Sri Lanka polls critical for reforms, reconciliation: ICG

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s chance to finally resolve its decades-long ethnic strife depends on the outcome of next Monday’s parliamentary polls, with a win for the opposition obstructing much-needed governance reforms and reconciliation,a Brussels-based think-tank has said.

The January ouster of president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime by Maithripala Sirisena and a minority government led by the United National Party (UNP) opened important political space with “robust debate and criticism” replacing fear under Rajapaksa, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said.

Important governance reforms have been made, but much remains undone, the ICG which calls itself the international conflict prevention organisation, said in a report.

“The parliamentary elections offer voters the chance to renew the mandate for change they gave President Sirisena and the UNP in January,” it said.

“A strong showing by the Rajapaksa-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), however, would complicate the president’s plans to form a broad-based “national” government between the UNP, smaller parties and the reformist wing of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP),” it said.

A Rajapaksa resurgence could also “place obstacles to further progress on much-needed governance reforms and reconciliation.”

“Sri Lanka’s chance to finally start on the road to a sustainable resolution of the country’s decades-long ethnic strife, including a negotiated political settlement, depends on the outcome,” the ICG.

The August 17 polls will test the continued appeal of the ex-president’s hardline Sinhala nationalism and give a chance for the fresh start that lasting solutions to the country’s social divisions require, it said.

The ICG said that even if he cannot become prime minister, Rajapaksa’s leadership of a large Sinhala nationalist bloc in parliament could make it harder for a UNP-led government’s to act as promised on reconciliation and accountability.   (Colombo/August 14 2015)

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