Sovereignty, security and Buddhism - Sri Lanka’s president addresses parliament

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa vowed to “protect and nurture the Buddha Sasana” in an address to parliament this morning, where he called for changes to be made to the Sri Lankan constitution in order to safeguard “security, sovereignty, stability and integrity”. In his speech, Rajapaksa outlined policies for his tenure and repeatedly referred to defending Sri Lanka’s “sovereignty” and "Buddhist values". “The people who elected me to office desired a profound change in the political culture of this country,” said Rajapaksa, who swept across the Sinhala south in presidential...

‘Sri Lanka’s Tamils fear discrimination under new President’

Sri Lanka’s Tamils who are “concentrated in the country’s north say the area still suffers from a lack of development, despite promises by its new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” Charles Stratford reports for Al Jazeera. A decade on from the end of the armed conflict, “government promises of investment have all failed to materialise.” Gotabaya is “deeply distrusted” by Tamils due to his role as the Defence Secretary in 2009, where he oversaw the military offensive that killed tens of thousands of Tamils. “Tamils voted overwhelmingly against Rajapaksa in the November election and are trying to...

Families of disappeared protest demanding EPDP leader arrest

Families of the disappeared protested outside the Jaffna office of the paramilitary organisation EPDP on Thursday, calling for the arrest of its leader, current Sri Lankan cabinet minister Douglas Devananda. Protesters decried a recent assault on one of their representatives by the paramilitary members and also held placards and chanted slogans highlighting Devananda’s role in abductions and disappearances during and after the armed conflict. Families reported that EPDP members had tried to snatch banners off the protesters. Failing to intimidate them into abandoning the protest, the EPDP...

Sri Lankan military 'trying to destroy evidence' says wife of disappeared journalist

The Sri Lankan military “are trying to destroy evidence and intimidate the witnesses" said the wife of a disappeared journalist, as nine Sri Lankan soldiers face charges over his abduction. Sandya Eknaligoda has been trying to seek justice for her husband Prageeth’s abduction for the past ten years. He was abducted in 2010 during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency, after he had looked into corruption that took place during the regime. The cartoonist was also investigating the use of chemical weapons by the army in the North-East during the armed conflict. During the Rajapaksa regime, dozens of...

TID investigating Jaffna municipal council over Thileepan memorial week

Sri Lanka’s Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) has launched an investigation into the use of a local authority owned water tanker to water the streets of Nallur at the end week-long memorial events to Lt Col Thileepan. The tributes to Thileepan, a political wing leader of the LTTE who fasted unto death in 1987, were carried out at the destroyed and rehabilitated monument erected in his memory in Nallur, near the original site of his hunger strike. In 2019, hundreds attended various events at the monument throughout the week of remembrance in September. On the final day, September 26,...

Still searching for justice - 14 years on from Trinco 5 killings

On this day 14 years ago, five Tamil students were summarily executed by Sri Lanka's Special Task Force, whilst they spent an afternoon on the beach in Trincomalee. To date no one has been held accountable for the murder. The case – known as the 'Trinco 5' – remains one of the highest profile killings in Sri Lanka to receive international attention, listed in 2014 by the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' report on the island as one of four ‘emblematic cases’ of the government's failure to ensure accountability and having been raised repeatedly in international forums.

Attempted attack on UPFA MP in Vavuniya

An attempted attack on UPFA MP K Kader Masthan has reportedly left the parliamentarian’s bodyguard hospitalised with injuries to his arm. The alleged attack happened on Sunday night when the MP was travelling towards Vavuniya town and his vehicle stopped in Pavatkulam for a member of his team to alight. Masthan’s vehicle was reportedly set upon by a group wielding swords. The MP’s bodyguard sustained a wound to his arm when trying to block the attackers. The attackers reportedly escaped, and the injured bodyguard was admitted to Vavuniya general hospital.

2020 marks 875 billion debt bill for SL government

The new year marks the imminent requirement on Gotabaya’s government to pay back 875 billion Sri Lanka rupees of foreign debt due October 2020. Colombo remains heavily burdened with foreign debt, with the Chinese, in particular, having invested billions in major infrastructure projects ranging from power stations to ports. And as Sri Lanka’s economic crisis worsened, the island was forced to hand over control of Hambantota Port in a debt-for-equity swap with Beijing in 2017. UNP MP Dr Harsha De Silva described the government’s aim to attempt “ to repay this debt with our foreign reserves. But...

Sri Lankan army chief accused of war crimes appointed Acting Chief of Defence Staff

Sri Lankan Army Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva has been appointed as the acting Chief of Defence staff by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, effective from 1 st January 2020. He replaces Admiral Ravindra C Gunaratne, the former Chief of Defence Staff who retired from service on 31 st December 2019. He was most notably known to be in command of an army division that surrounded the final stronghold of the Tamil Tigers in the final stages of the civil war. His division has been accused of violating international human rights laws, including shelling a hospital, which he has denied. UN's...

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