Long roots of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict

Aug 3, 2006 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s long conflict between the government and ethnic Tamil rebels is rooted in the nation’s colonial past, but the bloodshed remains an intractable problem of the present. At least 60,000 people are believed to have been killed since 1972 when a disgruntled school dropout, Velupillai Prabhakaran, formed the militant group that became the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

While the majority Sinhalese are mostly Buddhists and the Tamils are Hindus, however, religion has not played a role in the hostilities.

The Sinhalese trace their origins to a North Indian prince, Vijaya, whose father banished him.

Vijaya is said to have taken a native princess as his wife, and together they gave birth to the Sinhalese race.

After being colonised by the Portuguese, the Dutch and later the British, many Sinhalese now have mixed European blood.

Tamils arrived in Sri Lanka from neighbouring India in the 5th and 6th centuries, but they fought many wars with the kings who ruled the island’s different provinces.

The “Sri Lankan Tamils” are distinct from the Tamil labourers imported from the subcontinent by the British in the 19th century to work on their coffee and