Reality Check: Sri Lanka's New Government

Sustained international pressure is needed to ensure that the new Sri Lankan government works towards accountability, justice and reconciliation on the island, said a lecturer in International Conflict Analysis at the University of Kent, Madurika Rasaratnam, and author of a forthcoming book, Tamils and the Nation: India and Sri Lanka compared . "In broad terms the election merely saw the replacement of one avowed Sinhala nationalist leader with another equally committed to maintaining a unitary and majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist order. It is this dynamic that has fed the ethnic conflict over the past several decades, and continues to drive the militarised repression and exclusion that characterises relations between the state and the Tamils," she writes, in a article published by The Hurst publishers.

'Why Sirisena’s Victory is Not a Victory for Sri Lanka’s Tamils'

Despite Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's surprise election victory, there is little to suggest change in government policy towards the island's indigenous Tamil and Muslim communities, said Tamil Civil Society Forum spokesperson Kumaravadivel Guruparan. Writing in The Caravan , Guruparan said that Tamils “voted for Sirisena not because they liked his candidacy but because they wanted to oust Rajapaksa”. “As far as this electorate was concerned, their vote for Sirisena was the only way in which they could voice their anger against a regime that had inflicted enormous suffering on them, almost threatening their very existence,” said Guruparan. On Sri Lanka's new president, Guruparan added, “Sirisena was an integral part of the Rajapaksa regime that unleashed a horrendous war, a war that was waged not just against the LTTE, but also against the Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka. He was a part of the Rajapaksa regime that not so long ago used the military to take over vast amounts of private land belonging to the Tamils in the regions dominated by them.The regime initiated a rapid process of demographic change in the northeast in favour of the Sinhalese, and endorsed the maltreatment of ex-LTTE cadres.”

'Hold the Champagne in Sri Lanka'

The conclusion of Sri Lanka's presidential and appointment of Maithripala Sirisena as president of the country is not yet a cause for celebration, said journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, stating that the real challenges for Sri Lanka are only just beginning. Writing in Foreign Policy , the award winning journalist said that whilst Sirisena has pledged to implement constitutional reforms, this will do little to assuage Tamil and Muslim concerns. Tissainayagam says, “Neither presidential nor parliamentary forms of government — invariably dominated by the Sinhalese, who make up roughly 74 percent of the country’s 21 million people — is satisfactory to the Tamils and Muslims. Instead, they demand greater autonomy in the north and the east. But Sirisena’s election manifesto is completely silent on the matter.”

'A cell in The Hague, the nightmare for Colombo’s rulers' - Trevor Grant

Sri Lanka's new president Maithripala Sirisena will do "everything he can" to stop former president Mahinda Rajapaksa to be taken to the Hague and face charges of war crimes said Trevor Grant, author and convenor of the Tamil Refugee Council (TRC). In an opinion piece written in the wake of Sri Lanka's presidential election, Grant says "as acting minister of defence, including during the closing weeks of the war, [Sirisena] sat high in the command structure, and thus in culpability for war crimes and crimes against humanity."

'Sri Lanka's election could change everything... and nothing' – Callum Macrae

The ongoing repression of the Tamil people will continue regardless of which candidate wins the upcoming Sri Lankan presidential election, said documentary maker Callum Macrae in an opinion piece on Wednesday. Writing for Channel 4 News, Macrae said, “[Rajapaksa's] message to the Sinhala majority is designed to reinforce their conviction that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala nation, indivisible - and that the Tamils of the north and east must accept that, or have that forced upon them.”

Challenges Ahead: Sri Lanka's mass atrocities and international justice

Detailing the difficulties faced by Tamil voters in the North-East during Sri Lanka's presidential election on January 8, the exiled journalist Nirmanusan Balasundaram, called for a strong international justice mechanism to be set up, stating that regardless of who wins the election, Tamils could not expect justice through a domestic process. "A gruelling battle is taking place in Sri Lanka between both leading presidential candidates despite certain factors which keep them united, such as ‘war victory’, denial of mass atrocities and rejection of an international investigation into such atrocities. Disturbingly all leading figures in the presidential debate are in competition with each other for self-proclamation and self-promotion in terms of credibility for the war victory, and complete denial of responsibility or acknowledgement of mass atrocities during the war," Mr Balasundaram wrote. "Regardless of which leading candidate is to win Sri Lanka’s seventh presidential election, victims and survivors of mass atrocities will find it difficult to expect justice or a genuine and credible domestic mechanism into these heinous crimes. Considering Sri Lanka’s political dynamics, the culture of impunity in Sri Lanka will remain unchanged regardless of the outcome of the election. The colour may change but the cage will remain the same," he added.

Sri Lanka's electoral dysfunction

All contesting parties in the presidential polls “have effectively shut Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities out of the upcoming election” said JS Tissainayagam on Wednesday. Writing in Foreign Policy , award winning journalist, JS Tissainayagam warned that the international community should demand that a dialogue with the Tamils and Muslims be pursued by whoever wins the Sri Lankan presidential elections. Highlighting that both the ruling party and common opposition had rejected international justice mechanisms, Tissainayagam added, “International justice aside, Sirisena and the joint opposition naively believe that Sri Lanka can achieve peace and political stability without satisfying the political aspirations of the Tamils and the Muslims.”

Topography of terror and exile

Where do we carry our dead when our soil is stolen and our oceans were turned into impenetrable walls and borders? Where do we take our grief when our kovil bells are forced into silence and our mourners made illegal? Where do we sing our songs of sorrow and resilience when our lips have been sealed? We carry them afar. We carry them in our suitcases across the sea. Five years after the end of war, a new monument for the thousands of dead Tamil civilians and combatants will be inaugurated. The sculpture will consist of a black granite pedestal, a yellow and red-coloured karththigai-poo, as...

Gendered Genocide: Sri Lanka’s War Against Tamils

The following address was delivered by Tasha Manoranjan, a graduate from Yale Law School, and founder and director of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), at the ' Feminisms, Structural Violence and Transitional Justice Conference ' held at York University, Toronto last month. "Tamil women have suffered disproportionately throughout Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic conflict. They have faced both the structural collapse of communities as well as the erosion of societal norms. In response, an increasing number of women joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) starting in the 1980s and throughout the years prior to 2009, and became an integral part of the armed resistance against the government.

Review: 'Sri Lanka's Secrets: How the Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away with Murder'

' Sri Lanka's Secrets: How the Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away with Murder ' by Trevor Grant, is a powerful book, containing many details that will inform, energise and enrage even those who are familiar with Sri Lanka, let alone those who are new to understanding the issues that continue to fester on this island. Trevor Grant’s contribution to the literature on Sri Lanka should be compulsory reading for everyone interested in Sri Lanka. His extensive research, access to individuals willing to talk, and ability to tie individual stories back to a bigger argument make this a very powerful book.

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