icon caret Arrow Down Arrow Left Arrow Right Arrow Up Line Camera icon set icon set Ellipsis icon set Facebook Favorite Globe Hamburger List Mail Map Marker Map Microphone Minus PDF Play Print RSS Search Share Trash Crisiswatch Alerts and Trends Box - 1080/761 Copy Twitter Video Camera  copyview Youtube

Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan politics are increasingly volatile. The government is reluctant to address the legacy of civil war and authoritarian rule. Inter-ethnic relations remain fragile, with Sinhala majoritarianism resisting any accommodation of Tamil political claims and militant Buddhist groups’ campaign of violence and hate speech against Muslims posing a considerable threat to the country’s stability. Building on Crisis Group’s work to address the humanitarian and human rights crises of the civil war’s last phase, we aim to strengthen communal relations among Tamils, Muslims and Buddhists, while advocating for governance reforms that are essential to lasting peace. 

CrisisWatch Sri Lanka

Unchanged Situation

Amid high-level visits from Russian, Chinese and U.S. officials, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa continued to consolidate his power while new arrest of United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian undermined political opposition. President Rajapaksa 3 Jan reiterated his commitment to constitutional reforms to increase presidential mandate under stronger executive system; announcement followed 1 Jan tabling of private member’s bills by pro-govt MP proposing changes to 19th amendment increase presidential powers; govt hoping parliamentary elections expected in April will give it two-thirds majority required to amend constitution. Authorities 4 Jan arrested opposition UNP member Ranjan Ramanayake over possession of unlicensed firearm; in search of his home, police discovered recorded conversations of Ramanayake discussing ongoing legal cases with police and judges, urging strong action against former Rajapaksa govt officials. Subsequent leaking of recordings to media undermined public credibility of UNP and used to support new govt claims its key members were victims of unjust investigations; President Rajapaksa 9 Jan appointed commission of inquiry to investigate cases of “political victimisation” by various anti-corruption units under former UNP-led govt. Cabinet 2 Jan withdrew draft Counter Terrorism Act which previous govt had submitted to parliament in order to replace controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act with more human rights compliant legislation. In official visit to Sri Lanka, Chinese FM Wang Yi 13 Jan encouraged greater economic ties between two countries, highlighted desire for increased cooperation on Belt and Road initiative and Colombo Port City projects. Russian FM Sergei Lavrov 14 Jan announced support to improve Sri Lanka’s defence capacity against “threats posed by terrorism, violent extremism, illicit drugs trafficking and other transnational organised crimes” during visit to Colombo. U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells also visited Sri Lanka 13-14 Jan, said negotiations over Millennium Challenge Corporation funding would resume after committee appointed by Rajapaksa reviews earlier draft agreed with UNP-led govt.

Continue reading

Reports & Briefings

In The News

25 Apr 2019
The president has tried to weaken [Sri Lanka's Prime Minister] in many ways, including taking the police under his control. So it's entirely possible that the police wouldn't share information with ministers not aligned with the president. AFP

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
24 Jun 2018
It is particularly damaging that the reasons the U.S. Government gave for leaving the Human Rights Council – for being hypocritical and biased, echo so closely criticisms that the previous Sri Lankan Government and many Lankan politicians in opposition and in the current Government have made about the Council’s engagement with and resolutions on Sri Lanka. The U.S. withdrawal will have lasting damage and will strengthen governments and politicians across the globe who prefer to be left to their own devices, even when this involves violating the fundamental rights of their own citizens. Sunday Observer

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
8 Mar 2018
There is good reason to believe [the Sinhala Buddhists attacks in Sri Lanka] are partly designed to provoke a Muslim response, which would then justify more violence against Muslims. Al Jazeera

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
6 Mar 2018
Many Sinhalese and Buddhists have [the sense] that Sri Lanka [is a] Sinhala and Buddhist island, and [that] other communities are here on the sufferance of the majority. The Guardian

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
18 Feb 2018
The [Sri Lankan] government will need to figure out how to come together. They need to go back to the drawing board and return to their fundamental principles and start to deliver. CNN

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
15 Feb 2018
[Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa] has a strong core constituency and a good set of issues, whereas the government has to pull together a range of minority constituents. The Economist

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka

Latest Updates

Report / Asia

After Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings: Reducing Risks of Future Violence

The devastating ISIS-inspired attacks last Easter targeting Sri Lanka’s Christians have triggered a dangerous backlash against the country’s Muslims. Colombo urgently needs to correct the intelligence failures that led to the Easter attacks and curb discriminatory practices and policies that further harm innocent Muslim communities.

Commentary / Asia

Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings: Peaceful Coexistence Under Attack

The lethal Easter bombings in Sri Lanka have stunned a country still recovering from decades of internal war. Political and religious leaders alike should reject the rhetoric of collective blame and reaffirm the island’s strained but living tradition of intercommunal amity.

Briefing / Asia

Sri Lanka: Stepping Back from a Constitutional Crisis

The return to power of controversial former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka's prime minister is unconstitutional and destabilising. International actors should make future security and economic cooperation contingent on parliament reconvening immediately to select a prime minister through legal channels. 

Watch List 2018 – First Update

Crisis Group’s first update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on Burundi’s dangerous referendum, militant Buddhists and anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka, the impact of the Venezuelan crisis on the region, and the situation in Yemen. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.

Commentary / Asia

Buddhist Militancy Rises Again in Sri Lanka

An upsurge of attacks against Muslims by Sinhala Buddhist militants in Sri Lanka has raised fears of a new round of communal violence. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Sri Lanka Senior Analyst Alan Keenan says the government needs to act urgently to prevent the violence from spinning out of control, by enforcing laws against hate speech and arresting and prosecuting those involved in organising the violence.

Also available in සිංහල

Our People

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
akeenan23