State-Building, Power-Sharing Discourse, and Political Autonomy of Minorities within Ethno-Nationalist Gloom in Sri Lanka

  •  Mohammad Agus Yusoff    
  •  Athambawa Sarjoon    
  •  Abd Rashid Abdul Wahab    


Positioning minority concerns within a power-sharing mechanism is a key issue that has been influential in Sri Lanka’s modern state-building process experimented from the later part of the colonial period. Throughout the post-independent era, most state-building projects were critically debated with regard to sharing political autonomy between the majority Sinhalese and the minorities. This study attempts to locate the claims and concerns of minorities seeking political autonomy in Sri Lanka’s state-building and power-sharing discourse. The study found that the state-building process in Sri Lanka has always been a struggle between establishing a majoritarian-ethno-nationalist hegemonic state system and preserving the right of minority ethnic groups to political power-sharing. The study further found that (a) insufficient emphasis given towards understanding power-sharing and federalism as a means to accommodate diverse interests and rights, including the political autonomy rights of minorities, (b) the opportunistic politics of opposition parties, and (c) the ethno-nationalist agenda of the majority Sinhalese were the major factors that have induced to undermine the minorities’ claims for political autonomy. The ultimate result of this is the continuous struggles by minorities to situate their political autonomy demands within Sri Lanka’s state-building and power-sharing discourse.

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