Meet My Country: Sri Lanka, With Bhavani Fonseka and Ambika Satkunanathan
Season 2, Episode 2
Human rights lawyer Bhavani Fonseka and human rights advocate Ambika Satkunanathan talk about their homeland Sri Lanka – the island nation just off the southeastern coast of India. Sri Lanka boasts a large, well-educated population, great economic potential, a history of democracy, and popular tourist attractions. At the same time, the country has been marred by political violence since its independence in 1948, and the current government’s stand on human rights and governance has come under the close watch of the United Nations yet again.
3:48 Background information on Sri Lanka
6:00 Bhavani and Ambika’s views on Sri Lanka, and its big brother India
10:30 The post-war situation in Sri Lanka
16:41 Sri Lanka’s government and its domestic and foreign politics
28:21 Bhavani and Ambika’s recommendations for places to visit and food to try
Your host: Denise Staubli, Program Manager, Asia Society Switzerland
Moderator: Nico Luchsinger, Executive Director Asia Society Switzerland
Bhavani Fonseka, Senior Researcher and Attorney at Law with the Centre for Policy Alternatives
Ambika Satkunanathan, Open Society Fellow and former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
Production: Denise Staubli
Watalappam – dessert made by Muslim community in Sri Lanka
Hoppers – a staple of Sri Lankan cuisine that can come in many forms
Sri Lanka’s Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour. A Critique of Promises Made and Present Trends, 2021, Report by Center for Policy Alternatives
Emblematic Cases Expose the Long Road to Justice in Sri Lanka, February 2021, by Bhavani Fonseka
The long wait for justice, August 2020, by Bhavani Fonseka
Surviving War and Victimhood: Women and Tamil Nationalism, March 2021, The Wire, by Ambika Satkunanathan
Fading Sri Lankan Hopes for Justice Rest on U.N. Rights Council, 24 February 2021, New York Times, by Ambika Satkunanathan
Is Sri Lanka's government failing to heal the nation?, February 2021, DW News, Interview with Ambika Satkunanathan
Die srilankische Diasporain der Schweiz, 2007, by Joëlle Moret, Denise Efionayi, Fabienne Stants; Bundesamt für Migration BFM
Asia Society Switzerland webcast A Closer Look at Sri Lanka with Bhavani Fonseka and Ambika Satkunanathan, May 6, 2021
Bhavani Fonseka is a Senior Researcher and Attorney at Law with the Centre for Policy Alternatives, with a focus on research, national and international advocacy and public interest litigation. Her work has revolved around assisting victims and affected populations across Sri Lanka, legal and policy reforms and public interest litigation (PIL). She is the editor of the book Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka: Moving Beyond Promises. She is presently on the editorial board of the International Journal on Transitional Justice and a visiting lecturer at University of Colombo. She was an adviser to the Consultation Taskforce appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka in 2016 and a member of the drafting committee to formulate the National Human Rights Action Plan for Sri Lanka for the period 2017-2021. She has a LLB (Hons.) (Bristol), LLM (Denver) and MPA (Harvard). She was awarded The Young Outstanding Persons award for human rights in 2007 by the Junior Chamber International and HSBC Bank. She was also a Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, Asia21 Fellow and an Eisenhower Fellow.
Ambika Satkunanathan is a human rights advocate based in Sri Lanka. Her work has focused on research, advocacy and assisting communities, particularly in the North and East, access remedies for rights violations. She is currently an Open Society Fellow (2020-2021). From October 2015 to March 2020, she was a Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, where she led the first ever national study of prisons. Prior to that, for eight years, she functioned as the Legal Consultant to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sri Lanka. Her research and advocacy have focused on transitional justice, custodial violence, penal reform, militarization, gender and Tamil nationalism. Her publications include contributions to the Oxford Handbook of Gender & Conflict, the Routledge Handbook on Human Rights in South Asia, and Contemporary South Asia. She is Chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, an indigenous Sri Lankan grant-making organisation and Vice Chairperson of Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific, a regional feminist grant making organisation. She is a member of the Expert Panel of the Trial Watch Project of the Clooney Foundation and a member of the Network of Experts of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime. Ambika holds a Master of Laws (Human Rights) degree from the University of Nottingham, where she was a Chevening Scholar, and has earned bachelor’s degrees (LL.B / B.A) from Monash University, Australia.
Human rights lawyer Dilfuza Kurolova and political scientist Dr. Farkhod Tolipov talk about their homeland Uzbekistan – the land locked and most populous country of Central Asia.
Human rights lawyer Bhavani Fonseka and human rights advocate Ambika Satkunanathan talk about their homeland Sri Lanka – the island nation just off the southeastern coast of India.
Journalist and Musician Kunga Tenzin Dorji, known as Supe, talks about his homeland Bhutan – the landlocked country located in the Eastern Himalayas.