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Undoubtedly the greatest challenge in Sri Lanka at present is the restoration of trust. On the one side there is fear that a separatist agenda has not been abandoned, on the other there is fear that unity will be enforced by subordination of minorities to a dominant centre.

Connected with this latter fear are fears about demographic change and militarization. Conversely, the other fears of the majority are in fact distinct from the fear of separatism. They relate to worries about domination by a minority through disproportionate influence on governance.

I will look first at the challenges represented by these last worries, since they are the easiest to assuage. They spring from two sources, the first being the high number of Tamils in positions of importance in government in the period leading up to and just beyond independence. This factor arose however simply because of the better educational facilities available in the North, as well as the commitment to education evinced by Northerners, in view of the paucity of other opportunities in the area.

Overcoming any imbalance caused by this is easy, since it only requires ensuring that good facilities are available islandwide, and that students all over the country are committed to education that will develop good administrators as well as entrepreneurs. At the same time it should be recognized that the earlier imbalance was based not on race but on geography, and that there are minority areas with appalling education systems, just as there are many majority areas that have good facilities. Reforms in the education system must be based on equity on a national basis, and the ideal outcome would be employment relating to governance that ensures equitable representation of all communities.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2019
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