'One Country, One Law' - The Sri Lankan state's hostility towards Muslims grows deeper

Writing in the International Crisis Group (ICG), senior consultant Alan Keenan slams Sri Lanka's "One Country, One Law" Presidential Taskforce as a means by which the Rajapaksa can "divert discontent among the government’s Sinhala Buddhist base toward an embattled minority". "The Rajapaksa government is deeply unpopular, including among large sections of its core Sinhala Buddhist constituency, and desperate to divert public attention from its economic mismanagement. There is thus a clear if deeply unfortunate logic for it to bring back to the fore the best-known proponent of a theme that was...

'Prevention should be at the heart of the UNHRC resolution'

Alan Keenan, senior consultant for the International Crisis Group, has called for the UN Human Rights Council must go beyond looking at issues of accountability to focus “on preventing a return to violence and be followed by a sustained international effort to persuade the Sri Lankan government to pull back from its dangerous trajectory”.

‘Sri Lanka’s Other COVID-19 Crisis: Is Parliamentary Democracy at Risk?’

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government appears headed for a constitutional crisis that could lastingly damage Sri Lanka’s political institutions and aggravate conflict risks,” writes Alan Keenan, a senior consultant on Sri Lanka at the International Crisis Group. “The Sri Lankan government has declared its intention to rule without parliamentary oversight for the first time in the country’s modern history, potentially sparking a serious constitutional crisis. Elected in November and without a majority in parliament, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa seized his earliest opportunity to dissolve the legislature on 2 March and schedule a general election for 25 April. As the COVID-19 emergency grew serious in late March, the National Elections Commission (NEC) delayed the vote indefinitely.” “With the constitution stating that parliament can remain dissolved for only three months pending fresh elections, Sri Lanka will head into dangerously uncharted territory unless the president or courts take decisive action before the deadline expires on 2 June.”

"Sri Lanka Election Sparks Fear of Return to Violent Past"

Alan Keenan, project director for Sri Lanka at the International Crisis Group (ICG) warns that the return of a Gotabaya presidency has already heightened fears amongst minorities and will lead to losses in terms of "reconciliation and accountability for atrocities and human rights violations". Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the Defense Secretary during the final stages of the war which witnessed a litany of human rights violations as well as hundreds of people surrendering to the army during the final stages of conflict to never be seen again. Rajapaksa has been accused of being implicated in the deaths of dozens of journalists as well as their exile.

When public relations meets militarisation

Writing on Crisis Groups Blogs, the International Crisis Group's project director for Sri Lanka, Alan Keenan, said that the Sri Lankan government's "latest gestures fit an established pattern of promises made for international consumption but unsupported by political will." See here for full post. Extracts reproduced below: "The value of the steps announced by the government was always questionable, given the active efforts of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family to remove all independent checks on their power, as detailed in Crisis Group’s February report on Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn: The Need for International Action. The recent events in Weliweriya and Grandpass reveal more clearly than ever that what Sri Lanka needs is not more commissions, or even arrests. The country needs legal and institutional changes to the system of policing and justice designed to reverse the militarisation and concentration of power that has deepened so dangerously under the Rajapaksas. These changes would include many of the reforms recommended by the LLRC, as well as others outlined in Sri Lanka’s Authoritarian Turn. At a minimum, the president should end his grant (renewed monthly) of police powers to the army and return soldiers to barracks in north and south, remove the police from the control of the ministry of defence and Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and restore the independence of the attorney general’s department by removing it from presidential control. The president should also agree to re-establish the independence of commissions that control the police, the judiciary, elections, and the civil service by reinstating the constitutional council. Unfortunately, without increased international pressure, there is little chance the government will take these or any of the other necessary steps to restore the rule of law. Fed by the Rajapaksas’ attachment to centralised and militarised rule, Sri Lanka’s decades-long problem of impunity is getting worse, not better. While the government may have stepped up its public relations game in response to international pressure, the recent events at home show the risk of more serious violence, especially along religious and communal lines, is increasing.

EU aid must not fuel new ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka

EU member states should be working more actively to ensure that [international] development projects in Sri Lanka, especially in the north and east, do not help institutionalise an unjust peace or fuel new grievances and violent conflict, particularly with regard to the use and ownership of land.