The human rights situation in Sri Lanka has “improved” and the democratic space has “opened up” since President Maithripala Sirisena took office in January this year, according to a report released by U.K. government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The bi-annual report on human rights and democracy says a number of “positive steps” were taken to address human rights and democracy concerns, including establishing new institutions and undertaking legal reforms, but points out that several challenges remain, including “high levels of militarisation”.
The report has referred to invitation given to exiled journalists to return to Sri Lanka and lifting of travel bans on foreign nationals visiting the North.
Local contacts in the Northern and Eastern Provinces noted a “significant reduction in surveillance” by security forces.
Declaration of Peace
The document recalled how a special Declaration of Peace, read out during the 67th Independence Day celebration in February, pledged the adoption of “consensual approaches” to advance “national interest, national reconciliation, justice and equality for all citizens.” It also referred to the announcement of reopening of investigations into several high-profile murders, including killing of parliamentarians and journalists and the withdrawal of “unofficial ban” on the rendering of the national anthem in Tamil.
As for the challenges, the U.K. report noted that there existed concerns which pertained to “military involvement” in civilian life’[in the Northern and Eastern Provinces], the continued occupation of land by the armed forces and women’s security. There were also reports of “journalists being intimidated.