Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has plenty of links to the country’s bloody past but now he needs to look to the future. He has five years left of a generous six year presidential term and will need all that time — and more — to introduce the reforms the country so urgently needs.
Sri Lanka's civil war ended in May 2009, when the military under President Mahinda Rajapaksa crushed Tamil separatist forces in a series of bloody offensives in the country's north east. In January last year, Sri Lankans replaced Rajapaksa, narrowly voting in his former ally and minister Sirisena, who promised to curb corruption, reform the constitution and foster reconciliation. That election success was reinforced in parliamentary elections in August, and the appointment of a new Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, heading a tricky coalition of the nation's two major parties.
Rajapaksa's 10-year rule had become increasingly authoritarian. The new Government is moving carefully to investigate corruption allegations against Rajapaksa, his brothers (including a former minister of economic development and a former secretary of the ministry of defence), and a son suspected of corrupt activity related to allocation of cricket broadcasting rights. Rajapaksa is still in Parliament with a loyal, if diminished, following (his image remains defiantly plastered on roadsides in his rural heartlands), and so has the potential to destabilise the government.