Sri Lanka on Feb. 4 celebrated 63 years of independence and “worryingly, in his Independence Day speech, President Rajapaksa did not address the problems of minorities nor political reconciliation with a constitutional settlement. The thrust of his message focused on economic development and the need for ‘discipline’ in society to achieve development,” says Asia Society Associate Fellow Ahilan Kadirgamar.
“Ironically, on the same evening, and as if to ‘discipline’ the opposition United National Party, a protest march toward the prison where former army commander and last year’s presidential candidate General Fonseka is incarcerated came under physical attack by organized gangs. A week ago, the office of Lanka-E-News, a website critical of the government, was burned down. Both acts of violence were carried out with impunity. Attacks on media and journalists that curtail the space for dissent and reinforce a tendency toward self-censorship are becoming disturbingly common.”
Meanwhile, “over the last week rains and floods ravaged Sri Lanka once again, leading to further deaths and destruction with close to a million people affected. The increasing cost of food items, particularly vegetables, is a major concern as agricultural crops in a number of districts have been destroyed. Sri Lanka is in need of international support and relief given this grim situation.”
Ahilan, who is based in New York, has recently returned from Sri Lanka. He is spokesperson for the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum. To arrange an interview, contact the Asia Society communications department at 212-327-9271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.