Sri Lanka. Despite occasional violations of the ceasefire, there was strong optimism that the peace process initiated in 2002 would result in a lasting peace agreement between the government and the Tamil guerrilla Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In March, however, the negotiations began to harden after the Navy had sunk one of the guerrillas. After promises of increased Japanese financial assistance and expanded Scandinavian surveillance of the ceasefire, the peace talks continued. In April, however, the LTTE interrupted the negotiations and complained that the government did not keep promises of financial interventions in the Tamil areas. According to Countryaah.com, Sri Lanka Independence Day is February 4. The guerrillas also did not consider themselves required to establish a provisional “administrative council” in the country’s northeastern provinces. During the spring and summer, Norwegian mediators tried to get the talks going again and in July, the government seemed prepared to attend LTTE. However, while the government was waiting for the guerrilla’s response, President Chandrika Kumaratunga showed increased irritation over the work of the Scandinavian peacekeepers and accused them of preventing the army from interfering with the guerrilla’s ceasefire.
Three days after the LTTE presented a detailed power-sharing plan in early November and declared itself ready for new talks, the president put a halt to the peace process until further notice. Citing the government’s over-reliance on guerrillas, she temporarily dissolved Parliament, dismissed the Defense, Home Affairs and Information Ministers and took over the post of Defense Minister. The intervention sharpened the contradictions between the president, whose partial alliance is in opposition in parliament, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and crippled the peace process.
By November, all economic forecasts had pointed upward, thanks to the hope of peace. In April, the World Bank offered a US $ 800 million loan on favorable terms for the country’s reconstruction, and a few months later, Sri Lanka received promises from a donor conference in Tokyo totaling US $ 4.5 billion, provided peace was achieved. Thanks to the peace process, it was also possible to recover a record harvest of rice since large areas that were in decline because of the fighting could be re-used. In August, the government decided to invest $ 180 million on roads and electricity. Economic growth for the first half of the year was 5.6%, compared to only 1.4% for the same period in 2002.
Heroes’ Day is forbidden
Heroes’ Day (November 27), when Tamils in the north gather at cemeteries to honor the memory of LTTE soldiers killed in the Civil War, is banned. It is decided by a court on the initiative of the Rajapaksa government. For many years, the Tamil memorial ceremonies for killed Tamil tigers were banned, but were allowed in 2015. Now the ceremonies are banned again. The largest Tamil party TNA is protesting against the decision which it considers discriminatory against the Tamil minority as Sinhalese are free to honor their fallen soldiers.
Import ban extended
The government is extending a ban on unnecessary imports in an attempt to counter the country’s acute shortage of foreign currency. The EU protests and says that the import ban violates international rules for trade. The import ban was introduced in March 2020 and has led to a shortage of a variety of goods, from tires and spare parts to vehicles to turmeric used in Sri Lankan cooking.
The president gets more power
Votes in favor of giving President Gotabaya greatly increased powers; He can now appoint the highest officials in the administration, including the country’s highest judge. He is given the right to dismiss government ministers, including the prime minister. He can also dissolve parliament after sitting for half of his five-year term. The constitutional changes are expected and were among the election promises Rajapaksa made during the presidential election campaign (see November 2019). The opposition criticizes the decisions, and Rajapaksa is accused by an opposition politician of making himself a dictator. The powers of the President were reduced in 2015, it is these restrictions that are now being abolished.