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

Govt began 2024 with raft of legislation to expand powers of surveillance and repression and advance its contested reconciliation agenda, while police crackdown on drugs led to tens of thousands of arrests. 

Govt moved to retain and expand surveillance powers. Parliament 24 Jan passed govt’s Online Safety Bill, despite uncertainty whether it included amendments required by earlier Supreme Court review; civil society and opposition parties criticised expansive powers law would afford state to regulate speech on social media, as opposition lawmaker labelled it “threat to our democracy”. Global tech and social media companies 16 Jan urged govt to withdraw bill. Govt 10 Jan presented to parliament proposed Anti-Terrorism Act, which was only modestly changed from version first introduced in early 2023 that was roundly criticised; Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 19 Jan criticised new draft, while bill’s constitutionality was challenged in numerous Supreme Court petitions.

Govt sought to advance its reconciliation program amid opposition. Govt 1 Jan publicised text of legislation to establish Commission for Truth, Unity and Reconciliation amid near unanimous opposition from survivors’ groups and rights activists who view it as designed to win support at UN Human Rights Council. Parliament 9 Jan passed legislation to establish eleven-member “Office for National Unity and Reconciliation” despite opposition from most Tamil parliamentarians and many civil society groups. Police 4 Jan arrested and detained for eight days prominent Tamil woman campaigner seeking truth about enforced disappearance of her son, following protest against President Wickremesinghe’s visit to northern town of Vavuniya. 

Police faced criticism for heavy-handed drug crackdown. Public Security Minister Tiran Alles continued to champion police operation which to date has led to arrest of over 40,000 suspected of using or selling drugs and detention in prison or “rehabilitation” centres of more than 3,000; while popular among some parts of public, OHCHR 12 Jan criticised “heavily security-based response to country’s drug problem”. 

International creditors recognised economic progress. International Monetary Fund officials 19 Jan stated reforms had produced first signs of recovery but stressed importance of “sustaining the reform momentum”.

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In The News

13 wrz 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 wrz 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 sty 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
Alan Keenan

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