Vindhya Buthpitiya (2022) In Sri Lanka, a perpetrator state demands non-violence, The Urban Violence Research Network. Available at: https://urbanviolence.org/perpetrator-state/ (Accessed: March 16, 2023).
In this short piece, Buthpitiya is introducing an extremely interesting nuance in Conflict Resolution. There is a tendency for people to think that peace automatically has positive meanings and implications. In the case that she presents, the authors exemplify how peace can actually be extremely problematic in the context of what she calls ‘the perpetrator’s peace’. She describes the situation in Sri Lanka currently, where the state (entwined with and representing the Sinhalese majority) ‘won’ the recent civil war against a ‘rebel’ Tamil minority. This victory has resulted in continuity, rather than change, because those in power (who committed atrocities in the past) remain in a position to oppress the Tamil minority. Inevitably, this means that no post-conflict justice has been secured, no reparations granted, but instead continued oppression.
The Tamil people, who lost so many loved ones during the Civil war (ending in 2009), have shown extreme fortitude and resilience as well as organizational capacities. In fact, since the end of the war, despite being forbidden to mourn, families have kept on coming out with the pictures of their disappeared family members asking for answers and recognition. And this has not stopped. Buthpithiya shows that despite increased violence, they keep on coming back, challenging the state security forces to make their voices and experiences of violence heard. These protests are also forcing the government to address the issues they are raising, even if it is through violence, which distracts them from taking care of the rest of the country – or rather shines light on the automatic use of violence to take care of the country, which raises critical socio-economic problematics.
What I understood through this piece is that no matter the outcome of a conflict, if there is no justice, no answers, no recognition – no matter the winner or the loser – the peace cannot hold. Without justice, the only outcome can be that of a perpetrator’s peace, and nothing more.