International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Political power change doesn’t ensure justice for Sri Lanka

In January, the 10 year reigning Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was peacefully and democratically stripped of his power when his lost an election to former friend Maithripala Sirisena. This new brought possible hope to the idea of justice in the wake of a 26 year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and a rebel group known as the Tamil Tigers.  Although the conflict ended in 2009, Rajapaksa had a strong stance against international investigation or indictment regarding any war crimes or crimes against humanity that may have occurred in the past few decades. The election of a new president opened the possibility of Justice; however,  Maithripala Sirisena has already asserted that his administration will practice more of the same defense of Sri Lankan citizens that may be at fault or subject to investigation. The government is unwilling to allow investigations within the country and actively attempts to discourage any domestic calls for justice.

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One response to “Political power change doesn’t ensure justice for Sri Lanka

  1. mtidona February 27, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    The successful and peaceful transfer of power from Rajapaksa to Sirisena creates an opportunity for a democratic future in Sri Lanka. This peaceful political change brings hope and optimism to the Sri Lankan people and the international community. Sirisena won a fair and legitimate election through a campaign which promised to “reign in the powers of the presidency, end the corruption of the Rajapaksa regime, and restore the rule of law.” This platform appealed to many of the Sri Lankan people. However, Sri Lanka is known for ethnic and religious divides that hinder the chance for peace and democracy. Sirisensa is from the same ethnic background as former autocratic leader Rajapaksa, which is the major Sinhalese community. The idea of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, the belief that Sri Lanka is an indivisible Sinhalese and Buddhist nation, is a “driving force in Sri Lankan politics.” Sirisena does not differ from his former leader in his commitment to this ideology, which is a concern to all Sri Lankan minorities. One of these minorities in particular, the Tamils, are especially concerned as they endured a 25-year civil war with the Sri Lankan government. The aftermath of the defeat of the Tamil’s rebel group was marked by horrific violence and atrocities. As a result, international pressure for post-conflict justice in Sri Lanka has been growing, however nothing has been done. The UN Human Rights Council tried to start an international investigation, but Sri Lanka refused to cooperate, prohibiting investigators from entering the country and intimidating/harassing individuals believed to be assisting the investigation. Sirisena has indicated that he will not stray far from his predecessor’s policy on this issue. This begs the question of whether Sirisena’s political campaign to end the corruption of Rajapaksa’s regime was just words or if he will actually take action to change Sri Lanka for the better. It is possible that in reality, Sirisensa will just mock Rajapaksa’s political approach, inserting his own family and personal ties into positions of power and creating another autocracy. It will be interesting to see as time goes on how the political future of Sri Lanka will change, either for the better or the worse, under this new leadership and whether or not the Tamil victims of the civil war violence will finally see some justice.

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