The British monarch and the colonial legacy of Sri Lanka

Today Britain’s longest-ruling monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away peacefully at her Scottish estate. Across the globe, messages of condolence have poured in to mourn the passage of the British head of state whose reign spanned over 15 Prime Ministers. Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952 amidst a period of rapid decolonisation and bore witness to the demise of the British empire. Yet the process of decolonisation was not seamless. Instead, Britain’s colonial elite refashioned entire countries with the stroke of a pen. For the English liberal imperialists, this project of nation-building...

A poisoned chalice – How international aid bolstered Sri Lankan despots

Illustration by Keera Ratnam / waves of colour “I was born into a debt-free nation”, claimed Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe as he accepted yet another loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on behalf of the island. This will be the seventeenth time since independence that the country has turned to the IMF, which is not to mention loans received from other international institutions. Sri Lanka, once a poster child for economic development, touting an impressive literacy rate and a stable macro-economy, has rapidly descended into a failed state. In no small part, the...

How Sri Lanka betrayed Shinzo Abe

Across Sri Lanka, the country’s flag is flown at half-mast on 12th July to mourn the sudden assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “We have lost a prime minister who gave leadership to Asia,” wrote Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe in an obituary guestbook commemorating the Japanese leader. Despite Sri Lanka’s melancholic posture towards the Japanese leader’s demise, Sri Lanka’s foreign policy has posed a consistent thorn in Abe’s vision for a “free and open Asia-Pacific”.

'The way out of Sri Lanka’s crisis is tied to Tamil freedom'

In early April, hundreds of thousands of primarily Sinhala protestors filled the streets of Colombo, enduring tear gas and water cannons, as they inched closer to the presidential compounds, demanding the resignation of Sri Lanka’s President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Repeal the PTA

The Sri Lankan government have used the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to crackdown on anti-government protesters, with three Sinhalese student leaders being detained for their participation in the mass protests that swept the island earlier this year. Successive Sri Lankan regimes have used the draconian legislation for decades to detain Tamils and Muslims arbitrarily and to extract false confessions through the use of torture. While the legislation has been repeatedly condemned by activists in the North-East and the international community, Sri Lanka has failed to repeal it. A...

Sri Lanka’s Strategic Ambiguity Won’t Hold

Writing in The Diplomat, Viruben Nandakumar stresses the need for Indian diplomats to end a policy of appeasement and soberly reflect on the currents of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, which prohibit further integration between India and Sri Lanka. In his inaugural speech, Sri Lanka’s current President Ranil Wickremesinghe signalled a shift in foreign policy to favour relations with India by praising their aid efforts and lamented on cancelled investment projects. Indian investment projects were abandoned for “baseless reasons”, claimed Sri Lanka’s president.

In Sri Lanka, the military is still running the show

Writing in Foreign Policy, Viruben Nandakumar highlights that despite a change in figureheads, Sri Lanka’s military maintains an inflated role in the running of the state. “Not only must Sri Lanka’s protesters heed that call and refocus their efforts toward dismantling the militarization of the state, but so too must the international community”, he writes. The piece details not only the genocidal violence of the Sri Lankan military but also the continued impunity with war criminals such as Sunil Ratnayake being pardoned, despite his involvement in the slaughter of Tamil civilians. This...

Last Chance – Why Singapore owes it to the Tamil people to arrest Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Sri Lanka’s former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a war criminal accused of overseeing some of the most heinous atrocities of the 21 st century. Under his command Sri Lankan troops unleashed an offensive that saw widespread violations of international law and left as many as 169,796 Tamils unaccounted for. Out of all the countries in the world, Singapore has a particular duty to hold him to account. It must do so before he flees.

The growing demand to arrest Gotabaya Rajapksa

In Jaffna, walls are papered with posters calling for the arrest of exiled Sri Lankan president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, for the crime of genocide. Men and women line up to sign petitions calling on Singapore to deliver justice for the atrocities they suffered and in remembrance of those they lost. Across the globe, they are joined in unison by a diaspora who refuse to forget the thousands of Tamils slaughtered under the command of the former president. Outside Singapore’s embassies Tamils cry out to Singapore to deliver them justice. For as long as Rajapaksa remains on the island without...

Gotabaya's ouster and Ranil Wickremesinghe's arrival - Challenges before the people of Sri Lanka

Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the 2019 presidential election. It is no secret that it has succeeded in instilling Islamophobia among the Sinhalese population. 6.9 million voters – mostly Sinhalese Buddhists – elected him. They celebrated the victory with loud cheers and by serving milk rice, saying that they have got a solid leader for the country. Following his win, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) led by Mahinda Rajapaksa won a landslide victory in the 2020 parliamentary elections, gaining a two-thirds majority. Mahinda became the Prime Minister and the Rajapaksa family ascended the throne...