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Postgraduate peace education in SriLankaSimon Harris a & Nick Lewer ba Social Scientists Association , Sri Lankab University of Bradford , UKPublished online: 23 Jan 2007.
To cite this article: Simon Harris & Nick Lewer (2005) Postgraduate peace education in Sri Lanka,Journal of Peace Education, 2:2, 109-124, DOI: 10.1080/17400200500173493
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Journal of Peace EducationVol. 2, No. 2, Sept 2005, pp. 109124
ISSN 17400201 (print)/ISSN 1740021X (online)/05/02010916 2005 Taylor & Francis Group LtdDOI: 10.1080/17400200500173493
Post-graduate peace education in Sri LankaSimon Harrisa and Nick Lewerb*aSocial Scientists Association, Sri Lanka; bUniversity of Bradford, UKTaylor and Francis LtdCJPE117332.sgm10.1080/17400200500173493Journal of Peace Education1740-0201 (print)/1740-021X (online)Original Article2005Taylor & Francis Group Ltd22000000Sept 2005NickLewerCentre for Conflict Resolution, Department of Peace StudiesUniversity of BradfordBradfordWest YorkshireBD7 1DPUKN.Lewer@bradford.ac.uk
This paper summarises the rationale, development, content, and delivery of a Post GraduateDiploma in Conflict Resolution and Peace Preparedness in Sri Lanka, a country that has experi-enced a violent and protracted social conflict over the last 25 years. It also describes the methodol-ogy which is being used to measure the peace impact of the programme. Difficulties encounteredand lessons learned are discussed, and some early indicators of the programmes effectiveness eval-uated. It is clear that the impact of such a programme cannot be fully measured in the short term,since peace education should be seen as a process whereby knowledge and skills gained can be bothutilised in the short term and reflected upon in the long term.
In times of conflict the study of peace can be controversial, leaving proponents opento accusations of appeasement or of having sympathies with the enemy. For outsiderscoming into the conflict, allegations of interference into the internal affairs of a coun-try, or of having bias to one side or another, are frequently made and their motivesand methods are questioned. This, of course, is understandable in highly chargedsituations where there is often well grounded fear and mistrust of an enemy, andwhere people who have lived through times of extreme violence have experiencedpersonal trauma and loss of their loved ones. Talk and study of peace may beconsidered defeatist and giving in to deadly foes. It was within such a context that apost-graduate Diploma in Conflict Resolution and Peace Preparedness was firstconceived in Sri Lanka, a country that has experienced violent insurgencies in both1977 and 1989, and a protracted militant ethnic separatist conflict since 1983.
The multiple conflicts that Sri Lanka has experienced over the past thirty years area complex fusion of interrelated cultural, political, religious, social and economicdynamics largely informed by the construction of nationalism, identity and
*Corresponding author. Centre for Conflict Resolution, Department of Peace Studies, Universityof Bradford, West Yorkshire BD7 1DP, UK. Email: N.Lewer@bradford.ac.uk
110 S. Harris and N. Lewer
relationships during the colonial era and the subsequent negotiation of post-indepen-dence challenges in a multi-ethnic society. After Independence in 1948, Sri LankasSinhalese Buddhist majority population sought to redress the perceived injustices ofBritish rule and the disproportionate political influence that they believed the colonialproject had afforded the Tamil minority. These populist sentiments were legitimisedthrough the enactment of early post-Independence legislation that disenfranchisedmany Tamils of Indian origin, deprived them of their residency rights, providedspecial recognition to Buddhism as the foremost religion, and enshrined Sinhalese asthe official state language. This initial failure to establish a pluralist nation withrespect for minority rights helped lay the foundation for the violent expression of bothSinhalese and Tamil nationalist aspirations that were to follow. Tamil militancydeveloped through the 1970s out of frustrations over the ineffectiveness of peacefuland democratic protest to achieve substantive change. By the early 1980s theLiberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) emerged as the dominant militant groupaspiring for an independent Tamil homeland (Gunaratna, 1994; Swamy, 1994;Balasingham, 2004).
During most of the twenty years of conflict between the LTTE and Sri LankanGovernment forces the subject of peace was often an extremely emotive and politi-cally charged concept. Local and international organisations involved in peace relatedactivities were often negatively portrayed by the popular media and viewed with suspi-cion by the parties to the conflict. For example Oxfam GB, an agency which theauthors worked with extensively throughout the 1990s, had to rephrase their work onpeace-building as relationship building, in order to conduct training programmes onconflict sensitive development in the north and east. The same organisation had itsColombo offices bombed by (allegedly) Sinhalese militants in 2001 as a protestagainst the British Governments debate over whether the LTTE should beproscribed.
Spaces for peace
The possibilities for peace and a space for peace related activity and education reallyopened up in August 2001 when both Sinhalese political and public opinion changedas result of an LTTE attack which temporarily crippled Sri Lankas only internationalairport. This provoked mass public and business sector mobilisation to lobby for achange of government and the commencement of peace negotiations. A month later,LTTE opinion seemed to shift with a recognition of the implications that 9/11 wouldhave on its capacity to continue a military campaign. There is an extensive literaturerelating to the history, causes, and peace initiatives in Sri Lanka, and interested read-ers are directed to this (Tambiah, 1992; Bullion, 1995; Loganathan, 1996; de Silva,1998; Rotberg, 1999; Lewer & William, 2002; Ferdinands, 2004). Suffice it to saythat in February 2002 a ceasefire agreement was signed between the Government ofSri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) providing a breathingspace within which to enrol the first batch of students. To date (June 2005), despitefrequent incidents, the ceasefire has held.
Peace education in Sri Lanka 111
After a difficult start, peace education has become established in many centresaround the world, and a quick search of both internet sources, peace literature(Harris, 1999) and perusal of publications such as the Journal of Peace Research, theJournal of Peace Education, Peace and Change, the International Peace ResearchNewsletter, and the Journal of Conflict Resolution reveals just how many countriesnow have academic units concerned with peace research and peace education.Similarly the relevance and development of peace education theory and peaceeducation projects, has been thoroughly reviewed and analysed elsewhere (Wulf,1974; Renna, 1980; Reardon, 1988; Vriens, 1991; Harris, 2004). What we willdescribe in this paper is the design and implementation of a peace education post-graduate diploma in a country which has been affected by a protracted socialconflict over the last 25 years.
In this section what we want to do, briefly, is signpost a few of the influences on ourphilosophy and approaches