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Sri Lanka

Yearbook 2015

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 international organizations.

2015 Sri Lanka

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 Rajapaksa's rule.

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 2011.

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.

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