With the 26-year-old Sri Lankan civil war continuing to wind down—or, at the very least, enter a decidedly less conventional phase—the Colombo government faces a big challenge: How do they bring the Jaffna Peninsula back into the national fold? The region has been dominated by the Tamil Tigers for years now, and the insurgents managed to set up a veritable independent country. (The Tigers were even organized enough to create their own traffic regulations.)
The key, of course, is the ensure the region’s economic viability—if folks are doing well, they’re far less likely to cause political trouble. (See: Northern Ireland.) But where to begin? Malini Fonseka, Sri Lanka’s most celebrated movie star, wants to build a national arts center in Jaffna, so that the peninsula’s capital will become a magnet for musicians, filmmakers, and other creative types. A noble gesture, for sure, but one complicated by Fonseka’s ethnicity: She is a member of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority. As such, her films were verboten under the Tigers’ regime; they insisted that their subjects view Tamil-language movies produced in Kollywood. Will Jaffna’s denizens warm to Fonseka and her plans, or will ethnic suspicions undermine the endeavor? In war-torn Sri Lanka, alas, the smart money has to be on the latter right now.
More on Malini Fonseka’s storied career here.