Sri Lankan Leaders Face Questions

“Over the next week, both President Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Peiris are likely to speak on post-war Sri Lanka at the U.N. and related forums in New York. Their messages are likely to claim the near completion of resettling the war displaced, economic development as the sole solution for war-affected people and having ‘defeated terrorism.’ Such messages, however, distort the ground realities,” says Asia Society Associate Fellow Ahilan Kadirgamar.

“Resettlement has meant only the return of the population affected during the last phase of the war with bare minimum resources, questioning the sustainability of their social and economic life. Furthermore, numerous problems and tensions have risen for displaced peoples from all the different communities due to decades of war -- including issues of land, access to state services and demilitarization. Economic development policies without regional participation may further alienate local communities. While the fascist militarized politics of the LTTE has indeed ended, the genuine grievances of the Tamil and other minority communities which were the root causes of the conflict have been irresponsibly dismissed by the Rajapaksa government. The messages worth listening to from the president and the foreign minister would be those articulating a far-reaching process of political reconciliation including a constitutional settlement with power-sharing and devolution for minorities and the regions. And, a process of democratization for the entire country is much needed after decades of brutal war. However, if one is to take a cue from the two-week-old 18th Amendment to the constitution removing the president’s two-term limit and the entrenchment of vast executive powers including over those of independent institutions of governance, New York is unlikely to hear any serious message about political reconciliation and democratization.”

Ahilan, who is in New York, is spokesperson for the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum. To arrange an interview, contact the Asia Society communications department at 212-327-9271 or