As the UN Human Rights Council begins its first meeting of 2021 in Geneva, high on its crowded agenda will be to decide whether to adopt a new resolution that maintains international oversight over Sri Lanka. The present one, adopted in 2015 but now expiring, won support from the Sri Lankan government of the time, which agreed to address the legacy of the country’s brutal civil war and its conclusion in a wave of atrocities in 2009. But Sri Lanka’s current government, led by the same nationalist politicians and generals who were in office at the war’s end, has rejected the truth and accountability agenda it inherited and is working hard to end the Council’s engagement.… Seguir leyendo »
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Wednesday, 5 August saw the landslide general election victory of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vote sets Sri Lanka on a path likely to bring fundamental political and social change. With 59 percent of the vote, the SLPP won enough seats – together with allied parties – to achieve the two-thirds parliamentary majority they requested from voters in order to change the constitution. With executive power shared between the Rajapaksa brothers, the family and their party have the power to reshape Sri Lanka’s political institutions in fundamental – and potentially dangerous – ways.… Seguir leyendo »
The Sri Lankan government has declared its intention to rule without parliamentary oversight for the first time in the country’s modern history, potentially sparking a serious constitutional crisis. Elected in November and without a majority in parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa seized his earliest opportunity to dissolve the legislature on 2 March and schedule a general election for 25 April. As the COVID-19 emergency grew serious in late March, the National Elections Commission (NEC) delayed the vote indefinitely. With the constitution stating that parliament can remain dissolved for only three months pending fresh elections, Sri Lanka will head into dangerously uncharted territory unless the president or courts take decisive action before the deadline expires on 2 June.… Seguir leyendo »
On 16 November, Gotabaya Rajapaksa – who served as defence secretary during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war – won a decisive victory in Sri Lanka’s presidential election.
Although Rajapaksa’s victory was not a surprise, the margin of his win exceeded expectations among many analysts. The candidate of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya (who, like Mahinda, is widely known by his first name) captured 52.25 per cent of the vote. His main rival, Sajith Premadasa, candidate of the ruling United National Party (UNP), came in second with 42 per cent.… Seguir leyendo »
As Sri Lankans head to the polls to elect a new president on 16 November, Gotabaya Rajapaksa stands as the widely acknowledged front runner. As defence secretary during his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decade-long presidency ending in 2015, he was a leading figure in a government that many minority Tamils and Muslims, as well as opposition politicians, blame for terrible political violence and repression. During that period, dozens of journalists were killed or forced into exile, prominent Tamil politicians were murdered, and thousands of Sri Lankans were forcibly disappeared; no one has since been held accountable for those crimes. Gotabaya is expected to name his brother prime minister, as Mahinda is constitutionally term-limited from seeking the presidency.… Seguir leyendo »
Sri Lankans from all ethnic and religious groups – Sinhalese and Tamil, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and Hindu – lived through terrible violence during the decades of war and terrorism that ended ten years ago. Still, no one was prepared for Easter Sunday’s atrocities, whose death toll – now over 300, with more than 500 injured – and degree of organisation make them Sri Lanka’s worst-ever terror attack. The damage to the country’s already torn social fabric is likely to be immense.
Amid the shock, grief and anger, there is also bewilderment. For many, the attacks seem to have come from nowhere.… Seguir leyendo »
Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency for ten days to rein in the spread of communal violence, a government spokesperson said on Tuesday, a day after Buddhists and Muslims clashed in the Indian Ocean island’s central district of Kandy. What are the reasons behind this latest communal violence in the country?
There are many factors behind the recent upsurge of violence against Sri Lankan Muslims. The events of the last ten days have not been local “clashes” between Buddhists and Muslims, but organised and targeted attacks by national-level militant groups who are well known and have made their intentions clear through traditional and social media.… Seguir leyendo »
In January 2015, the shock electoral defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa by his former ally, Maithripala Sirisena, rescued Sri Lanka from a slide into increasingly harsh nationalist authoritarianism. The victory of a broad coalition representing Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims gave hope that the country could begin to address its longstanding political challenges: remedying the 60-year failure to grant Tamils a fair share of power in the Sinhala majority island and restoring for all the rule of law, damaged by decades of politicization, bitter ethnic bias, and impunity for grave abuses committed during the civil war with the Tamil Tigers.
The momentum of the early months soon slowed, as deep political dysfunctions reasserted themselves in the face of reforms meant to shake up entrenched political practices and policies.… Seguir leyendo »
The bloody end of Sri Lanka’s long civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has been marked across the country this month in very different ways, highlighting both the tentative progress made over the past year and the profound divisions still be overcome seven years into peacetime.
Across the north and east, Tamils held public events to remember the victims killed during the final weeks of the government offensive in May 2009. While officially sanctioned on a much wider scale than last year, these commemorations often took place under the watchful, often intimidating, eyes of the military or police.… Seguir leyendo »
Six months after his stunning victory in Sri Lanka's presidential election, Maithripala Sirisena faces a renewed challenge from the man he ousted. Sirisena's triumph gave new life to Sri Lanka's battered democracy, which had suffered under Rajapaksa's authoritarian and nepotistic regime. Rajapaksa's likely return to parliament with a significant degree of support will put continued political reforms and chances for ethnic reconciliation under severe pressure.
Risking his career, Sirisena left his position as health minister and general secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in November 2014 to head a combined opposition campaign led by the United National Party (UNP) to unseat Rajapaksa.… Seguir leyendo »