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‘Encouragement and pressure’ needed to sustain transformation in Sri Lanka

UN member states and Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon must ensure the Sri Lankan government feels the “right combination of encouragement and pressure needed to deepen and sustain the potentially historic transformation,” said Alan Keenan in a piece for Inside Story.

“UN agencies are actively supporting the Sirisena government’s reform agenda, but government efforts have been under-resourced and weakened by mixed messages and confused lines of authority,” said Mr Keenan, senior Sri Lankan analyst at the ICG.

“Clear direction from the president and from prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been lacking.”

He noted that “defence budgets have grown and the military remains a powerful presence in Tamil majority regions, running hotels and other businesses and occupying large amounts of private land.” “Tamils are increasingly angry at the government’s failure to live up to its promises on all these issues,” he said.

Mr Keenan went on to state,

“Ban must make clear his support for continued oversight by the UN Human Rights Council until the government has passed the legislation needed to establish a strong court with the legal basis and the expertise – including international participation – to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Even if the government succeeds in winning approval for a constitution that reflects Sri Lanka’s ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity, that will not be enough to ensure reconciliation in the absence of accountability.”

“Above all, UN member states must back up Ban’s words with the right combination of encouragement and pressure needed to deepen and sustain the potentially historic transformation now under way in Sri Lanka. 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.”

See his full piece, entitled “Unfinished business in Sri Lanka”, here.