A Continuing Democratic Encounter: Surveying Sri Lanka’s Post-war Trajectory

The Sri Lankan contribution to Phase II of the State of Democracy in South Asia study started in December 2011 with the objectives of gaining a deeper understanding of issues on democracy, governance, Human Rights, rule of law and socio-political exclusion/ inclusion in Sri Lanka. An island-wide survey of 3401 respondents sought to assess how Sri Lankan citizens understand, value and relate to democracy, governance, political institutions, democratic political concepts and norms such as human rights, rule of law, justice, equality and peace. The fieldwork for this study was carried out from August 2012- January 2013. The survey covered all districts of Sri Lanka and steps were taken to ensure the substantive representation/ inclusion of all the main ethnic communities.

The context in which this study was conducted stood in sharp contrast to the previous phase carried out in 2004. The postwar political dimensions and the policies associated with it had influenced all aspects of governance and citizenship in Sri Lanka. The post-war Sri Lankan state had also become increasingly authoritarian and this resulted in the consolidation of State and social structures that engender and legitimize violence and impunity. Furthermore, State-led interventions aimed at bringing about reconciliation focused more on economic development as a means of addressing minority grievances at the expense of the political and social conditions that led to conflict in the past. Therefore, the findings documented in this report may provide the reader a snapshot of the complexities and challenges facing Sri Lanka as it seeks to come to terms with its transition from civil war to uneasy peace. This report highlights the key findings of the survey, with the hope that they would provide a strong foundation for further analysis and scholarly interventions while also deepening our understanding of the ways in which democracy functions in Sri Lanka and South Asia.

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