Sri Lanka and the culture of impunity: human rights challenges in a post-war and post-conflict environment
Speaker(s): Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Asanga Welikala, Uvindu Kurukulasuriya
Chair: Professor Chetan Bhatt
Recorded on 20 June 2013 in Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building.
Sri Lanka's civil war, which spanned more than a quarter of a century, ended in 2009. With more than 100,000 war casualties and one million refugees, it represented one of Asia's most violent, destructive and intractable conflicts. Four years since active military hostilities ended, there has been no progress towards constitutional and political reforms addressing the problems of pluralism and democracy that lay at the heart of the conflict, nor a legitimate process of truth and accountability for war-time abuses. Instead, Sri Lanka is steadily moving in the direction of becoming an authoritarian state, with the rule of law and governance under attack, the ascendance of majoritarian ethno-religious intolerance, and an overall decline in democratic and human rights standards. This event will explore the pervasive culture of impunity in Sri Lanka, both with regard to past abuses as well as post-war governance. The broader challenge of transition from a post-war to a post-conflict situation will be discussed in relation to ongoing efforts regarding peace and good governance.
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu has been the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) since its exception in 1996. He is a Convenor of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) and is a founder Board member of the Sri Lanka Chapter of Transparency International. Currently he is on the Board of the Berghof Foundation for Peace Support and a Member of the Transparency Advisory Group on The Right to Information in South Asia. In June 2003 he made the Civil Society Presentation at the Tokyo Donor Conference on Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Government of Japan and in March 2009, he served as a Member of the External Review Panel of the World Bank’s Post-Conflict Performance Indicators. In 2010, he was awarded the inaugural Citizens Peace Award by the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka. He has been quoted widely in the international and local print and electronic media and presented papers at a number of international conferences on the situation in Sri Lanka, on governance and security issues.
Asanga Welikala is a doctoral candidate and ESRC Teaching Fellow in Public Law in the School of Law, University of Edinburgh. He is also a Senior Researcher in the Legal & Constitutional Unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Sri Lanka. His most recent publication is the edited collection, A. Welikala (Ed.) (2012) The Sri Lankan Republic at 40: Reflections on Constitutional History, Theory and Practice (Colombo: CPA).
Uvindu Kurukulasuriya is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. He has been a journalist for more than two decades and also the co-editor of Media Monitor. He is a freedom of expression activist, researcher and artist. At the time he was forced to leave the country he was the Convenor of the Free Media Movement and a Director of the Sri Lanka Press Institute and Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka. He was a Council member and executive committee member of International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and Co-Convener of the Centre for Monitoring Elections Violence. He is co-author of Reporting on Human Rights in Sri Lanka: A Handbook for Media Professionals (Colombo: Centre for Policy Alternatives and International Federation of Journalists, 2008).