Although the 2002 Ceasefire Has Not Been Formally Abrogated, Sri Lanka is Sliding into an Undeclared Low-Intensity War

Hardliners on the Sinhala side believe that a short war could overwhelm the Tamil Tigers and force them into a settlement. Observers worry that the Colombo government may overplay its hand. Despite brinkmanship on both sides, neither of the protagonists can afford a return to full-scale hostilities.

President Rajapakse is aware that the economy, hit hard by the 2004 tsunami and the resurgent violence, is still shaky. Since the 2002 ceasefire, Sri Lanka’s $24 billion economy has seen uninterrupted growth. But Tamil bombs targeting the tourism industry and Colombo’s port would decimate foreign earnings and drive foreign investors away.

The Tigers, too, would likely see their revenues decline, particularly as a growing number of governments is reining in donations by the Tamil diaspora.

While all-out war is still unlikely, tit-for-tat killings continue. A BBC News correspondent sums up the sad situation as follows: “People will carry on dying on a daily basis but in small enough numbers to maintain the façade that the ceasefire agreement is holding.”

Paul Danaher, “Sri Lanka’s War in all but Name,” BBC News Online, 12 May 2006.
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“Sri Lanka’s Overseas Donors Meet in Tokyo to Assess Peace Bid,” Bloomberg News, 30 May 2006.