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Peace Processes in Aceh and Sri Lanka: A Comparative Assessment

Author: Damien Kingsbury

Volume 3, Number 2 (June 2007), pp. 93-112.


The 2004 tsunami provided a catalyst for peace talks over the separatist conflict in Aceh, Indonesia, leading to its eventual resolution in 2005.  As Aceh was going to peaceful elections in 2006, Sri Lanka, which had also been affected by the tsunami, appeared to be returning to full-scale separatist war.  This article assesses some of the underlying similarities and differences between the conflicts in Aceh and Sri Lanka.  Within this, it will touch upon claims to self-determination, human rights and political participation, representation, transparency and accountability, more commonly referred to as 'democracy'.  In particular, it will acknowledge these values as both challenges to the (restrictive) state, and the means of securing (non-restrictive) state cohesion.  Originating in the local and specific, these claims necessarily transcend the local and come to reflect elements of the normative global.  In more concrete terms, the Aceh conflict was largely resolved by introducing greater local autonomy within a more democratic space.  This paper similarly proposes that a resolution to the Sri Lanka conflict can only come about through the introduction of greater autonomy and democratic plurality.  However, with conceptual and strategic hostility growing between Sri Lanka's conflicting parties, it appeared that such resolution was likely only after further protracted bloodshed.

About the Author

Dr Damien Kingsbury is Director of International and Community Development at Deakin University, Melbourne.  He is author of The Politics of Indonesia (3rd ed.  Oxford, 2005), and Power Politics and the Indonesian Military (Routledge-Curzon, 2003).  He was adviser to the Free Aceh Movement for the period of the Helsinki peace talks, and consults for the Olof Palme International Center on democratization training in Aceh.  dlk@deakin.edu.au.


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