World

Sri Lankans Maintain Hope in the Midst of Chaos

by Rajesh Srinivasan and Steve Crabtree

Three in five say permanent peace will eventually be achieved

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Last week a delicate cease-fire agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was shattered when a female suicide bomber wounded the country's top army commander outside military headquarters in the capital city of Colombo, and killed 11 others. The incident was the most tragic result to date of the unrest that began in late 2005, further delaying a return to peace talks and generating fears that Sri Lanka may be on the verge of slipping back into civil war.

Sri Lanka, once a British colony called Ceylon and touted as the Paradise of Asia, has been anything but peaceful for the last two decades. The ethnic strife between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority concentrated in the North and East originated in the late 1970s and gathered momentum in the late '80s and early '90s. It has turned parts of the country into a perpetual war zone, resulting in extensive loss of life (more than 60,000 are believed to have been killed over the last two decades due to civil war), destruction of property, and displacement of thousands of families. The devastation caused by the tsunami of December 2004 has compounded Sri Lanka's social and economic burdens.

But recent Gallup World Poll data suggest that hope for permanent peace is very much alive among Sri Lankans. Overall, about three in five Sri Lankans (62%) say permanent peace will eventually be achieved. In the Northern and Eastern areas most affected by the violence, almost half say they believe permanent peace will be achieved. Optimism is particularly prevalent among Hindus, the vast majority of whom are ethnic Tamils.

Do you think that permanent peace between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE will ever be achieved?

Age

Total

15-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55+

Yes

62%

65%

60%

59%

55%

70%

No

19

18

21

23

21

12

Don't know

18

17

16

17

23

17

Refused

1

0

3

1

0

1



Region

Total

North

East

South

West

Central

North-
west

North-
Central

Yes

62%

48%

46%

91%

69%

57%

55%

67%

No

19

12

14

8

17

21

18

24

Don't know

18

40

40

1

13

22

27

9

Refused

1

0

0

0

2

0

0

0


Religion

Total

Buddhist

Hindu

Muslim

Roman
Catholic

Yes

62%

59%

88%

79%

60%

No

19

20

5

10

23

Don't know

18

20

7

10

17

Refused

1

1

0

0

0

This hope is bolstered by prevailing confidence in the Sri Lankan government's commitment to finding peace, and in the efforts of current leaders and organizations involved in the peace process. Even in the tumultuous Northern and Eastern parts of the country, as well as among Hindus, confidence in the government's commitment to finding peace through talks is high.

In general, do you think that the government is committed to finding peace through talks?

Age

Total

15-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55+

Yes

83%

83%

84%

81%

86%

84%

No

11

12

9

11

7

13

Don't know

6

5

7

8

7

3

Refused

0

0

0

0

0

0


Region

Total

North

East

South

West

Central

North-
west

North-
Central

Yes

83%

72%

85%

92%

82%

79%

83%

88%

No

11

10

10

5

14

11

12

7

Don't know

6

18

3

3

5

9

6

5

Refused

0

1

2

0

0

1

0

0


Religion

Total

Buddhist

Hindu

Muslim

Roman
Catholic

Yes

83%

85%

82%

76%

68%

No

11

9

12

14

24

Don't know

6

5

4

10

7

Refused

0

0

2

0

0

President Mahinda Rajapakse, in particular, receives a vote of confidence from Sri Lankans in this regard; 88% say they approve of his handling of the peace process. Formerly the Sri Lankan prime minister, Rajapakse was just elected president in November 2005, so he may have benefited from a typically seen "honeymoon" period of high approval ratings at the time of interviewing in February and March 2006. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, formerly the country's Deputy Minister of Defense, elicits the approval of two-thirds of Sri Lankans (67%) for his role in the peace process.

Only 11% of Sri Lankans approve of the contribution made by LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran, who has been accused of repeatedly violating the terms of the cease-fire agreement brokered in early 2002 by the Norwegian government. And fewer than half of Sri Lankans (46%) currently say they approve of the performance of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, the organization established at the time of the cease-fire to monitor each side's adherence to the conditions of the agreement.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way the following leaders are handling their jobs with respect to the peace process?

President
Mahinda
Rajapakse

Prime
Minister
Ratnasiri
Wickre-
manayake

LTTE
Leader
Vellupillai
Prab-
hakaran

Indian
Govt.*

The Sri
Lanka
Monitoring
Mission*

Approve

88%

67%

11%

64%

46%

Disapprove

6

15

74

14

28

DK/Refused

6

18

15

22

26

* QUESTION WORDING: Do you approve or disapprove of the role played by ____ in the peace process?

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,033 residents of Sri Lanka, aged 15 and older, conducted Feb. 16-March 15, 2006, as part of the Gallup World Poll. Respondents were interviewed across 150 locations spread across both urban and rural areas of Sri Lanka. Households were selected at random, and respondents within households were chosen at random according to Kish tables. Interviews were conducted in Tamil and Sinhalese.

For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling, weighting, and other random effects is ±4 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/22678/Sri-Lankans-Maintain-Hope-Midst-Chaos.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030