Nov 09 (SBS) Until recently most 'boat people' seeking asylum in Australia have come from wartime situations or from dictatorships. But this is not the case for the increasing numbers coming from Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, a country of 20 million, has had democratic institutions and practices since 1931, when universal suffrage (including for women) was granted by the British. Sri Lanka was a poor country, but well-educated and with a range of social services and subsidies which reached the majority rural population. Power changed hands peacefully.
Today, there are many disturbing political issues which did not exist 40 years ago. These include the chaos and destruction caused by the long civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers.
This marked the end of the steady affirmation of power by the majority Sinhalese Buddhist population over the minority Tamil Hindu people of the north and east. After years of grievances expressed through democratic politics, tensions burst into open warfare in 1983.