Monday, June 18, 2007

Headline of the Day

by Ken Houghton

Buddhist nationalism behind Sri Lanka's violent surge
Both Sinhalese and Tamils trace their presence in Sri Lanka back centuries. Until relatively recently, theirs was a harmonious coexistence.

But in the 19th century, many Buddhist Sinhalese felt that the British, who then ruled Ceylon, gave the Tamils preferential treatment. At independence in 1948, a disproportionate number of civil servants were Tamils.

In 1956, the Sinhalese made swift and brutal amends. Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike, an ardent Buddhist nationalist, launched a successful campaign to make Sinhalese the official language.

He was heavily backed by the island's monks in a move that excluded many Tamils from educational opportunities and prestigious jobs. In 1970, university admission rules were changed to favor the Sinhalese.


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