Sri Lanka

In the wake of mass protests that forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign in July 2022, Sri Lanka’s interlocking economic and governance crises remain acute. Austerity measures, introduced in part to win financial support from the International Monetary Fund and foreign creditors, have brought additional economic hardship for many Sri Lankans already struggling with collapsing living standards. Forthcoming economic reforms could provoke renewed protests. President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s reliance on Rajapaksa allies for his parliamentary majority will likely constrain fulfilment of promises to increase financial accountability, strengthen rule of law institutions, reduce impunity and corruption, ensure the rights of Tamils and Muslims, and address the legacy of the 1983-2009 civil war. Building on Crisis Group’s work during and after the war, we advocate for international humanitarian assistance, as well as inclusive governance reforms to strengthen democratic institutions and support a lasting, equitable peace.

CrisisWatch Sri Lanka

Unchanged Situation

Civil war commemorations drew large crowds in eastern and northern provinces, UN criticised govt inaction over unsolved enforced disappearances, and proposed economic reforms divided parties. 

Wave of events marked 15th anniversary of civil war’s end. Ahead of fifteenth anniversary of end of civil war on 18 May, known increasingly by Tamil activists as “Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day”, Tamils in north and east of island, and in diaspora communities worldwide, organised series of commemorations: notably, police 12 May in eastern town of Trincomalee arrested four Tamil women serving “kanji” dish to commemorate Tamils killed in final weeks of 2009 war; other commemorations in north and east were allowed to proceed under tight police and military surveillance. Thousands 18 May gathered at Mullivaikkal beach, scene of final massacres of thousands of Tamil civilians and fighters in 2009; marking first ever attendance of international dignitary at war commemoration event, Amnesty International Sec Gen Agnès Callamard spoke at Mullivaikkal, criticising govt’s “clampdown on memory initiatives, including arrests, arbitrary detentions and deliberately skewed interpretations of Tamil community’s attempts to remember people lost to war”. Consortium of Buddhist and Tamil groups 17 May held first-ever inter-religious and inter-ethnic event in capital Colombo’s centre to commemorate all those killed.

UN report highlighted enforced disappearances. UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 17 May issued major report detailing decades of unsolved, un-investigated enforced disappearances of tens of thousands of people, urging govt to acknowledge involvement of “state security forces and affiliated paramilitary groups” and stating that “alleged perpetrators, including current and former senior officials and diplomats, continue to evade justice”; report criticised govt’s poor record in addressing issues and urged it to establish independent persecutorial authority.

Govt’s economic policies courted criticism. Cabinet 6 May approved twenty-year power purchase agreement for development of 484 MW of wind power generated by stations in north west; economists and opposition politicians criticised lack of competitive bidding for deal, as environmentalists highlighted threat to migratory birds. Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa 16 May attacked proposed sale of state-owned enterprises, a central pillar of International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) economic reform agenda.

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In The News

13 sep 2023
Commissions of inquiry and ad hoc committees have been used for decades as a way of obscuring the truth and avoiding accountability [in Sri Lanka]. Nikkei Asia

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
10 sep 2023
For more than ten years, the [UN Human Rights] Council has pushed Colombo to hold accountable perpetrators of atrocities during the [Sri Lankan] civil war. Colombo Gazette

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
10 jan 2023
[Sanctions for Sri Lankan officials] are a timely reminder that continued impunity will bring increasing costs to the government’s international reputation. Al Jazeera

Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka

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Alan Keenan

Senior Consultant, Sri Lanka
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