Managing Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka through Constitutional Arrangements


  • Ilam Khan



Ethnic conflict, conflict management, political liberalization, Sri Lanka, constitutional arrangements


Marginalization causes conflicts; they may be political, social, or economic. A careful contemplation over the history of Sri Lanka reveals that the sentiments of being marginalized have been present — in one (ethnic) group or the other — in the island right from its independence. When the majority ethnic group, i.e., the Sinhala, was in a position of power, it manipulated the constitution of the country to safeguard its own interests. This widened the rift among different ethnic and religious groups, especially between the Sinhala and the Tamil. This structural marginalization resulted in a civil war, starting in 1983, that lasted for 26 years. However, the ethnic conflict did not resolve even after the end of the civil war and continues to exist in the form of a political struggle between the Tamil and Sinhala. The Tamil demand for federation, autonomy, inclusion, and self-determination can only be achieved through constitutional means. Therefore, this research evaluates the post-Civil War
constitutional development and amendment processes that were, at a point in time, more pluralistic and liberal, and contributing well to managing the ethnic conflict in the country. It was expected that the ethnic conflict would be permanently resolved through the constitutional arrangements, which Sri Lanka was already heading. However, the majority (Sinhala) reversed the progress through a new (20th) amendment to the constitution. Against this backdrop, this article argues that all segments of the society can be accommodated in the political sphere of the state through political liberalization which is possible only through constitutional arrangements.

Author Biography

Ilam Khan

Ilam Khan holds a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies from the Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Pakistan.




How to Cite

Ilam Khan. (2021). Managing Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka through Constitutional Arrangements. NUST Journal of International Peace & Stability, 4(2), 1–15.




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