Decentralisation as a post-conflict reconciliation tool: Measuring Sri-Lanka’s success

Project Active from to State and Political Economy

After militarily defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) in 2009 (bringing an end to LTTE's 30-year campaign of terror to establish a separate Tamil state), the Sri Lankan government has been under constant pressure from the international community to establish a meaningful post-war reconciliation process. This included three successive US-Sponsored resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council (in March 2012, March 2013 and March 2014) and a damning report by the former UN High Commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay, criticising Sri Lanka's inadequate ethnic reconciliation effort. In response, Sri Lanka's previous administration, under President Mahinda Rajapakse, did initiate serveral measures aimed at pacifying minority Tamils. These measures include commissioning a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation report and establishing the Northern Provincial Council to provide more autonomy to Tamils. However, these steps are generally viewed as inadequate and failing to address the root causes of the conflict.

In January 2015, Sri Lanka's minorities overwhelmingly joined with the opposition to vote President Rajapakse out of office in favor of the current President Maithripala Sirisena who campaigned on a platform more conciliatory towards minorities. Therefore, ethnic reconciliation has now become the responsibility of the new administration. In order to provide the newly-elected government more time to put in place a comprehensive reconciliation process, the UN Human Rights Council recently deferred its probe into Sri Lanka's 'war crimes' which was scheduled for March 2015. The proposed research will attempt to measure the success - or lack thereof - of the new government's reconcilation measures in reducing tensions between ethnic groups.

The proposed research will be conducted in the form of a set of pilot perception surveys, conducted 6 months apart, among a sample of constituents of the Northern Province. These surveys will be conducted in February/March 2015 (baseline) and July/August 2015 (end-line) to understand how the perception of local consituents evolve over the period in relation to the success of the new government's ethnic reconcilation process. A similar survey will be conducted in the Sinhala-dominated Central Province to control for broader (cross-country) trends.

Two main objectives:

  1. To measure, using 2 pilot perception surveys, the progress (or lack thereof) of the new Sri Lankan government's ethnic reconcilation process and its effect on tensions between different ethnic groups during the first 6-8 months of its term. The new goverment came to power on a platform promising reconcilation and better governance.
  2. Establish an integrated social media platform to initiate an interactive discussion with the broader public on issues of good governance, rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and State-society relations. The discussion will also focus on how citizens could mobilize better to hold leaders more accountable, responsive and transparent.