The road to Jaffna from Colombo hugs the western coast of Sri Lanka. Palms stand sentinel, a lagoon shimmers for miles under a deep blue sky, the sea an invisible presence resonating in the dry, salty wind. The road runs smooth, oblivious to the wounds of a war that took thousands of lives, displaced lakhs of people, destroyed villages and communities and deeply split this country.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s sudden indisposition during the New Year holidays had politicians on both sides of the House considering a potentially serious constitutional bombshell. The possibility of the Rajapaksa family making a come back, not just as members of parliament, but even as political masters of the country till 2021 has emerged a real possibility. Mahinda Rajapaksa could return as president through an entirely legal process.
Thirty years ago, Tamil separatists stepping up militant attacks in northern Sri Lanka killed 13 soldiers who reported for duty only a day earlier. Over the next few days, mobs of the Sinhalese majority took revenge, killing between 400 and 3,000 Tamils around the country and triggering a civil war that lasted 26 years and sent hundreds of thousands of Tamils into exile.
The Thirteenth Amendment was the direct result of the Indo-Lanka Accord, an international treaty between India and Sri Lanka. The treaty acknowledges that Sri Lanka is a “multiethnic and a multilingual plural society” and that the majority Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces are areas of historic Tamil habitation. In theory, it also limits the majority community’s ability to determine the fate of the minority communities, and seeks to create for them some space for self-governance.