Six years after the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, the country’s new president set out to address long standing challenges of reconciliation, accountability and political grievance built up during decades of the country’s violent internal conflicts. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera participated at a discussion,at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Feb. 25, co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, of how the initiatives to advance reconciliation, post-conflict development and stronger democratic institutions are progressing.
The conflict in Sri Lanka, which raged for over two decades, came to an end in May 2009 with the defeat of the insurgent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In January 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena, in a democratic election, unseated the administration that oversaw the war’s end in a surprise victory, promising to move the country toward reconciliation and sustainable development.
The Foreign Minister will offer an update on the progress toward sustainable peace in Sri Lanka, including plans for economic development. The remarks will be followed by a moderated discussion and a question-and-answer period with the audience.
Samaraweera said that the current administration will look into all options and come up with a Special Court that is not only credible but also acceptable to all victims of the war. He said that the court will be architected within the next 5 to 6 months.
“There is a general agreement across the board that a Special Court will have to be set up in Sri Lanka if the process is to have any credibility, as the judiciary has lost its credibility over the past 10 years due to the politicization of the judicial process by the previous government,” he said. He added that there is a consultation process ongoing; to decide at what level the international participation ought to be in the investigations process.
Samaraweera emphasized upon the need for the demilitarization of the North and East provinces which is an important factor in the reconciliation process. “We are working on releasing the lands that have been held by the military. So far we have released over 3000 acres of land and given these back to the civilians, and a further 600 across will be released in the next few weeks,” he said.