This summer marks the 20th anniversary of one of the world’s longest-running and bloodiest separatist conflicts. Two decades of war on the island nation of Sri Lanka have claimed more than 60,000 lives, and in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE), have spawned a guerrilla insurgent group whose ferocity and use of suicide bombings have evoked comparisons with Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge and Peru’s Sendero Luminoso. A year ago, hopes for an end to the conflict rose in the wake of the announcement of a permanent cease-fire and the inauguration of a Norwegian-brokered peace process. Six rounds of talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE have taken place during the past twelve months, but more recently that process seems to have stalled.

These events provided the background for an off-the-record discussion on May 29 co-hosted by the Asia Program and the Canada Institute. University of Toronto political scientist David R. Cameron is a leading authority on federalism as a constitutional mechanism for resolving ethnic conflict and preserving national unity, and has advised the governments of Russia, Estonia, and Canada, as well as various sub-national governments, on federalism and constitutional reform. During the past year Cameron has been a participant in four of the six rounds of the Sri Lankan peace talks, offering his technical knowledge and familiarity with various experiments with federalism as a possible model for resolving Sri Lanka’s conflict. In his remarks at the Wilson Center he shared his views on the current state and future prospects of the peace process.