Tamil-speaking women in Sri Lanka’s north and east pushed for accountability and truth during the country’s civil war but have been marginalised during the transitional justice process. The government and international actors must include their voices and address their injustices and difficult economic situation to ensure lasting peace.
Political parties engaged in negotiations over alliances ahead of nominations for 341 local govt bodies ahead of local elections, which Election Commission 18 Dec said will be held 10 Feb. Despite widespread speculation that opposing factions of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) may reunify to jointly contest poll, both factions submitted separate lists of nominees for 93 bodies on 14 Dec deadline. Opposition SLFP faction will contest poll with some other opposition parties as Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) under former President Rajapaksa; and United National Party (UNP), current governing partner of President Rajapaksa’s ruling SLFP faction, will contest poll in coalition with several small parties under banner of United National Front. Election Commission 14 Dec rejected 23 lists of nominees for technical faults and not meeting new women’s quota, which requires that a quarter of nominees be women; received nominations for remaining 248 bodies 18-21 Dec, accepted 1,553 and rejected 29. Colombo high court 12 Dec issued third order preventing police arresting former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for financial misappropriation; Buddhist religious leaders previously threatened protests if he is arrested. UN working group on arbitrary detention 15 Dec urged govt to repeal Prevention of Terrorism Act and replace it with law which meets international human rights standards.
Fragile hopes for lasting peace and cooperation across party and ethnic lines are imperilled. To avoid leaders of the corrupt and violent former regime taking back control of the country, President Sirisena’s two-year-old “unity government” should put aside short-term calculations and return to reform.
Seven years after its civil war ended, Sri Lanka’s democratic space has reopened but strains are building from a powerful opposition, institutional overlaps and a weakened economy. To make reforms a real success, the prime minister and president should cooperate with openness and redouble efforts to tackle legacies of war like impunity, Tamil detainees and military-occupied land.
Sri Lanka’s 17 August parliamentary elections will test the country’s fragile democratic opening. With the hardline Sinhala nationalism of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa challenging the “good governance” agenda of the United National Party and President Sirisena, the outcome will affect chances for reconciliation and lasting resolution of the country’s long-running conflicts.
Sri Lanka’s upcoming presidential election promises more competition than was initially anticipated. But with that comes a great risk of violence. Long-term stability and post-war reconciliation can only be achieved through a peaceful election resulting in a government committed to serving the interests of all Sri Lankans.
Despite recent moves meant to show progress towards post-war reconciliation and respect for human rights, Sri Lanka’s government has not altered the authoritarian direction of its policies, and the rights and security of all communities remain under threat.
2017 has seen a worrisome return of violence and hate speech in Sri Lanka.
There are lots of little initiatives under way [in Sri Lanka.] But they don't add up to a coherent or effective response to the desperate situation so many women are facing in the north and east.
There is work to be done by both Sinhala and Tamil activists [in Sri Lanka], in persuading Sinhalese voters to support the new constitution and make the case for a shared interest in ending impunity.
China sold a lot of weapons and lent a lot of money to Sri Lanka and remained a useful ally even in the Human Rights Council, all through the end of the war.
There was always a doubt about the commitment of the [Sri Lankan] president and prime minister. As time goes on, those doubts have grown.
With the UN’s help, Sri Lanka could yet build a state that respects the rule of law and protects the rights of all its citizens.
The bloom is off two years of hope that the rule of law can be restored for all and that a 60-year failure to grant Tamils a fair share of power, in the Sinhala majority island, can be rectified.
Originally published in The Diplomat Magazine
Originally published in Inside Story