Reconciliation: From Invoking to Understanding

A series of research papers commissioned by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies on the theme of Post War Reconciliation.

This series of research papers will attempt to explore the complex and the contested nature of building peace and reconciliation given the history of the conflict and the current socio- political and economic context of the times in Sri Lanka. As a number of scholars point out reconciliation is a complex and multi layered process in deeply divided societies. There can be no set formulas. Each reconciliation process needs to be context and country specific. At the same time it can be an extremely contested concept. While the word is easily invoked by politicians, civil society organisations, international community, the clergy etc, it clearly means different things to different people. In this series we will attempt to deconstruct these differing understandings, both dominant and alternative or subaltern, in all its differing strands– 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.

1. The Transition to Civilian Life of Teenage Girls and Young Women Ex-Combatants: A Case Study from Batticaloa’,

Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan

This paper describes the lives of young women who were former Tamil Tiger fighters struggling to cope with return to civilian life. They comprise former ex-combatants who have been rehabilitated and released by the GOSL following the end of war in May 2009, as well as countless former girl child soldiers who self-demobilized in 2004 following the split between the Northern and Eastern faction of the LTTE, some of whom are disabled. Inbaraj points out that disabled ex-combatants, more so female ex-combatants, are one of the most difficult groups to reintegrate in the absence of specific medical and psycho-social care in communities. Though Sri Lanka’s National Action Plan for the Re-Integration of Ex-Combatants does include disabled fighters, an array of ministries and bureaucratic entities acting independently of each other cause a fragmentation of policy. He goes on to argue that in Batticaloa, female networks and women headed households bear the main burden of caring for traumatized returned former girl child soldiers and injured Tamil Tiger female ex-combatants in the absence of social welfare services. Given this lack of proper state-funded safety nets, these networks that heal, nurture and protect all groups of women ex-combatants must be recognized, valued and supported. The study also found that the predictability of organized schooling can help former girl child soldiers overcome their experiences and develop an identity separate from that of a combatant.

The short version of this publication is available on the ICES Website at:

It is also on Groundviews at: