National Geographic : 2016 Nov
Fragile peace 115 nothing at the roadside kiosk where she sells rice and telephone cards. What matters most to the fisherman’s wife—who asked not to be identified out of fear for her safety and that of her family—is that she believes her husband remains a ghostly prisoner of a war that concluded seven years ago. As it happens, the very same conundrum ap- plies to Sri Lanka. In a sense it too has fallen off the map. Once seen as an emerging South Asian powerhouse, the island nation squandered its opportunity for international legitimacy when it descended into a spiral of violence fomented by long-nurtured ethnic grievances. Now, with a new government pledging to unite the country, that opportunity has returned. This April, Sa- mantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the Unit- ed Nations, applauded the administration led by President Maithripala Sirisena for its “extraor- dinary progress” in working toward “a durable peace, an accountable democracy, a new rela- tionship with the outside world, and expanded opportunities for all.” But it’s not Power or other foreign officials whom the government needs to win over. Far more crucial is the Tamil minority that feels left behind by the country’s postwar progress and embittered by the Sinhalese majority’s seeming indifference to its plight. And this is where the Tamil children return from school in Mannar, a town on the northwest coast where many Tamil men vanished during the civil war. Sri Lankans highly value education, a constitutional right. It’s not unusual to see children studying by candlelight late into the night. The country has an adult literacy rate of more than 95 percent.