Equality of opportunity reflects the availability of opportunities to all individuals in a society to enable them to advance their interests on an equal footing. This article discusses the concept of equality of opportunity in the Sri Lankan context. It explores Sri Lanka’s post-Independence socio-political and constitutional history and examines the nexus between the denial of formal and substantive equality of opportunity and the emergence of violent conflict. This article presents a case for making formal and substantive equality of opportunity integral to advancing sustainable coexistence and ensuring the non-recurrence of violent conflict in Sri Lanka. It analyses Sri Lanka’s commitment to equality of opportunity in its formal constitutional framework and socio-political practice. First, it analyses Sri Lanka’s constitutional framework and the formal guarantees of equality of opportunity. Second, it critically evaluates the extent to which these guarantees are realized in practice and problematizes the ostensible gap between formal law and socio-political practice. Finally, it explores some of the major structural factors that motivate the denial of formal and substantive equality of opportunity in Sri Lanka: entitlement complexes, existential fears, and institutional decay. The article concludes that equality of opportunity can be formally and substantively guaranteed only through a multi-pronged approach of constitutional, cultural, and institutional reform. Such reform is crucial to facilitate meaningful coexistence in Sri Lanka and to ensure the non-recurrence of violent conflict.

Custom Citation

Gehan Gunatilleke, 'Coexistence and Violence: The Case for Equality of Opportunity in Sri Lanka' (2020) 16(1) Socio-Legal Review 26

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