In 2015, Sri Lankan witnessed regime change that removed President Mahinda Rajapaksa from power. Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President who led the war against the LTTE to its finish in 2009, a war in which thousands of Tamil civilians were killed. The regime change in 2015 was characterised by many of its supporters as a change that would deliver transitional justice. The new regime also employed the language of transitional justice, particularly in the UN Human Rights Council, in its attempt to divert calls for international accountability and justice for crimes committed during the war. The regime was short lived and fell in 2019 returning another Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapakasa the war-time Defence Secretary as President.
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This talk will seek to explore the politics of identifying the regime change in 2015 as a transitional moment in Sri Lanka. As a general proposition, it will problematise using 'regime change' as an indicator for transition in deeply divided societies. It will argue that a Transitional Justice narrative that is aligned to the liberal peace tradition is bound to fail given that it fails to engage with the structural issues that inhibit democratic change. It will further argue that misplaced optimism generated by such thinly conceived transitional justice efforts may in fact hurt victims and survivors.
Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan served as an academic attached to the Department of Law, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka between 2010 and 2020 serving as Senior Lecturer at the time of resignation. He served as Head of the Department between January 2017 and November 2019. He is also a practicing attorney and has appeared as lead counsel in a number of cases relating to post-war human rights issues in Northern Sri Lanka including in cases relating to the right to memory, the rights of families of the disappeared and post-war land issues. He is a Co-founder of the Tamil Civil Society Forum and Founder Chair of the Adayaalam Centre for Policy Research, based in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He holds an LL.B (Hons) from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, a BCL from Balliol College, University of Oxford and a PhD from University College London in Public International Law and Comparative Constitutional Law. He was awarded the Chevening Scholarship in 2010 and the Commonwealth Scholarship in 2013. Guruparan was at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights as a Research Visitor between October 2020 and January 2021.