Blog: Leonie BarriePeace is a fragile thing

Leonie Barrie | 5 November 2003

Just two weeks ago I was in Sri Lanka, where I was able to see for myself the progress of the peace process and the ways in which the country has been benefiting. Sri Lanka’s development has undoubtedly been held back by the 20-year long conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels, but since the ceasefire was declared in February 2002 the whole economy has been resuscitated. Tourist arrivals, foreign and domestic investments have all soared, and the government has been using these new resources to invest in the country’s infrastructure.

But now, in a rather cruel irony, it seems the peace process has been the catalyst for political turmoil, and according to some news sources a state of emergency has been declared. At least that’s what we’ve been told by the media. Speaking with some of my contacts in Sri Lanka this-morning, a different story emerges: one in which both life and business are carrying on as normal and the military presence – where there is one – is low key.

Let’s put this into context. For the past two decades Sri Lankans have lived with the threat – and sometimes actions – of a guerrilla organisation in their midst. The country was ruled under emergency laws almost continually between March 1983 and October 2001. And even against a backdrop like this some sectors of the economy, particularly clothing and textiles, have grown almost unabated. Yes the next couple of weeks will be interesting, but from what I’ve been told it will take more than a spat between two political rivals to derail the country’s forward progress.

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