Sri Lanka. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the winds of change blew across the Indian
Ocean during the year, which began with the country becoming
a new president. The new President Maithripala Sirisena was
until 2014 Minister of Health in the former President
Mahinda Rajapaksa's government. When Rajapaksa announced a
new election in 2014, Sirisena jumped off his ministerial
assignment to run for presidential election as Rajapaksa's
opponent. Sirisena was supported by other members of the
government and by the largest opposition party, the United
National Party (UNP). The election resulted in Sirisena
winning by 51.3% against Rajapaksa who got 47.6% of the
vote. Religious minorities and Tamils from eastern and
northern Sri Lanka supported Sirisena, as did a significant
portion of Buddhist Sinhalese. Sirisena promised to
eradicate corruption and work for constitutional reforms
aimed at weakening the power of the presidential office. He
also promised to improve ties with the world community and
On January 10, the President presented his new government
with Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. The election
was perceived as the most peaceful in Sri Lanka's history.
That same month, the Pope visited Sri Lanka for the first
time in 20 years. Pope Francis urged the country for
reconciliation and respect for human rights.
In February, Parliament voted for a number of social
reforms such as higher salaries for civil servants, lower
prices for food and gasoline and higher taxes for private
companies making high profits.
In April, Parliament voted to limit the presidential
power so that the possibility of holding the presidential
office an unlimited number of times was changed to a maximum
of two terms of office. The president's right to appoint
people to high positions in the judiciary, police, electoral
commission and administration was abolished. In addition,
the president's right to dissolve Parliament after only one
year to a maximum of 4.5 years after the parliamentary
elections was changed.
That same month, the anti-corruption unit launched
criminal investigations against President Rajapaksa and two
of his brothers who held important ministerial posts under
On May 19, on the sixth anniversary of the end of the
Civil War, the day was renamed Victory Day to Memorial Day.
Tamil politicians in the north and east were allowed for the
first time to hold memorials for civilian Tamil victims.
In June, Sirisena dissolved the parliament and announced
new elections until August 17.
In the parliamentary elections, two political camps stood
against each other. On the one hand, the United National
Party (UNP), which together with a number of minority
parties formed the electoral union United National Front
(UNF), and on the other, Rajapaksa and his alliance United
People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA). While President Sirisena's
UNP-led camps went to elections to renew confidence in their
reform and reconciliation policies, Rajapaksa's camp was
characterized by continued Sinhalese nationalism.
In the August elections, the UNP became the largest party
and almost doubled its mandates from 60 to 106 of the 225
seats. The second largest was UPFA with 95 seats. The third
largest party was the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which
received 16 seats. Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of the UNP,
was re-installed on the Prime Minister's post.
In September, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) in a
critical report urged Sri Lanka to set up a special court
with international judges to investigate war crimes and
crimes against humanity during and after the civil war. The
report pointed out that both the government side and the
rebel group Tamil Liberation Tigers (LTTE) carried out very
severe abuses. The 26-year-long war ended in 2009, but the
report talks about "patterns of serious violations" until
In November, the government stripped 8 of 16 Tamil exile
groups that previously voted as terrorists. The list of
terrorist-stamped individuals was shortened from 424 to 155
people. LTTE remained on the list of terrorist stamped
organizations but no terrorist acts have been attributed to
the group since the end of the war in May 2009.