Graft, violence hit Sri Lanka's post-war recovery

Sri Lanka’s recovery from a decades-long civil war has been marred by graft, violence and a culture of lawlessness, a corruption watchdog said on Tuesday.

Transparency International rapped the government—which crushed the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in May—for a lack of democracy, accountability and transparency.

“The latter half of 2009 marks a period of hope and potential for Sri Lanka. Yet, winning the war seems to have been easier than winning the peace,” said a report by the Berlin-based group’s Sri Lankan branch.

“Nowhere is this more clear than in the case of the government’s record on human rights and media freedom.”

The report said the authorities had cracked down on dissent in the final stages of the war, with journalists, diplomats and aid workers reprimanded or deported for making critical comments.

Transparency International said 34 journalists and media workers had been killed between 2004 and 2009, including prominent newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga.

“Media freedom has suffered immensely during the past year,” the report said, citing incidents of journalists and media workers being abducted and beaten up to divulge sources or to stop them writing about the war.

With some media offices torched and staff threatened by unknown gangs, many publications censored themselves on war coverage, the organisation noted.

“The government’s apparent lack of respect for media freedom and the public’s right to know has had a direct bearing on the quality of democratic political governance,” it said.

“Sri Lanka is at a crossroads,” it added, urging the government to replace “military logic with public legitimacy” to improve relations between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities.—AFP

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