Colleague Mr Ruki Fernando who spent several months in South Africa in 2013 explains that there are several tangible changes afoot in his country following the January election of the new President. The new regime has been called an era of “Maithree (compassion)”and the Rule of Law. Ruki explains that there is less fear, and some hope tempered by the realization of how much remains to be addressed. Amongst these are the failure to date to free him from accusations of supporting terrorism, to return his confiscated equipment and to restore his rights to travel and to speak freely.
Some noted advances are the unblocking of blocked websites, the unbanning of films and the extension of invitations to those previously branded as 'traitors' to take part in discussions in the media. Sadly, the first 50 days of the Sirisena regime has seen the Minister of Justice threaten to lift the moratorium on the death penalty; regulations to allow the extension of detention without warrants from 24 hours to 48 hours and the maintenance of public order by the military have been gazetted; and torture and deaths in custody have continued. There have been as yet unheeded calls for investigations and justice on the killing of prisoners inside prisons. No political prisoners have been released in these first 50 days. There have been no clear commitments in returning lands of Muslims held by the military to their owners. Threats against Christian pastors have continued as have threats by members of the Buddhist group, Bodu Bala Sena, against Muslims whose access to the sacred rock caves at Kuragala in the Rathnapura district has been threatened.
In relation to the concerns of those who have campaigned for transitional justice strategies, concerns remain about the country's domestic capacity to conduct prosecutions for allegations of war crimes and for the setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission. As Mr Fernando asserts, there have been no concrete commitments made in relation to truth, justice and reparation for the disappeared. Political prisoners continue to languish in detention for many years, some as long as 19 years.