Sri Lanka

Mahinda Rajapaksa, prime minister of Sri Lanka, addressing the legislature on Thursday.CreditCreditM A Pushpa Kumara/EPA, via Shutterstock

Over the past few weeks, Sri Lanka has faced a moral and political crisis that threatens to undermine hope for democracy. On Oct. 26, Maithripala Sirisena, the president of Sri Lanka, appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa, the polarizing former president who ran Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2014, to replace the incumbent prime minister, Ranil Wickremasinghe.

At the heart of the crisis is Mr. Sirisena’s seeking to strengthen his political future through an alliance with Mr. Rajapaksa, who is making a bid for power.

The prospect of Mr. Rajapaksa’s return to power has revived fears of authoritarian rule and repression of the country’s long-embattled minorities.…  Seguir leyendo »

The gutted remains of a Muslim business torched in Kandy on Wednesday EPA

In the city of Kandy, located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, recent attacks against Muslims by Sinhala Buddhist militants have raised fears of increased communal violence. Social media images have shown the scale of damage to Muslim neighbourhoods, with arson attacks and vandalism of Muslim-owned stores and mosques. In response the government declared a 10-day state of emergency for the first time since the end of the civil war era.

What is clear is that the recent violence is not random or isolated. Just before these current attacks, there had been an earlier attack on a mosque and Muslim businesses in the southeastern town of Ampara.…  Seguir leyendo »

Buddhist Militancy Rises Again in Sri Lanka

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 islands 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 »

Japan and India are coordinating a plan to develop a port at Trincomalee, on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast. (Jonathan Hillman)

In December, a Chinese state-owned enterprise took over a port here in this small fishing town on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. The port was never intended to be Chinese-owned and operated, but it was Chinese-financed and built, creating a debt that Sri Lanka could not repay. As Sri Lanka celebrates 70 years of independence from British imperial rule, some fear the nation now faces a new form of colonialism.

The episode has turned tiny Hambantota into something of a global lighthouse. Sitting in the Indian Ocean, it serves as a warning about the hazards of China’s global infrastructure push, which could make small economies dependent even while helping them develop.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, the Associated Press published an explosive report documenting more than 50 Tamil men’s allegations that Sri Lanka’s security forces sexually assaulted and tortured them. Their accounts of gang rape, sexual humiliation, and penetration with barbed wire are supported by medical records and psychiatric evaluations. The details are stomach-turning. The news broke at an inconvenient time for Sri Lanka, which is up for its Universal Periodic Review at the U.N. Human Rights Council this week. The government delegation’s assurances of a “zero tolerance policy” on torture sat awkwardly alongside reports of abuses so shocking that one career human rights investigator described them as “the most egregious and perverted that I’ve ever seen.”

But it’s not just the brutality of the assaults that stands out; it’s their routine nature.…  Seguir leyendo »

Early Tuesday morning, news broke that Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Brazil had fled the country. Colombo later announced that his departure was planned, and it was simply the end of his ambassadorial term, but the timing raised eyebrows. The previous day, human rights groups had filed a criminal complaint accusing Ambassador Jagath Jayasuriya of command responsibility for war crimes.

Jayasuriya, who is also Sri Lanka’s ambassador to five other Latin American countries, is a former army general. From 2007 to 2009, he oversaw the last phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The United Nations estimates that more than 40,000 Tamil civilians died in the final months of the conflict.…  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 »

I gave a talk last month at the Galle Literary Festival in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. This festival, whose home is in the southern city of Galle, has become over the past decade one of the brightest lights in Sri Lanka’s cultural firmament. This year, it established “outreach” festivals in Kandy, in Sri Lanka’s hill country, and in Jaffna in the North.

Taking the festival to Jaffna, the northern province capital, was particularly significant. It is less than seven years since the brutal civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan Army came to an end. Much has been reconstructed in the North, but the ghosts of conflict still haunt Jaffna, from bullet-marked buildings to the thousands of civilians who were killed in the war’s bloody conclusion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sri Lanka ha sido merecidamente elogiada por los avances que logró desde el fin de la guerra contra el grupo separatista denominado los Tigres Tamiles en el año 2009. La economía ha crecido a una tasa promedio anual de 6.7%, y las estadísticas de educación y salud son impresionantes.

Todos los países en desarrollo se enfrentan a innumerables desafíos, pero esto es especialmente cierto en el caso de un país que ha sufrido una intensa guerra civil durante 30 años. El gobierno tendrá que establecer prioridades; pero, el éxito requerirá de un abordaje integral.

Generalmente de manera subyacente a las guerras, tales como la lucha contra los Tigres Tamiles, se encuentran quejas sociales y económicas, como ser una discriminación real o percibida, y el fracaso del gobierno en cuanto a abordar adecuadamente las disparidades de riqueza e ingresos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sri Lanka’s War Crimes Controversy

Earlier this month, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released its long-awaited investigation into alleged crimes during Sri Lanka’s civil war. The conflict, which began in 1983 and lasted nearly three decades, pitted the Sri Lankan government against various ethnic Tamil rebels, most prominent the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which were fighting for the creation of a separate state in the country’s north and east.

The 272-page report makes for grim reading. Focusing on alleged abuses committed by both sides between 2002 and 2011, it documents numerous crimes, including unlawful killings and sexual violence, especially at the hands of the military during the last phase of the war in 2009, under the administration of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.…  Seguir leyendo »

El Buda, Siddhartha Gautama, no compuso ningún sutra para azuzar el odio religioso ni la animadversión racial. Sin embargo, el chovinismo budista amenaza los procesos democráticos de Myanmar (Birmania) y Sri Lanka. Algunos de los mismos monjes budistas que desafiaron a la junta militar birmana en la “Revolución de Azafrán” de 2007 hoy incitan a la violencia contra la minoría musulmana rohinyá. En Sri Lanka, el chovinismo étnico de los budistas cingaleses, avivado por un ex presidente que está resuelto a volver al poder, pone el ridículo la supuesta meta de reconciliación con los derrotados tamiles hinduistas.

En Birmania, el racismo budista es uno de los grandes factores de la virtual guerra civil en el estado de Rajiine y ha generado una crisis humanitaria en que cientos de miles de rohinyá musulmanes han tenido que huir del país por mar y tierra.…  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 »

Ganar una guerra o una revolución para luego perder la paz ulterior es una de las desalentadoras verdades políticas de nuestro tiempo. En Irak, una rápida victoria militar sobre el régimen de Saddam Hussein pronto dio paso a la insurgencia, la guerra civil y el ascenso del criminal Estado Islámico. En Libia, Siria, Yemen y otros sitios, las esperanzas desencadenadas por la Primavera Árabe han sufrido un proceso similar para convertirse en una desesperación a menudo violenta.

Hoy día, media década después del final de una guerra civil que duró 36 años, Sri Lanka se encuentra en un momento crucial para sus propios esfuerzos por consolidar la paz y garantizar sus beneficios a largo plazo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sri Lanka’s voters shocked themselves and the world this month by tossing out their president, who crushed the Tamil insurgency in 2009 and then led the country, along with his brother as defense secretary, to the brink of authoritarianism. The new president has promised to restore freedom of the press, independence of judges, and the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

Democracy advocates, including Secretary of State John Kerry, say this is the country’s most important chance to open a new chapter in more than a decade.

But the country must make sure that members of the ousted regime do not return to power and that the new government can secure its authority.…  Seguir leyendo »

The stunning ouster of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Jan. 8 was good news for that island nation of 20 million, and further evidence of a universal yearning for good governance.

After a decade in power, Sri Lankans chose to hold Rajapaksa accountable for extensive corruption and nepotism, and for presiding over a climate of intimidation. His relatives and cronies dominated key ministries and institutions, and abused their powers to raid the public purse and silence critics. One-family authoritarian rule under the Sri Lanka Freedom Party did not pass public muster and despite the challenger’s late start and lack of resources, democracy prevailed.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Sri Lanka that Pope Francis is now visiting to canonize an 18th-century missionary is a radically different country than it was just one week ago. The difference: He will be greeted by a new president, Maithripala Sirisena, a onetime ally and cabinet minister of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former president who failed in his bid to secure a third term.

When Mr. Rajapaksa called the early election, in November, few thought the outcome would be anything other than a greater consolidation of his increasingly entrenched position in the country. His nearly 10 years in power undeniably transformed Sri Lanka: Mr. Rajapaksa presided over the end to the island nation’s long-running and brutal civil war in 2009, when government forces conclusively defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a terrorist group that for decades used guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings to fight for a separate homeland for the Tamil-majority areas in the north and east.…  Seguir leyendo »

When I met Watareka Vijitha Thero in early 2014 in a suburb of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, he had been in hiding for nearly five months. The gentle-voiced monk had spoken out against anti-Muslim fearmongering by a hard-line group called the Buddhist Power Force, known by its Sinhalese initials B.B.S.

Mr. Vijitha’s car was attacked in retaliation, and he narrowly escaped. “What does it mean for Buddhism if those that speak for communal harmony have to hide in fear?” he asked me. “What does it mean for my country that the government lets these lawless thugs have a free run?”

Six months later, Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

In early 2009, as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, having been herded into an area about the size of Central Park and subjected to relentless shelling. No one has been held accountable for these crimes, and even now the government in Colombo remains intent on burying the past. Only an international commission of inquiry stands any chance of rectifying this omission. So when the United Nations Human Rights Council meets Monday in Geneva, it should seek an investigation. It would be a decisive step toward justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the Commonwealth summit approaches, the shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, among others, has urged David Cameron to boycott the meeting next week in Colombo, while the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, has withdrawn. At issue are the war crimes alleged to have been committed under the host government in Sri Lanka, for which there is mounting evidence. Thousands of Tamil civilians were killed during the bloody civil war. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is also accused of attacks on the press and violence against government critics. With the UN too calling for an independent investigation, refused so far, it is certainly depressing that Commonwealth leaders show so little appetite for challenging his intransigence.…  Seguir leyendo »