Sri Lanka's new government “unleashing a chilling process of repression”

Credible Information gathered by the International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka (ITJP) and JDS reveals how the new government of Sri Lanka under a majority Sinhala hardliner has embarked on its strategy to militarise and securitise the country, unleashing a chilling process of repression targeting critics and human rights defenders within less than two months in office.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa elected as the president in mid-November has repeatedly emphasised that his priorities would be serving the majority Sinhala Buddhists and boosting the country's security.

Shrinking of civic space

The latest report by ITJP and JDS, "And the Crackdown Begins", reveals that almost 70 Incidents of Intimidation and threats have taken place before and after the elections targeting journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, plaintiffs, academics and opposition figures. In some cases the threats have been so serious the individuals have fled the country.

“What we are seeing is the dismantling of any attempts to address accountability and a massive shrinking of the civic space in Sri Lanka with even more sophisticated and intrusive surveillance,” said ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka.“The international community has to ensure the increased security assistance it is giving Sri Lanka after the Easter Sunday bombings is not being misused now to crack down on human rights defenders and journalists”.

The new President’s strategy is to securitize and militarize Sri Lanka through appointing many of his former war time cronies in the military to key posts in state institutions and to take over functions normally handled by the police, says the report.

ITJP and JDS describe this as President Rajapaksa “spreading his tentacles”. Those involved in investigating past crimes inlcuding fraud have been removed from their posts.

'Deep state' in the open

The report reveals a systematic clampdown by the police, army and intelligence services in Sri Lanka intended to terrorize and deter human rights activists and the media from documenting and reporting on issues of justice and accountability. The crackdown also targets Sinhala journalists in a post-election spate of retaliation against those percieved to have supported the opposition.

“Individuals previously accused of corruption or alleged to be involved in war crimes are now in office again - the ‘deep state” is out in the open, occupying positions of authority,” said Bashana Abeywardene of JDS, adding that it’s cast a pall of silence over once outspoken journalists, trades union activists and human rights activists.

The incidents have been documented with the help of activists in Sri Lanka who cannot be named for their own safety.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.