axes, probably on the edges of the jungle or in open river valleys, from hunting and collecting plants. More specific information can only be said about the Neolithic Age: around 7,000 years ago, the settlements seem to have begun near the rivers. The Balongada culture (according to the corresponding excavation site) seems to have been widespread especially in the drier north. It is characterized by the refined processing of stones, wood, bones, horn and other materials. The economy was characterized by a mixture of hunting and chopping. Although it was known to make a fire, the meat seems to have been eaten mostly raw. Pottery began around 3,000 years ago, and metalworking can be traced 400 years later.

Early Immigration from India and the Rise of Buddhism

The most famous Sri Lankan epic, the Mahavamsa ("Great Chronicle") from the 5th century, describes the immigration of a north Indian prince and his retinue as well as the later spread of Buddhism by Devanampiya Tissu.

The Prince Vijaya was then born around 500 B.C. cast out by his father, the ruler of the Sinhapura kingdom in the Ganges plain. With 700 faithful he sailed along the coast and finally landed on the west coast of Sri Lanka. The island was only inhabited by demons, so the prince married a demon princess. Since she had no children, Vijaya had his brother sent for, but he did not want to leave his home. Finally he sent his son and the dynasty was saved.

The two central statements of the myth are confirmed by most historians: The time of immigration is estimated to be around 500 B.C. estimated, the origin is also suspected in northern India. This is justified with the linguistic proximity of Sinhala to Pali and Sanskrit. In addition to the geographical proximity and the mobility of the South Indian fishermen, the fact that arya tribes mainly penetrated the lower Ganges plain and central India at this time speaks in favor of immigration from the south of India, which in turn caused the Dravidian population to emigrate there South triggered. Another indication is the fully developed irrigation system a few centuries later, the forerunner of which is more likely to be in the south Indian river valleys than in the inhabitants of the Punjab and the Ganges plain. Furthermore, the legitimation-giving role of ancestry from the north for the local aristocracy and the monastic orders must be taken into account. The dating of immigration can also be questioned. Probably much earlier, smaller groups immigrated from the mainland, which is only 25 km away. However, immigration actually only seems to have taken on larger proportions in the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BC, as earlier archaeological evidence is missing.

The settlement was concentrated in the dry zone. The main centers were the area around Anuradhapura, around Polonnaruva and the Rohana region in the extreme south. The indigenous people (Veddas) mingled with the immigrants (as they did with each other) or withdrew to the damp mountainous country.

The irrigation of the fields was improved through canals and water tanks. Since the 1st century BC it was operated on a large scale in the catchment areas of the great rivers. The importance of irrigation for growing rice in the dry zone suggests how much its control influenced the power of a prince. The tributes of the tribes dependent on the complex led to the rise of individual princes and enabled the expansion of cities such as Anuradhapura, the residence of the Vijaya dynasty.

The introduction of Buddhism to the island is dated 240 B.C. dated. The Maurya emperor Ashoka sent his son and his fleet to the countries of the south. According to the tradition of the Mahavamsa, he landed not far from Anuradhapura and converted the Sinhala prince Tissa. An offshoot of the Bodhi tree, under which the Buddha found enlightenment, was planted and the Mahavihara Monastery was founded. From there the newly founded monastic orders (Sangha) the good news all over the island.

It is assumed that, contrary to this representation, the spread of Buddhism took place over a long period of time. According to this, Buddhism was not unknown even before Ashoka's mission and took about 100 years to become established afterwards. Presumably rising or already consolidated kingdoms (similar to later in Sikkim and Tibet) broke the power of the traditional priesthood by promoting the new religion. Extensive donations of land strengthened the monastic orders at the expense of the aristocracy. The missionary and administrative activities of the monasteries enabled greater control of the tributary princes and the expansion of the domain. In addition, they were able to offer the new great kings a religious legitimation of their power. Ashoka's mission could have initiated this strategic alliance that ultimately led to the centralization of the island under a kingship.

The classic age

Since about 150 BC the kingdom of the Vijayas controlled most of the island, only in Rohana in the south of the island an independent kingdom existed. But soon a new dynasty, the Lambakanna, contested power with the Vijayas, from 65 BC onwards. they ruled for over 400 years. These centuries were a time of stability and economic and cultural boom: all major rivers were used to irrigate the fields. In addition to Pali, which is the language of the island's Buddhist literature, texts are also written in Sinhala. Many of the large stupas come from this time, and monasteries were founded. The royal family entered into a relationship with the Guptas, who ruled over large parts of northern and central India, which led, among other things, to the bringing of the tooth relic to the island.

The social structure of the classical period can be partially reconstructed on the basis of the many literary testimonies of the epoch: The inhabitants of the villages mostly belonged to the same ethnic group and often had similar professions. They lived monogamous. The caste system was (and is) less pronounced than in India: The large groups (Varna) seem to have hardly been relevant, the affiliation to the respective sub-caste (Jati) was not unchangeable (even if marriages were mostly within the caste). The caste differences were neither religiously legitimized nor sanctioned. The ownership of the rice fields and membership in the monastic order was reserved for the Goyigama peasant caste. They owed part of the harvest and military service to the local rulers. Among them were the craftsmen and service boxes who also worked in the fields. Even if society can be characterized as patriarchal, women had a relatively respected position: They could separate from their husbands and remarry. Land ownership by women was not uncommon. Also in religious life they played an important role in the order of nuns (Bhikkhuni), which, like the monastic orders, had great economic and cultural power with their monasteries. Components of the modern social structure, such as some kinship terms, cross-cousin marriage and certain wedding customs, go back to this time. The kingship was essentially Brahmanic. A tendency towards the deification of the king can also be observed Bodhisattva (expected Buddha). With a clever marriage policy, the royal family secured the loyalty of the aristocracy and the royal house of Rohana. Since there were hardly any rules of succession, the death of the ruler often led to instability. Women were also able to ascend the throne (for the first time in 48 BC).

Under the influence of the South Indian kingdoms

The reasons for the decline of the Lambakanna dynasty are uncertain. Shortly after their fall (around 400), however, the Pandyas, who ruled from Madurai in southern India, ended the turmoil of the civil war. Presumably they had already gained influence in circles of the royal family. 30 years later, a Sinhalese prince reclaims the throne and founds the Morya dynasty. The following centuries were marked by the power struggle between the Moryas and the Lambakannas, who used their relations with the South Indian kings to expand their influence. The classic heyday of the empire was over. Nevertheless, the power of the Sinhala Kingdom still seemed to be great, for it participated in the power struggles between the Pandyas and the rising empires of the Pallavas and the Colas in southern India and even plundered Madurai. Of course, Anuradhapura was also plundered several times. Since the 7th century at the latest the Pallavas also influence the island's culture, as demonstrated by architectural monuments.

Even if the power struggle of the three greats certainly expanded the scope of the Sinhala empire at first, after a consolidation of the power position of one of the kingdoms, the small, relatively rich, still very little centralized island with its quarreling aristocracy was hardly able to maintain its independence. Despite the relocation of the residence to Polonnaruva (769), which is more defensible, and the repeated expulsion of South Indian conquerors, the heartland of the island finally fell into the hands of the Colas for the next 100 years in 993, who had meanwhile established themselves as a major regional power. From Rohana, Vijayabahu conquered the north again, but his empire only lasted for a short time. After disputes over the throne and civil war, Parakramabahu III was united. once again for a short time (until 1196) the island. His reign is described as a renewed heyday: irrigation systems were renewed, monuments were built, mediation between the divided monastic orders was followed by a renaissance of Buddhism, the cultural and religious influence of the island extended to the empires of Southeast Asia.

The instability and growing influence of South India in the second half of the first millennium also led to profound social change. At first, the local aristocracy seems to have strengthened its power over the royal family. A class of feudal landowners emerged. The Brahmins also seem to have expanded their position in the economic field. Cities grew or were newly founded, and maritime trade gained in importance. With the exception of the rainforest in the mountains, the entire island was inhabited. The population increased sharply.

During this time, the Sinhala identity seems to have become important as an integrating element of the various population groups. The Sinhalese are probably the largest of the groups that immigrated in the first millennium BC. The name is based on the homeland of the legendary North Indian prince, who was succeeded by the various dynasties that ruled the island in the following centuries. Although Buddhist teaching texts had already been transferred to Sinhala in the 3rd or 4th century, the common Sinhala identity is likely to have developed later. The renewed immigration from India, in the wake of and as part of the conquering and looting armies, may have played a role: the re-energized Brahmanic Hinduism was also aggressively represented externally by the empires of the Pandyas, Pallavas and Colas, and they were hostile to Buddhism. The conquering Hindu settlers will therefore also have been perceived as a religious threat and thus have promoted the Sinhalese identity formation. In any case, since the end of the first millennium, the religious groups have formed their own communities, and society has changed from a "multiracial" to a "plural society" of separate ethnic groups.

The empires of Jaffna and Kotte and the arrival of the Portuguese

After the death of Parakramabahu III. In 1187 and the turmoil over the succession to the throne, the rule of his successors became smaller and smaller and the South Indian influence more and more overwhelming. But also Buddhist empires of Southeast Asia threatened the rule, the island was plundered several times. In the 13th century the former heartland fell into disrepair, its cities and monasteries sank into the jungle, the irrigation tanks neglected. Local rulers ruled the increasingly isolated villages, in which slash-and-burn agriculture and shifting cultivation took place again. Smaller kingdoms could only survive in the coastal areas

A Hindu kingdom emerged in the north with the Jaffna peninsula as its center. In this agricultural society, the strict Indian caste structure prevailed, the dominant caste were the Vellalas, who made up about half of the population of the peninsula and controlled the cultivation of the fields. In addition to rice, the Palmyra palm, which served as a building material and was also used as food in drought years, was also grown. This work was done by the lower castes and casteless, who received a share of the harvest in return. The rise of the kingdom also appears to be caused by the increasing pearl trade with Southeast Asia.

The causes of the collapse of central power and the rise of the Tamil Kingdom of Jaffna are controversial. The assumption made by Sinhala nationalists that the Tamil conquerors destroyed Sinhala culture and drove the inhabitants to the southwest of the island is wrong. The Sinhalese Empire had drained its strength from centuries of involvement in the politics of the regional powers driven by rival factions within the aristocracy. The irrigation systems, which were an important basis of wealth, required constant maintenance, which, however, would have required a certain stability. Presumably, the cumulative effect of the ongoing invasions has resulted in general impoverishment. The collected tributes and taxes were too small to satisfy all levels in the hierarchy. The central power finally no longer had the means to defend itself against the efforts of the local rulers to appropriate the surplus product for themselves. However, these rulers were not in a position to have the irrigation systems damaged by war renewed.

At the end of the 14th century Another Sinhalese kingdom forms in the southwest, the kingdom of Kotte. The source of wealth was no longer just the agricultural surplus but also the trade in wild cinnamon. Above all, Muslim traders, who at that time increasingly settled in the coastal cities, served as mediators. But the kingdom of Kotte was also permanently threatened with disintegration. It had to fend off both the expansionist urge of the rulers of Jaffna and the thirst for power of its provincial rulers. However, since the Hindu kingdom in the north was itself weakened by invasions from the south of India, the kings of Kotte even managed to conquer Jaffna for a short time and to unite the island one last time (1450-91) under one rule. Nevertheless, at the end of the 15th century in Kandy, in the damp highlands on the periphery of the Kotte empire, an empire of its own. After Sitavaka split off inland in 1521, the kingdom of Kotte was limited to a stretch of coast with hinterland in the west of the island.

A Portuguese fleet appeared for the first time as early as 1505. Twelve years later, the Portuguese began building a fort near Colombo and getting involved in politics. They were primarily interested in controlling the cinnamon trade, rather than territorial conquests. With changing alliances they increased their influence. Mayadunne, the ruler of Sitavaka, had now also conquered the remaining Kotte empire. In order to save his skin, the King of Kotte then placed himself under Portuguese protection. While Mayadunne still resisted the power of the Portuguese, the empire collapsed after the death of his son (1593) due to disputes over the succession to the throne. The kingdom of Kandy was more difficult to conquer because of the impassable terrain; it was under Portuguese control for only ten years. A "retaliation mission" was sent to the Jaffna Empire in 1560 and finally in 1591 after the missionaries aroused the resentment of the king there because of their success with fishermen.

The kingdom of Kandy and the rule of the Netherlands

Since 1617, Kandy also had to pay tributes. However, the Portuguese were unable to exercise direct control, and expeditions to the highlands failed several times. But they succeeded in building fortified ports on the east coast. In 1633 Kandy had to recognize the loss of territory. Now the royal family tried to form an alliance with the Dutch East India Company, which also showed interest in the cinnamon trade. The common struggle was successful, but soon the Dutch were no longer dependent on Kandy's support, and by 1658 they gradually took over the Portuguese possessions.For more than 100 years it was quiet, the Dutch were interested in good relationships, as most of the cinnamon bushes grew in the mountains. In addition, the King of Kandy had an influence on the colonized lowland society because he traditionally acted as the guardian of Buddhism. The 1765 expedition secured all coasts for the Dutch, Kandy was now completely isolated.

The political events from the beginning of the 16th to the end of the 18th century changed the social structures on the island considerably. First of all, the rise of Christianity should be mentioned. Even after the Portuguese withdrew, Catholicism was able to maintain its influence in the north and in the coastal cities, while the Dutch's Calvinism hardly won any supporters. The attractiveness of Christianity was, on the one hand, the chance for the lower castes to break out of their subordinate position in the (Tamil) caste structure; for members of the upper castes, the educational opportunities associated with it gave them the opportunity to participate in the colonial ruling structures. While the Portuguese had little influence on the existing power structures and only created a few new posts (e.g. tax collectors), the Dutch tried to set up their own administration and economy, in which only the highest posts were reserved for the Dutch. This included the establishment of a judicial system based on the European model (only Muslims and Tamils ​​were allowed to use individual traditional legal systems), the establishment of plantations to expand cinnamon production, the cultivation of new cash crops (coffee, sugar, cotton, tobacco) and the establishment "higher schools" with European curricula. While the feudal society dominated by the Goyigama caste and the monastic order was preserved in the increasingly isolated highland society, in the lowlands the "government Christians" took on the role of the local aristocracy and the rights of self-government and privileges of the lower castes undermined the caste hierarchy (and increased the tax revenues of the Dutch ). In Kandy, traditional Buddhism experienced a renewed upswing as the state religion, while in the lowlands there were not only Buddhists but also Hindu, Christian and Muslim communities. In the lowlands, the proceeds from the export of plantation products now brought more tax revenue than the surpluses from traditional agriculture.

British rule

When Holland came under the influence of France after the French Revolution, Great Britain tried harder to conquer the Dutch possessions in order not to let them come under the influence of their rivals for supremacy on the subcontinent. After Kandy had sought an alliance with the British since 1766 in order to recapture its coastal areas from the Dutch, the British finally agreed and in 1796 conquered the coastal areas and then gave some of them back to Kandy. Kandy was only weakened further as it exchanged a weak rival for a strong one. Initially, the British possessions were ruled from Madras by the East India Company, and in 1801 the British Crown took control. After consolidating her power over the lowlands, she conquered Kandy, which had been weakened by disputes over the succession to the throne. A rebellion immediately after the occupation was put down and the entire island had been under British control since 1818. At first, however, there were no efforts to impair the independence of Kandy society: it was administered separately, the Goyigama aristocracy retained its privileges, and traditional law was retained.

In the 1820s the road construction was started by means of traditional slave labor, in addition to better conditions for trade, it was hoped that the Kandy province would be easier to control. However, the economic stagnation persisted until the 1830s. From 1832, under the leadership of Colbroke and Cameron, far-reaching reforms were tackled: The economy was radically liberalized, that is, feudal privileges and trade monopolies like the one on cinnamon were abolished, serfdom and compulsory labor were prohibited, property rights to land were made easier for Europeans. All of this primarily served the interests of the plantation owners with their need for seasonal workers and pushed the capitalization of the economy. The administration was unified and new provincial borders were drawn that divided the territory of the old Kandy Empire. Only one province was pure Kandy territory, the other areas became part of the coastal provinces. A uniform European judicial system was created in which local judges also served. A "Legislative Council" was also set up, admittedly without decision-making powers and with a majority determined by the governor. The missionaries were at least less officially supported, they were even forbidden from entering the Kandy region, which could not prevent a renewed rebellion under the leadership of the monks in 1848.

The economic policy innovations and the enormously increased demand in Europe let the production of coffee increase rapidly and become the dominant export product. In the 1830s to 1850s the number and size of the plantations increased sharply, with many farmers losing their land, especially in the Kandy region. The landless farmers were urgently needed on the plantations because poorly paid seasonal workers were in short supply. Since the social network of the villages apparently prevented such extensive impoverishment that the farmers were reluctant to work for starvation wages, the plantation owners increasingly resorted to the South Indian arms of the lower castes. At first they lived on the island only seasonally. When day laborers were sought all year round for road construction and other unpopular work after the abolition of compulsory labor, they settled in the plantation areas and the emerging slums of the cities. The local population stayed away from the new immigrants.

Since the 1860s, tea has also been grown and the coconut plantations have expanded. Coffee cultivation ended in the 1870s after a plant pest had spread over the entire cultivation area in just a few years. Since then, tea, rubber and coconut palms have dominated the plantations. Small-scale rice cultivation also increased, but since then rice has also had to be imported. The reforms and the economic boom benefited the plantation owners and the traditionally dominant castes, from whose ranks the civil servants came and a small local class of entrepreneurs emerged. Only a few low boxes, e.g. the schnapps distillers, came to prosperity. For everyone else, the standard of living stagnated or fell, and there were repeated famines. Despite the impoverishment of large parts of the population, the island had one of the highest (average) living standards of the tropical colonies of England, the transformation of traditional conditions through capitalization and the introduction of a European administration and judiciary had made the furthest progress, while the population had increased fivefold.

At the end of the 19th century, the character of British colonial rule changed: it became conservative, supported established elites in order to prevent the rise of new elites at the head of a radicalized Buddhism. The influence of the missionaries and the changes in the social structure gave rise to a movement that was initially mainly supported by the monastic orders and turned against the increasing consumption of alcohol. It was religiously motivated and there was no political organization until the 1930s. There was no broad, radical independence movement like in India in Ceylon. Founded in 1919 Ceylon National Congress (CNC) gathered the anglicised dignitaries who were striving for self-government as the British Dominion as a long-term goal. In accordance with the colonial power, a gradual transfer of power to them should be enforced. The dominance of the official elite and the representatives of the "liberal professions" (lawyers, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs) made it difficult for the poor and traditionally living to identify with the CNC. Within these elites, Tamils ​​were represented above average because of the dense "Christian infrastructure" (due to more intensive missionary work). This intensified the resentment that was fomented by an alliance of old elites (Buddhist clergy) and prevented modern elites (parts of left-wing intellectuals): In a mixture of anti-imperialism, xenophobia and the glorification of their own past, the Sinhala Nationalists face the threat of foreign minorities who have gradually usurped power on the island. The double influx of Tamil administrators and South Indian plantation workers was interpreted as an existential threat to all Sinhalese in the context of this distorted view of history.

In 1927 the Donoughmore Commission sent by the British Parliament arrived, which in the following period worked out the constitutional basis for the future self-government of the island. In 1931 universal suffrage was introduced. The CNC's "constitutionalists" won their votes primarily in the rural areas, while the "Marxists" and their allies with their mix of "Sinhala Buddhism" and anti-imperialism won in the cities.

In order to win the support of the poorer population, the dignitaries at least temporarily demonstrated closeness to the people by giving up tails and tea party and publicly showing themselves as devout Buddhists. Since this was not enough to convince people that their (opposing) interests were being represented, they now also tried to mobilize voters through ethnicity as a supposed source of equal interests. This made possible not only the unity between the opposing interests of the poorest and richest, but also between the still different societies of the high and lowland Inhalese.

The evocation of a fundamental difference between "the" Sinhalese and "the" Tamils ​​led to the dissolution of the CNC and the formation of the United National Party (UNP) and two Tamil parties, des Tamil Congress (TC) for the "long-time residents" and des Ceylon Indian Congress (CIC) for the "guest workers".

Universal suffrage also drew attention to the social issue. Free education and health centers for all (malaria epidemic again in 1934) as well as food subsidies were important campaign topics.

Since independence

With the end of the Second World War, the Indian nationalists in particular vehemently demanded immediate independence after the colonies had helped ensure the survival of Great Britain. Ceylon served as a base for the attacks on Japan and supplied rubber and food. Unlike in India, the negotiators here advocate an amicable transition to independence. Ceylon gained independence on February 4, 1948, and the transfer of power took place peacefully and almost silently.

The first government was formed by D.S Senanayake from the UNP together with the TC under G.G. Ponnambalam and a representative of the Muslim League. It stood for secularism and ties to the West. Senanayake's aversion to anchoring Buddhism in the constitution led to the secession of the "hardliners" under S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike. The ties to the West are evident in the retention of British military bases, the conclusion of a defense agreement and the remaining in the Commonwealth, as well as anti-communist rhetoric. British protection was intended to strengthen independence from India. A trade agreement with China in 1952 also served this purpose.

The dominant topic of the first decades was the question of the citizenship of the Tamil plantation workers who had immigrated since the middle of the 19th century. Here D.S. Senanayake sided with the Sinhala nationalists, especially since he could be sure of the support of G.G. Ponnambalams TC. By means of two laws, the immigrant Tamils ​​(and the merchant and financier caste Nattukottai Chettiar) were declared foreigners who could apply for naturalization until August 1951. For this purpose, the complete proof of a 10-year residence until 1946 by means of the employment contract was necessary, which was impossible for many migrant and seasonal workers. Shortly before the application deadline, the CIC organized a massive application submission as the last major campaign in its existence. Processing lasted until 1963, until then the applicants were excluded from the elections. In the end, a sixth of the requests were granted. 8% of the island's population, almost 50% of the Tamil population, had lost their civil rights. The return of the 800,000 stateless Tamils ​​strained Indo-Sri Lankan relations until the 1980s.

The UNP governments under D.S. Senanayake, his son Dudley Senanayake and finally John Kotewala were founded in 1956 by a coalition government led by Solomon W.R.D. Bandnaraikes Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Bandanaraike (his widow Sirimavo after his murder in 1959) sought to loosen ties with the West. Ceylon became involved in the non-aligned movement for the first time. The banks were nationalized. True to the campaign slogan "Sinhala only", the Ceylon Tamils ​​were increasingly pushed back from their still disproportionate representation in the civil service. To this end, private schools have been closed or nationalized, the transport of Tamil officials has been banned, and the armed forces, police and paramilitary forces have only been increased with Sinhala personnel. In 1965 Sinhala was declared the only official language, but the separate language education was retained. This put the Tamils ​​at a disadvantage, since learning Sinhala as a prerequisite for (higher) civil service was now hardly possible, while the lack of opportunities to learn Tamil hardly impaired the Sinhalese's chances.

Since the UNP now also increasingly recruited the Sinhalese nationalist voter potential, it did not really change direction in its second reign from 1965-70. After 1970 the SLFP forced the resettlement of Tamils ​​and increased the settlement of Sinhalese farmers in the north. The new constitution made Ceylon the Republic of Sri Lanka in 1971 and abolished the formal protection of minorities. Despite all exclusion, the persistently poor economic situation led to an uprising in 1971 Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP - People's Liberation Front), for the suppression of which the SLFP relied on support from abroad, including India. The JVP is a cadre organization under the leadership of Nandasiri "Rohana" Wijeweera (murdered 1989) with a pseudo-Marxist, anti-imperialist and at the same time extremely xenophobic program. From 1968-1989 it covered mainly the southwest with terrorist attacks, in 1971 and 1987-89 it was at open war with the state.

The Tamil parties joined in the early 1970s Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) together. The TULF called for its own Tamil state (Tamil Eelam) in the north and east of the island, which according to the strategy of the party leaders should only serve to improve the negotiating position for federalization and to reassure their own electorate.

In 1977 the UNP won the parliamentary elections again with surprising clarity. The fact that the TULF is now the strongest opposition party, even before the SLFP, intensified the ethnic conflict, as did the autocratic style of government of "Dharmaraja" J.R. Jayawardene (using the new constitution tailored to him) and the propagation of Sinhala nationalism in Buddhist guise. The increasing militancy of the Tamil resistance was also aided by the shift in negotiations from the parliamentary to the informal level.

In 1983 the fighting escalated with the Tamil underground fighters, among whom the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought for supremacy until 1986, leading to open civil war. It was triggered by a pogrom following an attack by the LTTE on a military post.

The LTTE sabotages all attempts at a negotiated solution, as is being sought by the TULF and in some cases also by the UNP and SLFP. By 1986 it conquered the Jaffna Peninsula and large parts of the north-central and eastern provinces. After the Indian government had tried to mediate since the mid-1980s, it sent peacekeeping troops in June 1987 under a UN mandate and with the approval of the Sri Lankan government, but not the LTTE. The units got caught between all fronts. Instead of disarming the fighters and securing the armistice, they were drawn into bloody fighting themselves. After it became clear that the mission had failed, the withdrawal began in October 1989. After the complete withdrawal (March 1991) the civil war intensified again. By December 1995, the government troops managed to retake the Jaffna Peninsula. At the moment the "Tigers" of the LTTE are on the march again, in mid-April 2000 they captured the elephant pass and at the end of May they reached the suburbs of Jaffna.


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