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Sri Lanka

CrisisWatch Sri Lanka

Unchanged Situation

Homagama magistrate 14 June sentenced militant monk and head of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara to six months’ imprisonment, following his 24 May conviction for criminal intimidation for courtroom threats against Sinhalese woman searching for her missing journalist husband. Rare punishment of a Buddhist monk for actions involving hardline nationalist agenda provoked outrage and political mobilisation by Buddhist nationalists and senior monks; public protests held across country 18 June. None of those arrested for alleged involvement in early March anti-Muslim rioting yet to be indicted. With growing prospect of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidential candidacy, outgoing U.S. Ambassador Athul Keshap reportedly told former President Mahinda Rajapaksa 10 June that U.S. and international community would disapprove of a Gotabaya presidency; also reportedly said that given ongoing legal cases against Gotabaya, U.S. could not approve any request to formally renounce his U.S. citizenship (19th constitutional amendment bars dual citizens from contesting elected office). Senior Buddhist monk was widely condemned for calling on Gotabaya Rajapaksa to “be a Hitler, go with the military and take the leadership of this country”, in sermon delivered at 20 June birthday celebration for Rajapaksa, who did not reject comparison despite widespread criticism of remarks. Mahinda Rajapaksa 22 June opined the Sinhala “race” was “nearing extinction”, echoing nationalists’ fears of declining Sinhala Buddhist population, despite official census data indicating otherwise. Rajapaksa-led joint opposition and other Sinhala nationalists welcomed U.S.’s 19 June withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council, noting that U.S. criticism of council for its “political bias” and “hypocrisy” matched their own longstanding claims. U.S. embassy 21 June announced U.S. “continues to extend its support to Sri Lanka to fulfil these important commitments and obligations as articulated and reaffirmed in these [UN refugee agency] resolutions”.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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

Project Director, 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

Project Director, 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

Project Director, 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

Project Director, 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

Project Director, Sri Lanka
7 Nov 2017
2017 has seen a worrisome return of violence and hate speech in Sri Lanka. U.S. News

Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka

Latest Updates

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.

Op-Ed / Asia

Sri Lanka’s Transition to Nowhere

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

Op-Ed / Asia

Unfinished Business in Sri Lanka

Originally published in Inside Story

Op-Ed / Asia

Time to seize the moment in Sri Lanka

Originally published in Inside Story

Report / Asia

Sri Lanka: Jumpstarting the Reform Process

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.

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Alan Keenan

Project Director, Sri Lanka
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