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

Tentative signs emerged of economic improvement, UN Human Rights Council reviewed govt’s accountability progress, and tensions surfaced in Tamil-majority Northern Province.

Economic and humanitarian suffering eased slightly. Figures late month showed inflation in June fell to 12% from 25.2% in April. With rupee’s value rising, Central Bank 1 June cut interest rates by 2.5%. UN and World Food Programme assessed that number of citizens who were “moderately acute food insecure” fell from 6.2m to 3.9m. Following brief visit, International Monetary Fund deputy managing director 2 June announced “economic recovery remains challenging” notwithstanding “tentative signs of improvement”. World Bank 28 June approved $700mn in budgetary and welfare support. Main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) 29 June announced it would vote against the govt's proposals for domestic debt restructuring, made public same day.

Human Rights Council continued accountability oversight as govt pledged further progress. In oral update to 53rd session of UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on 21 June, Deputy High Commissioner Nada Al-Nashif called on authorities to “directly acknowledge past violations and undertake credible investigations and prosecutions, alongside other accountability measures”, with “the international community play[ing] a complementary role”. Ahead of meeting, President Wickremesinghe 8 June reviewed “progress of initiatives” on govt’s “Reconciliation Action Plan”. Justice Minister 18 June signalled Truth and Reconciliation Commission draft will be circulated in July. Eight prominent international human rights and rule of law NGOs 16 June strongly criticised “ongoing violations of fair trial rights” of lawyer and human rights defender Hejaaz Hizbullah, who was arrested in 2020 under Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Inter-communal tensions rose in Tamil-majority Northern Province. Tensions rose to dangerous levels over disputed area in Northern Province where Buddhist stupa – known as Kurundi Vihara – has recently been built with military assistance and against court orders, reportedly blocking access to long-standing Hindu pilgrimage site. Prominent Buddhist nationalist organisations 21 June gathered “in defence of” Kurundi Vihara. Police 7 June arrested Tamil legislator and Tamil National People’s Front Leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam at his Colombo residence on charges of “obstructing police duties” following altercation on 2 June with plainclothes police in Jaffna, in Northern Province.

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In The News

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
Alan Keenan

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