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 lobbied International Monetary Fund (IMF) and creditors to secure loan disbursement amid rising poverty, while fifth anniversary of 2019 Easter bombings fuelled political tensions and calls for justice.

Govt sought to secure next tranche of IMF loan. Govt officials sought to convince IMF enough progress was being made to approve second review of Extended Fund Facility and disburse third tranche of roughly $335mn. Govt 16 April stated that main stumbling block in reaching deal with commercial creditors was “baseline parameters” for bondholders, whose payout will depend on nation’s economic growth; bondholders think IMF calculations underestimate growth potential and ability to repay bonds. Campaigning for presidential election, which is due by mid-Oct, may complicate negotiations or delay debt restructure deal into 2025. Meanwhile, Asian Development Bank mid-April projected moderate growth of 1.9% in 2024 and 2.5% in 2025. World Bank 2 April reported devastating increase in poverty from 11% of population in 2019 to almost 26% in 2024.

Fifth anniversary of Easter bombings spurred political attacks and justice campaigns. Ahead of anniversary of 2019 Eastern attacks on 21 April, main opposition party Samagi Jana Belawegaya 4 April promised within two months of gaining power to appoint Special Investigative Commission on attacks to be served by special team of investigators, pledging to establish special court to expedite prosecutions. Delegation of opposition National People’s Power (NPP) 18 April presented its seven-point action plan, including promise to establish special investigative commission. Gen Sec of President Wickremesinghe’s United National Party, Palitha Range Bandara, 19 April attacked both NPP and Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, accusing NPP of having links to bombers and Cardinal of “associating” with former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Commemorating attacks, Cardinal Ranjith 21 April delivered scathing attack on Gotabaya Rajapaksa, accusing him of obstructing investigation and failing to pursue new revelations about attack, while also accusing Attorney General of failing to take legal action against govt and security officials found negligent by multiple inquiries. Rajapaksa 25 April issued detailed statement rejecting allegations.

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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 Ian 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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