ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Law, Prevention, and Promoting a Sinhala National Identity in Sri Lanka


Srivastava Prateek - University of Cincinnati, School of Public and International Affairs, Cincinnati, United States


04- Pathways from Injury: Legal Narratives of Prejudice and the Politics of Hate in South Asia


 Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) has gained momentum since the 2019 Easter Day attacks. Implemented in 1979 as a temporary measure, PTA was introduced to control the rising militancy of the LTTE and the JVP. Containing many clauses that are against international legal norms, it made torture and arbitrary detention possible, under the guise of being used for national security and terrorist threats, usually based on disinformation and rumors. However, since the end of the war in 2009, it has repeatedly been used to target government opponents and members of minority communities, with similar claims as before.

In this paper, I look at how the PTA allows the majoritarian Sri Lankan government to institutionalize violence against Muslim and Tamil minorities, as well as protesters and opposition figures. To elicit an underlying pattern of legal use, this paper puts out a socio-legal analysis of the media and political rhetoric surrounding PTA cases. Based on textual analysis and semi-structured interviews, I contend that PTA has been utilized in post-war Sri Lanka to build a narrative of the nation-state and national interests, frequently placed against the individual liberties of ethno-religious minorities. I also argue that the act is critical in building a binding Sinhala national identity while also enabling Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism to be used as a political instrument that can subversively monitor and discipline ethno-religious minority citizens.