“Showdown in Sri Lanka: PM’s sacking sparks constitutional crisis” France 24 Debate

Regional players China and India are keeping close tabs on the Sri Lankan president’s decision to sack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replace him with the country’s longtime strongman, Mahinda Rajapaksa. But Sri Lanka continues to have duelling prime ministers. We look into the cause and the legality of the recall, a test for the nation’s democracy. It was on Rajapaksa’s watch that a civil war ended with the crushing of Tamil Tiger rebels. Could the turmoil in Colombo reopen wounds?



Former Governor of the Eastern Province


Director of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center


Research Associate, Centre for Studies on India and South Asia


Sri Lanka Project Director, Crisis Group


“The May 18 Disconnect” by Ruki Fernando

“Returning after an emotional day in Mullivaikkal, nine years after the end of the war, I struggle to keep faith that the few exceptional voices and initiatives will prevail and Sri Lanka will overcome the May 18 disconnect. Reconciliation will remain elusive till then.”

via: http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2018/05/20/opinion/may-18-disconnect

“unpublished photographs taken by a French tourist during the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983” by Vincent Faugère

We warmly thank Vincent Faugère for allowing us to upload unpublished photographs he took during the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983. Vincent Faugère came with his father to visit Sri Lanka in July 1983. He was then 15 years old. It happened that Vincent and his father were in Colombo when Tamil people were killed and chased from the town.

The photographs Vincent shares here were shot between july 26th and 29th, 1983, around Colombo railways station. He knows that from the travel notebook he had been writing  at this time.
Copyright for all photographs : Vincent Faugère

“Police, politicians accused of joining Sri Lanka’s anti-Muslim riots” by Reuters

Police and politicians backed by the country’s former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa joined anti-Muslim riots that rocked Sri Lanka’s Kandy district this month, according to witnesses, officials and CCTV footage reviewed by Reuters.

via: https://www.reuters.com/article/sri-lanka-clashes/rpt-insight-police-politicians-accused-of-joining-sri-lankas-anti-muslim-riots-idUSL3N1R70A8

“Sri Lankan corporals arrested on Sri Lankan corporals arrested on anti-Muslim riot charges Reuters charges” by Reuters

Sri Lankan police have arrested two army corporals for their suspected involvement in anti-Muslim riots in the central highlands district of Kandy last month, police said on Tuesday.

via: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sri-lanka-clashes-arrests/sri-lankan-corporals-arrested-on-anti-muslim-riot-charges-idUSKBN1HH1SB

“US rights report notes Sri Lanka’s slowness in transitional justice” by The Hindu

Torture remained endemic throughout Sri Lanka in 2017, the US has said, highlighting limited progress made by the government in establishing additional transitional justice mechanisms.

via: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/us-rights-report-notes-sri-lankas-slowness-in-transitional-justice/article23635493.ece

“Weaponising 280 characters: What 200,000 tweets and 4,000 bots tell us about state of Twitter in Sri Lanka” by Sanjana Hattotuwa, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and Raymond Serrato

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has released a report on social media, “Weaponising 280 characters: What 200,000 tweets and 4,000 bots tell us about state of Twitter in Sri Lanka”. The report is available for immediate download here.
The report is a collaboration between Sanjana Hattotuwa, a Senior Researcher at CPA and the head of the Civic Media Team and two leading data scientists – Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, based in Sri Lanka and Raymond Serrato, based in Germany. It is a response to an unprecedented social media phenomenon in Sri Lanka, with disturbing as well as potentially deeply disruptive implications for the health of the country’s democratic dialogue and electoral processes.
The recent violence in Kandy brought social media under renewed scrutiny for its role, reach and relevance in contributing to the production and spread of violent, hateful content. Starting late March, weeks after the cessation of the violent attacks, Twitter users began noticing a tsunami of accounts with no bios, no tweets and the default profile picture following them. Several fake Twitter accounts were identified to be promoting false or misleading content during the violence in Kandy. This, coupled with the heightened production of suspicious Twitter accounts raised red flags amongst Twitter users.
Given the scale and scope of the infestation, CPA’s English language civic media platform Groundviews, for the first time in the Sri Lankan Twittersphere, took the step of making public its block list, which other users could import. Even this measure though was not enough to address the high frequency with which new, fake accounts were being created, attaching themselves to prominent Twitter users in Sri Lanka. A preliminary analysis of 1,262 accounts, a subset of the larger dataset used for this report, indicated that the majority of suspicious accounts following Twitter users were bots.
A visualisation of the number of accounts targeted by the bots revealed that leading diplomats, Ambassadors based in Sri Lanka, the official accounts of diplomatic missions, leading local politicians, the former President of the Maldives, media institutions, civil society organisations and initiatives, leading journalists, cricketers and other individuals were amongst those who had large numbers of bot followers.
Considering bots are now a permanent feature of Sri Lanka’s Twitter landscape and will likely grow in scope and scale leading up to elections or a referendum, it is important to ask how to address the issue at scale, given the number of citizens – directly connected as well as influenced by those connected – involved.
Even with its limited scope and data, this report is a clear snapshot of the political landscape we now inhabit, and projects in the future real dangers that result from just the visible investments made around key social media platforms, which are today the key information and news vectors for a demographic between 18-34.
This report by CPA follows the path-breaking data driven study into the bots and trolls associated with a prominent politician in Sri Lanka, published in January 2018, which was also a collaborative research exercise with Yudhanjaya Wijeratne. Download Namal Rajapaksa, bots and trolls: New contours of digital propaganda and online discourse in Sri Lanka here.
For further information and media inquiries, please contact Sanjana Hattotuwa on sanjanah@cpalanka.org.
Source:The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)

“En Birmanie et au Sri Lanka, polémiques sur le rôle de Facebook” par Harold Thibault et Bruno Philip

Alors que des violences intercommunautaires se propageaient en mars dans le centre du Sri Lanka, des militants de ce pays ravagé par près de trois décennies de guerre civile alertaient Facebook au sujet de plusieurs messages haineux contre la minorité musulmane. L’un de ces posts appelait à « tuer tous les musulmans, sans épargner un seul enfant, parce que ce sont des putains de chiens ». Il fallut six jours pour que le réseau social leur réponde, dans ce pays où il n’a pas de bureau mais qui compte 6 millions d’usagers actifs… et conclut que ce texte n’enfreignait pas les « standards de la communauté ».

Conséquence, le gouvernement sri-lankais allait bloquer l’accès à Facebook durant plusieurs jours dans l’espoir d’endiguer la flambée de violence. Les responsables pour l’Asie du géant numérique se décidèrent aussitôt à se rendre à Colombo pour y rencontrer le gouvernement ainsi que des représentants de la société civile. Ces derniers tentaient depuis des années de les contacter.

Divinité numérique

Sur cette île, comme en Birmanie, où l’armée, appuyée par des extrémistes bouddhistes, a contraint plus de 650 000 membres de la minorité musulmane des Rohingya à fuir au Bangladesh voisin depuis août 2017, le réseau social est accusé d’avoir largement négligé le travail de modération. Il y a cependant urgence : depuis le début du processus de démocratisation du « Myanmar », il y a sept ans, Facebook est devenu une sorte de divinité numérique. Les utilisateurs birmans du réseau étaient environ 14 millions en 2017, dont une forte majorité dans la tranche d’âge 25-35 ans. « En Birmanie, on se réveille avec Facebook et on s’endort avec Facebook », relève Thurein Win, 42 ans, qui traduit (fort à propos) George Orwell en birman.

le reste de l’article est disponible sur le site en ligne du journal Le Monde

“Stories of Resilience: that aims to document and share stories of strength, courage and resilience of Tamil communities before, during and after the armed conflict” by  Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research (ACPR)

‘Stories of Resilience’ is a project by the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research (ACPR) that aims to document and share stories of strength, courage and resilience of Tamil communities before, during and after the armed conflict. ACPR intends to preserve these stories for current and future generations of Tamils in Sri Lanka and the Diaspora as part of a broader conversation about Mullivaikkaal
This project aims to contribute to efforts around the world to document and share stories of Tamil survival, by documenting stories of those who still live in Sri Lanka and continue to persevere.

This project currently features two series’ of stories:
  • “Stories of Mullivaikkaal”: This series presents alternative narratives from survivors of Mullivaikkaal which does not narrow their lived experiences to helpless victimhood but rather promotes and accepts their agency. We hope that this series will raise awareness about the struggle and resilience of the survivors of the last phase of the war and broaden the conversation about assisting those who suffered mass atrocities during the end of the war.
  • Stories of Vaharai“: This series presents a variety of narratives from Tamil individuals who have survived the war in and around the Vaharai region in the East. We hope that this series draws attention to the often overlooked ongoing plight faced by Tamil communities in the East, and the significant trauma they have experienced.
If you would like to be notified when new content is added to the website,
you can directly on ‘Stories of Resilience”s website.

Nine stories are alrealdy available there.

Source: http://storiesofresilience.com/

“CCTV shows Sri Lankan police aid anti-Muslim riots” by Al Jazeera

Police and politicians joined anti-Muslim riots that rocked Sri Lanka’s Kandy district this month, according to witnesses, officials and CCTV footage reviewed by Reuters.

…The role of police and some local Buddhist politicians in the Islamophobia rampage points to the depth of the problem that Muslims face in Sri Lanka. It also shows that the government has no control over some of its police and security personnel, and that the violence was more than a spontaneous outbreak fueled by fringe Buddhist fighters and hate-speech spread on social media.

…Sri Lanka’s Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara has said the violence in Kandy was “well organised” and pointed the finger at members of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), a political party backed by Rajapaksa that scored a huge victory in local elections last month.

via: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/cctv-shows-sri-lankan-police-aid-anti-muslim-riots-180325160133845.html

“Observations on the Bill to Amend the Voluntary Social Service Organisations (Registration and Supervision) Act No. 31 of 1980” by The Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Cabinet of Ministers approved on 20 February 2018 a proposal to introduce amendments to the Voluntary Social Service Act (VSSO) No. 31 of 1980. The proposed amendments contain far-reaching consequences on the activities and finances of civil society and if enacted in its present form will have a chilling effect on a range of private entities across Sri Lanka. The present move is also in a context when there are several existing laws in place to monitor and regulate non-governmental organisations and other entities that are likely to fall within the proposed amendments.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has prepared a short note containing key concerns on the proposals and process, with the hope of a constructive engagement on this issue and raising with it the necessity and proportionality of what has been proposed.

Download the note in English.

“Compiled Situation Updates: Kandy and Related Incidents” by Groundviews

From March 5 onwards, there has been unrest in the Kandy district, originating in Digana. What began as a personal altercation eventually spiraled into violence, with Buddhist mobs attacking Muslim-owned properties, homes and places of worship. In the span of less than a week, a national State of Emergency was declared. Social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram were blocked by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC). Meanwhile, the situation on the ground was extremely volatile for at least two days, particularly with mobs carrying out attacks even after curfew was declared.

Throughout this time, Groundviews compiled a series of regular situation updates, with background from trusted and reliable sources. We also compiled an archive of official statements, reportage and commentary and videos propagating hate speech, availablehere.

View full story here.

“Understanding a State of Emergency: March 2018” by Centre for Policy Alternatives

Sri Lanka’s last state of emergency lasted for 28 years, and was terminated in August 2011, having continuously been extended by governments since it was first declared in 1983. On March 6th 2018, President Maithripala Sirisena declared a state of emergency in order to address and contain the violence unfolding in the Kandy district, where violent attacks on the Muslim community saw widespread property damage and two deaths. When it was gazetted, it was intended to last for ten days. However statements by the Presidential Secretary and the Prime Minister on its extension have raised concern.

A new brief provides comprehensive answers to the following questions.

What is meant by a ‘State of Emergency’?
What is the procedure for the declaration of emergency?
Was this procedure followed in March 2018?
What are the legal effects of a state of emergency?
To what extent are citizens’ rights curtailed in this period?
How does the Sri Lankan legal framework for states of emergency align with international standards?
What concerns are raised by the past experience of states of emergency?

This was prepared by CPA Research Fellow Dr. Asanga Welikala. He has previously authored A State of Permanent Crisis: Constitutional Government, Fundamental Rights and States of Emergency in Sri Lanka, States of Emergency: Issues for Constitutional Design and The state of Emergency in Peacetime.

Click here to access the full brief.

​”Towards Recovering Histories of Anti-Muslim violence in the Context of Sinhala-Muslim Tension in Sri Lanka” by Vijay Nagaraj and Farzana Haniffa

This research paper explores three incidents of Anti-​Muslim violence in Sri Lanka: ​Puttalam in 1976, Galle in 1982 and Mawanella in 2001. This paper intends to cast light on anti-Muslim violence over the past three to four decades outside of the north and east, episodes that have been masked, lost or suppressed in the commonly narrated recent histories of political and religious violence in Sri Lanka.

The history of violence against Muslims during this period is overshadowed by the armed conflict and extreme polarization precipitated by Sinhala and Tamil nationalisms. The incidents recorded are often limited to those in the north and east. It is necessary that the post-war resurgence in anti-Muslim hostility is historicized and placed within the wider sweep of anti-Muslim hostility within Sri Lanka over the past few decades. The distinct experience of political and ethnic violence experienced by the Muslims in the context of Sinhala-Muslim tensions requires greater empirical attention and theorizing than it is has received.

This paper is posited as a step towards addressing this lacuna. This research is also motivated by the possibility that a deeper understanding of the temporal, spatial, political economic and social dynamics of anti-Muslim violence can illuminate the broader conditions that generate and reproduce communal violence more generally.