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Former Sri Lankan President to Speak on Challenges After 26-Year Civil War

November 1, 2011 — Chandrika Kumaratunga, president of Sri Lanka from 1994 to 2005, will speak at the University of Virginia's Rotunda Dome Room on Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but online registration is required.

Sri Lanka – an island nation in the Indian Ocean – suffered through a 26-year civil war between its two main ethnic groups, the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority, that ended in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers insurgency.

In her talk, "The Absence of War is Not Peace," Kumaratunga will discuss the war's conclusion and the challenges to a lasting peace, including the need to reconcile longstanding mistrust and resentment between the warring factions.

The talk is sponsored by the U.Va. Center for Politics' Global Perspectives on Democracy program, which promotes a dialogue between Americans and citizens of other nations on how to build a better democracy.

Kumaratunga's visit to Grounds follows a series of Global Perspectives on Democracy efforts related to Sri Lanka, including: hosting 18 young professionals from Sri Lanka for four days in March 2009 to learn about American history, Jeffersonian ideas on democracy and practical political advice from accomplished public servants like the late U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger; Center for Politics staff members Daman Irby and Meg Heubeck visiting Sri Lanka in August 2009 to meet with individuals working for peace and reconciliation in the country; and hosting for four weeks in June 2010 a group of college students from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka who focused on new media journalism and the importance of freedom of expression.

Most of those efforts were funded by the U.S. State Department as part of a cultural exchange program coordinated by Relief International.

"The visit by President Kumaratunga is a testament to the center's ongoing relationship with Sri Lanka and how far Global Perspectives on Democracy has come in its first few years," said Center for Politics director Larry Sabato.

— By Brevy Cannon

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