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Role of Libraries in conflict and peace process in Sri Lanka


R Maheswaran

Senior Asst. Librarian, Tamil Division, Main Library, University of Peradeniya. Sri Lanka, LK
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There has been an ethnic conflict between the two major communities in Sri Lanka from late 1970's. It is a struggle between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority about the political and cultural control of a given territory greatly aggravated by the Liberation tigers of Tamil Eelam. Although it is said the basis of the crisis is supported by an overly narrow view of the possible relation between ethnicity and religion, there is the view that in case of Sri Lanka, important historical realities are either ignored or distorted. The war situation cause a massive economic burden to the country in many ways including lowering of standards of livings and causing migration of skilled labour out of the country. There were various political attempts from the 19603, with and without third party mediation, to resolve the conflict but all begun in 2002. It is at crossroads and offers a unique opportunity to find an amicable solution to the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka. The education policy in the country and religious dignities in the country are expected to play important roles in the peace process by changing the attitude of people of the nation. There are many records from earliest time to the present day that document the fact that the Libraries and information centers were destroyed and affected during conflicts or war, in locally and internationally. Although there is long a history of threats to libraries, they can play an important role in creating ethnic harmony. Libraries are expected to change attitude of the civil society, which is a stakeholder in the peace process. The libraries - school libraries, public libraries, university libraries and national library can effectively bring about the attitudinal changes in the minds of the nation. Libraries should work with great effort to create the civil society, which with sustained public support will formulate ways and means to create the ethnic harmony.

'Khilji' annihilated Nalanda University the famous Buddhist seat of learning in North India with a three-block library, one block was nine story's high". Piyadasa (1985)

The history of Sinhala literature too recorded destruction of libraries in the Anuradhapura - Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya period (9th-13th Century), Kurunegala - Gampola-Kotte period (14th-18th century), Sitawake-Kandy period ( 17th -18th).

In the recent past, after the District Council election in Jaffna on 1st June 1981 with the collection of nearly 97,000 books, the Jaffna Public Library was consigned to flames. The burning of the Jaffna Public Library with several rare historical collections was a great loss not only to the people of Jaffna, but also to the entire nation.

The Sri Daiada Maligawa in Kandy, the temple, which houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha, is possibly the most sacred Buddhists Shrine in the world. It is venerated not only by Buddhist in Sri Lanka, but also by Buddhist all over the world. It was bombed on 25th January 1998 by suicide cadres. It also housed many sacred books and palm-leaf manuscripts. After this incidence, there was a rumor that the Tiger cadres were going to attack the University of Peradeniya Library. The University Administration took various security steps. They hired a retired senior Superintendent of Police as a security adviser. Railings (rail of Iron) were used to fence the library building to prevent any vehicles that may be carrying explosives from entering the library premises. At the entrance to the Library, Metal detector was fixed. Fire extinguishing training was given to all library staff. Vigilance committees were formed. The Vigilance committee worked round the clock. Civil security service.

Key Words: Peace Process, Role of Libraries, Sri Lanka, TamiI, Sinhala  

doi: 10.4038/jula.v12i0.331  

Journal of the University Librarians Association of Sri Lanka (Vol. 12) 2008 p.107-123

How to Cite: Maheswaran, R., 2008. Role of Libraries in conflict and peace process in Sri Lanka. Journal of the University Librarians Association of Sri Lanka, 12, pp.107–123. DOI:
Published on 11 Dec 2008.
Peer Reviewed


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