Fishing in Turbulent Waters

ICES Working Paper No. 2

Sumithcoverforemail-217x300The International Centre for Ethnic Studies is pleased to announce the launch of Working Paper No: 2 on the theme of Post-War Reconciliation titled, Fishing in Turbulent Waters by Sumith Chaaminda.This paper explores the relationship between development and ethnic reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government espouse the view that economic development can address ethnic reconciliation through reducing disparities in the distribution of economic and livelihood opportunities. Using the fishing industry in the Northern and Eastern provinces as a case-study, the author assesses the extent to which the government’s development initiatives have contributed towards reducing ethnic tensions in the war-affected areas. This paper argues that, rather than opening new avenues towards ethnic reconciliation, the government’s post-war development strategy has led to an increased asymmetry in the distribution of the benefits of economic growth between ethnic communities. Whilst, the Northern fishing communities have received a certain amount of technical and resource assistance, the government have failed to adequately address the vast (economic, educational and technological) disparities that exist between Northern fishing communities and their competitors from the Southern provinces and South India. This has resulted in the (actual and/or perceived) reinforcement and reproduction of existing social hierarchies and power relations as well as the emergence of new forms of suppression and inequality.

ICES’ Working and Research Paper series on post-war reconciliation examines the contested nature of building peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, taking into account the history of the conflict as well as the current socio-political and economic configurations. In this series we will attempt to de-construct the diverse understandings of reconciliation, both dominant and alternative or subaltern – whether as truth, justice and accountability, political reform, or economic reconstruction; the significance of substantive initiatives versus the purely symbolic, myth versus reality or psychological versus material; and the impact of factors such as political will, financial resources, time and moral imagination in reconciliation processes.

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