Sri Lanka 2005

Asia

Yearbook 2005

Sri Lanka. After the tsunami in December 2004, when more than 30,000 Sri Lankan deaths perished, there was hope that the disaster would give new impetus to the peace process between Sinhalese and Tamils, but the hopes quickly died down. According to countryaah, Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte is the capital and one of the major cities within the country of Sri Lanka. The government said rebel-controlled Tamil areas would receive a fair share of relief, but in practice, the unwillingness to allow the guerrilla movement Tamil Eelam’s Liberation Tigers (LTTE) to administer aid to slow the flow of reconstruction assistance to Tamils. The government also prevented UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan from visiting guerrilla-controlled disaster areas. Overall, the relief efforts received criticism; the national interim chief said in February that only 30% of those affected received assistance because of bureaucracy and incompetence in the municipalities. Yet in May, the World Bank complained about the difficulties in getting help to those affected.

When the government agreed in June on joint handling of the tsunami assistance between the state and the LTTE, the Supreme Court said no. HD did not accept that the aid should be administered in guerrilla controlled areas, where the staff would be inaccessible to most of the population. Even before the HD ruling, the settlement had prompted the Sinhalese Nationalist Party People’s Liberation Front (JVP) to leave the government. Since the Tamil-backed party Ceylon’s Workers’ Congress (CWC) left the coalition in February, the government now ended up in a minority parliament.

The conflict around reconstruction contributed to increased unrest in the country’s eastern parts. The number of political murders increased. In August, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was shot dead at his home in Colombo. LTTE was suspected of the act, but the government nevertheless initiated a high-level meeting with the guerrillas, which nevertheless fell on the government’s refusal to comply with LTTE’s demand that the meeting be held in the neighboring country Norway.

In August, HD stated that President Chandrika Kumaratunga must resign by December. The court rejected her argument that she would be allowed to remain until the end of 2006, since she took up her second term a year in advance. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse was named presidential candidate for the leftist ruling Sri Lankan Freedom Party and was promised support by both the JVP and the equally nationalist Buddhist monks. The right-wing United National Party (UNP) appointed former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as its candidate. While Rajapakse profiled himself as a tough opponent of guerrillas, and demanded that the rules of the ceasefire be reviewed, Wickremesinghe emerged as something of a peace candidate. Ironically, the choice was partly determined by the fact that the LTTE, which was considered too fragmented to want to enter a new peace process, drove through an almost total election boycott in guerrilla controlled territory. As a result, Rajapakse won with 50.3% of the vote. The stock exchange in Colombo crashed when the election results were announced. Rajapakse had also opted to cancel privatizations, introduce new subsidies on a range of agricultural products and increase support for the poor. Immediately after taking office, he announced that the almost finalized state budget would be reworked because he wanted to fulfill his election promises.

Shortly after the election, the guerrillas threatened to resume the struggle for self-government unless at the end of the year the government proposed a “reasonable” political solution to the conflict. Violence increased markedly and intensive diplomatic activity was triggered to avoid the ceasefire altogether.