Country of Origin Information Report

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Commission on Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation (LLRC)
Background to the commission can be found on its website is at:
4.43 The US Department of State (USSD) Report To Congress on Measures Taken by the Government of Sri Lanka and International Bodies To Investigate Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, and Evaluating the Effectiveness of Such Efforts, released on 11 August 2010 reported:
“On May 15 [2010], President Rajapaksa issued a warrant to establish an eight-member commission under the Special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry Law of 1978.[8] The warrant did not explicitly direct the commission to identify violations of internationally accepted norms in conflict situations or to identify those responsible. Instead, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was charged to “inquire and report on the following matters that may have taken place during the period between 21st February 2002 and 19th May 2009, namely:
“i. the facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement operationalized on 21st February 2002 and the sequence of events that followed thereafter up to the 19th May 2009;

ii. whether any person, group, or institution directly or indirectly bear responsibility in this regard;

iii. the lessons we would learn from those events and their attendant concerns, in order to ensure that there will be no recurrence;

iv. the methodology whereby restitution to any person affected by those events or their dependents or to heirs, can be effected;

v. the institutional administrative and legislative measures which need to be taken in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities, and to make any such other recommendations with reference to any of the matters that have been inquired into under the terms of this Warrant.” [2d] (Section IV. Measures Taken by the GSL)
4.44 The same USSD report also noted that “The LLRC is less than halfway through its six month term... Initial actions taken by the Government of Sri Lanka, including aspects of the naming of commissioners and publication of terms of reference detailed in this report, have raised concerns regarding the LLRC’s mandate and its independence.” [2d] (Executive Summary)
4.45 On 11 August 2010 The Guardian reported that:
“A government-appointed commission examining Sri Lanka's civil war began public hearings today amid international scepticism about its credibility. The commission has no mandate to investigate allegations that thousands of civilians died in the final months of the conflict.” and added that Human rights groups say the commission is aimed at deflecting calls for an international inquiry into alleged war crimes including the government shelling of civilians.” [12a]
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Security situation in the Northern and Eastern provinces
4.46 A letter from the British High Commission (BHC), Colombo, dated 12 January 2010, reported on the security and development of Jaffna district and the Eastern province. A further BHC letter dated 13 August reported on the findings of a team from the Commission that visited the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu from 28 June until 1 July 2010. [15o]
Jaffna district
4.47 With regards to the Jaffna district the BHC letter of 12 January 2010 noted:
“Both government and non-government organisations agree that since 5th August 2009 there has been a lighter presence at checkpoints and a reduction in some areas.
“There is also a consensus that there have been no cordon and search operations since the end of the conflict in May 2009.
“According to the Jaffna branch of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, extrajudicial killings were down from 30 in 2008 to 4 in 2009. The Jaffna Bishop, a prominent human rights advocate, confirmed that the number of human rights violations had decreased dramatically and that the military appeared to have the paramilitaries under control.” [15p]
4.48 The BHC letter of 12 January 2010 also reported that:
“A police spokesman said that there had been no cordon and search operations, no reported abductions or disappearances, and no extra judicial killings at all in recent months. He expected security to be relaxed further in the coming months… Both government and non-government organisations said that there had not been any reported abduction or disappearances recently and no reported extra judicial killings.
“On 29th December 2009 the government announced a complete lifting of the night time curfew that had been imposed on Jaffna peninsula on 8th August 2006. Earlier relaxations on 5th August 2009 had coincided with a resumption in a 24-hour electricity supply and were a welcome return to normality after years of disrupted supply, especially throughout the curfew hours...

“The police, government and non-government organisations agree that since the relaxation/lifting of the curfew, crime has shown a significant increase. These are mainly house robberies and theft, but also there have been cases of rape and murder linked to robberies. Recently a young couple was murdered in their home having disturbed burglars. The perpetrators were subsequently caught and have been charged. Everyone agrees that the police have responded to this well, have apprehended many suspects and are now showing an increased presence on the streets of Jaffna town. It is seen that police officers in Jaffna are now carrying out police work themselves, rather than relying on the army to do it for them as they had done previously.

“Since the re-opening of the A9 there has been a substantial increase in traffic resulting in the introduction of traffic police to the streets.” [15p]
4.49 The BHC letter of 12 January 2010 also noted:
“Recent press reports indicate that the re-opening of the A9 Kandy-Jaffna highway has heralded the arrival of tourists from the south to Jaffna…Sources also said that a large number of former Jaffna residents living in other parts of the country and abroad were visiting their families now with the restoration of peace in the north, reopening of roads and the restoration of transport facilities.
“National companies from Colombo are already assessing the potential of improved communication and transport links with Jaffna and investing heavily.” [15p]
4.50 The BHC letter of 13 August 2010 reported:
“A Senior Military Official from the Sri Lankan Army based in Jaffna stated that the security situation was returning to normal. No LTTE activity had been recorded and as far as he was aware, there were no active remnants of the LTTE. Occasionally the Sri Lankan Army discovered caches of arms. There had been no recent incidents of terrorism although there were some social problems. With the military moving out of the towns the police required educating in order to go back to normal policing. There had been several instances of petty crime, domestic disputes and unsocial behaviour (drunken youths riding around on motorcycles). Some military personnel have therefore gone back onto the streets in an attempt to clamp down on this, but they will move out when the situation improves.” [15o]
4.51 The BHC letter of 13 August 2010 added that:
“A Human Rights spokesman based in Jaffna told us that pre and post elections there had been a spate of 5 or 6 abductions. They opined that this was done to justify a military presence in the area, and all but two were resolved with either the payment of a ransom or the person just turned-up. There is no longer a curfew in Jaffna and with the relaxation of the Emergency Powers the military and police are no longer entering houses. However, the military are ever present on the streets. Petty crime is still taking place and crimes are reported to the police, but the trust between the public and the police is not there. They added that there has been no evidence of the new Tamil police recruits yet. Most police stations now have Tamil speakers, but they are rarely seen on the streets.” [15o]
4.52 The same BHC letter also reported that “A Senior Government Official in Jaffna said that security was no longer a problem and that the community was able to move freely. Last year there had been a rise in the incidence of crime, which he blamed on anti-social behaviour post-conflict, but this had been addressed. The police were now more proactive.” [15o]
4.53 And added that “A group of MPs from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) said that the only threat is from the Sri Lankan Army...A particular case was mentioned of a gang rape of a local woman by four soldiers. All four have been arrested and await trial. They added that whilst the army had said that they were going to deal with crime, they were content to allow abductions, kidnappings, extra judicial killings to frighten the diasporas.”
“They expressed concern that military camps were growing up all over the province with houses provided by the Chinese government, providing homes for the Sinhalese military and all of their families.” (BHC Commission letter, dated 13 August 2010) [15o]
4.54 The BHC letter of 13 August 2010 went on to report that:
“The Human Rights spokesman based in Jaffna added that locals were also suspicious of ‘Sinhalisation’, which had not taken place yet but the signs were clear. Buddhist temples were being built, garment factories were planned for the area but would bring their own employees from the south and military personnel were accompanied by their families who were opening businesses. Contracts for 21 hotels in the district had all been awarded to Sinhalese businesses from the south.”
“A group of humanitarian aid workers said that there was a definite fear of Sinhalisation in the Northern Province. Military camps contained Sinhalese soldiers and their families, new factories were providing employment for Sinhalese workers from the south, floods of Sinhalese tourists were in the area and Buddhist temples were being built.” [15o]
4.55 The same BHC letter also stated:
“A Senior Military Official in Jaffna stated that many tourists were visiting the peninsula, mostly from the south of the island. He added that some ‘southerners’ did not respect Tamil culture…A Senior Government Official in Jaffna said that the district was welcoming many tourists, up to 20 buses a day. They were flocking to the area from the south to visit Hindu and Buddhist temples and other points of interest. This was putting a strain on the community as there were insufficient facilities to accommodate them. Cultural differences had arisen which caused concern…
“A group of TNA MPs said that Jaffna was receiving up to 15,000 tourists per week. They complained that there were sanitary problems caused by such an influx and no hotels to accommodate these numbers, adding that some of the main hotels were still occupied by the army.
“A Human Rights spokesman based in Jaffna said that tourists from the south were flocking to Jaffna but language and cultural differences were causing friction between them and the local Tamil community.” [15o]
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Kilinochchi district
4.56 The BHC letter of 13 August 2010 reported that
“A Senior Military Official based in Kilinochchi opined that the military and local community were getting on well with each other. He told us that the military had to observe the local community in case there were still LTTE in the area, however, he stressed that hardship meant that the local community were diverted to restoring their properties and livelihoods. There had been no sabotage or retribution. The crime rate was low, mostly petty crime, theft etc. The army assisted the local police with policing the district as there were low numbers of police officers. He said that the local police were quick to find fault with the army, referring to an incident where soldiers were recently arrested by the police. We were told that many of his soldiers spoke Tamil following a programme of language training by the army. Arms caches were still being found, many from information received from locals, mostly after they had stumbled across them whilst repairing property or farming land.” [15o]
4.57 The same BHC letter added that “A Senior Government Official in Kilinochchi told us that there were no security issues in the district. There were small incidents of crime, such as robbery, which were evident in any community. She added that the crime rate was much lower there than in the south.” (British High Commission, Colombo, letter dated 13 August 2010). [15o]
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Eastern Province
4.58 With regard to the Eastern Province the BHC letter of 12 January 2010 reported that:
“Security restrictions in Trincomalee district have markedly relaxed during 2009…The security situation in Batticaloa has also improved, although the town is not yet as calm as Trincomalee and there is still a high military presence.
“The police presence is comparable to Colombo but encouragingly, some do not carry weapons despite being on duty.
“The Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) for Batticaloa was proud of the fact that there had been a marked improvement in the security situation in the district which allowed his officers to not have to carry weapons. He was not aware of any remaining LTTE cadres in the area and considered that most of the cached weapons had now been seized or could no longer be found as the land had now grown over. Reported abductions and low level crime were minimal.
“Church Elders in the Diocese of Trincomalee and Batticaloa have provided grass roots assessment. They opined that there was no longer a LTTE presence in the Batticaloa district. During the latter stages of the conflict, the few remaining LTTE cadres, mainly youths, had thrown away their weapons and returned to their families. The community knew who they were but had no concerns about them re-arming. Community level engagement both with the police and SLA over the last 9 months had improved considerably. There were now regular meetings between the various community leaders and the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Police and SLA commanders which allowed them to voice any concerns they had about the paramilitaries, abductions, harassment by the security forces. As a result, the paramilitaries were no longer carrying weapons, abductions were low (and once reported to the community leaders, they were able to raise it immediately with the DIG) and security check points were no longer a problem.” [15p]
4.59 The BHC letter of 12 January 2010 further observed:
“It is apparent that recent security improvements in the Eastern Province are starting to make tangible improvements to the people living there.
“The Divisional Secretary (DS) spoke of the extent of development taking place in the Province with new roads, electricity and telephone lines, much of which being already visible. There is now a low police and military presence, and no LTTE.” [15p]
See also Section 10: Abuses by Non-Government Armed Forces and Section 28: Freedom of Movement
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5. Constitution
5.01 Europa World Online, Sri Lanka: Government and politics, The Constitution, accessed 13 January 2010, stated: “The Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka was approved by the National State Assembly (renamed Parliament) on 17 August 1978, and promulgated on 7 September 1978 ...The Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens, including freedom of thought, conscience and worship and equal entitlement before the law.” [1a]
5.02 Europa World Online, Sri Lanka: Government and politics, The Constitution, accessed 13 January 2010, further noted:
“Amendments to the Constitution require endorsement by a two-thirds’ majority in Parliament. In February 1979 the Constitution was amended by allowing members of Parliament who resigned or were expelled from their party to retain their seats, in certain circumstances. In January 1981 Parliament amended the Constitution to increase its membership from 168 to 169. An amendment enabling the President to seek re-election after four years was approved in August 1982. In February 1983 an amendment providing for by-elections to fill vacant seats in Parliament was approved. An amendment banning parties that advocate separatism was approved by Parliament in August 1983. In November 1987 Parliament adopted an amendment providing for the creation of eight provincial councils (the northern and eastern provinces were to be merged as one administrative unit). In December 1988 Parliament adopted an amendment affording Tamil the same status as Sinhala, as one of the country’s two official languages.” [1a]

    1. The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution was published as a Supplement to Part II of the Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka of 5 October 2000. It introduced the Constitutional Council; the Public Service Commission; the Election Commission; the Judicial Service Commission and the National Police Commission. (The official website of the Government of Sri Lanka, The Constitution) [44i]

5.04 The US State Department (USSD), Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2009, Sri Lanka, issued on 11 March 2010 (USSD 2009) observed that: “The executive failed [during 2009] to appoint the Constitutional Council, which is required under the Constitution, thus obstructing the appointment of independent representatives to important institutions such as the Human Rights Commission, Bribery Commission, Police Commission, and Judicial Service Commission.” [2b] (Introduction)

5.05 The Freedom House report, ‘Freedom in the World 2010, Sri Lanka’, released on 1 June 2010, noted:
“The 17th amendment to the constitution was designed to depoliticize key institutions by creating a constitutional council responsible for appointing independent commissions to oversee the police, the judiciary, human rights, and civil servants. Owing to a parliamentary impasse, Rajapaksa failed to reconstitute the council in 2006 after the terms of its previous members expired, and instead made unilateral appointments to several commissions in 2007. Some local groups allege that these actions have threatened the independence of the institutions and created a class of appointees who owe their positions to the president. Rajapaksa has expressed his opposition to the 17th amendment, and the constitutional council remained dormant in 2009..” [46c] (Political Rights and Civil Liberties)
For the full text of the Constitution and of the Seventeenth Amendment: [44i]
See also Section 8 on Avenues of complaint

The 18th amendment
5.06 On 8 September 2010 The Guardian reported:
“Sri Lanka's parliament voted today to allow the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to seek an unlimited number of terms in office and to tighten his hold on power by giving him total control over the judiciary, police and the civil service. The main opposition group, the United National party, boycotted the vote and burned an effigy of Rajapaksa in the capital. But the constitutional amendment passed with 161 votes in the 225-member parliament.
“The constitution used to limit the president to two six-year terms, so Rajapaksa's new term, due to start in November, would have been his last.
“The amendment also scrapped a provision requiring the president to receive the approval of independent commissions in appointing officials to the judiciary, police, public service and the elections office.” [12b]
5.07 On 17 September 2010, the Official Website of the Government of Sri Lanka noted that:
“Under the 18th Amendment which was endorsed by Parliament with a record majority recently, the Police Commission, the Elections Commission, the Bribery Commission, the Public Services Commission, Human Rights Commission, the Financial Commission and the Delimitation Commission would be set up. Under the Amendments a five-member Parliamentary Council would come into force replacing the now defunct Constitutional Council.
“This would include the Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, Opposition Leader and a nominee each of the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader.” [44e]
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6. Political system
6.01 Europa World Online, Sri Lanka, accessed on 13 January 2010 stated:
“A presidential form of government was adopted in October 1977 and confirmed in the Constitution of September 1978. The Constitution provides for a unicameral Parliament as the supreme legislative body, its members being elected by a system of modified proportional representation. Executive powers are vested in the President, who is Head of State. The President is directly elected for a term of six years and is not accountable to Parliament. The President has the power to appoint or dismiss the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet; may assume any portfolio; and is empowered to dismiss Parliament. Sri Lanka comprises nine provinces and 25 administrative districts, each with an appointed Governor and elected Development Council.” [1a]
6.02 The Freedom House report ‘Countries at the Crossroads 2010, Country report, Sri Lanka’, 6 April 2010 observed that “Sri Lanka's semipresidential system, like the French system on which it is modeled, does not clearly separate powers between the three branches of government, nor between the president and prime minister. Still, President Rajapaksa has assumed more power than his predecessors, primarily because of his refusal to obey several Supreme Court rulings.” [46d] (Accountability and Public Voice)
6.03 The same Freedom House report observed that “Government job appointments and placement of development projects are based on patronage and support for government politicians. Sinhalese Buddhists dominate the political system and usually direct jobs and projects to members of their ethnic community.” [46d] (Civil Liberties)
6.04 The Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report, Sri Lanka, April 2009, observed that:
“Sri Lanka is rated as a ‘flawed democracy’ in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2008 democracy index, ranked 57th out of 167 countries. Democracy is firmly established locally, and there have been regular changes of the party in government. The [t]endency for the major parties to have to rely on support from smaller parties in order to gain governing majorities in parliament further bolsters the tradition of political pluralism. The courts have successfully dealt with challenges posed by politicians to the established electoral system, such as the attempt by the then president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, to extend her term in office in 2005. Moreover, the island has a relatively vibrant (if often partisan) media.” [75k] (p11)
6.05 The EIU report further noted:
“Nevertheless, there are major problems. Government functioning as a whole receives a very low score, reflecting low levels of bureaucratic efficiency and the rising evidence of corruption in recent years. The powerful presidency has in the past clashed with the parliamentary leadership, and party politics remains generally crude, corrupt and extremely volatile. Political participation rates particularly poorly, partly reflecting low rates of participation in the north and east of the country, which are worst affected by the long-running conflict between the government and the LTTE.” [75k] (p11)
6.06 The U.S. State Department (USSD), Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2009, Sri Lanka, issued on 11 March 2010 (USSD 2009) observed that “The government is dominated by the president's family; two of his brothers hold key executive branch posts…” [2b] (Introduction)
6.07 The Freedom House report, Freedom in the World 2010, Sri Lanka, covering events in 2009, released on 1 June 2010 reported that:
“The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and others have noted the concentration of power in the hands of the Rajapaksa family. Several of the president’s brothers hold important posts—Gotabaya serves as Defense Secretary—and therefore control a significant proportion of the national budget and take a lead role in policy formulation. Other trusted party stalwarts serve as implementers and advisers.” [46c]
See also Section 15: Political Affiliation for information about political rights in practice; and Section 18: Corruption and Section 5: Constitution for further information about strengthening of presidential powers via the constitutional amendment.
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