In the fulfillment of its mandate, CPA’s programming focusses on the mutually reinforcing areas of democratic governance and peace. Governance encompasses:

  • Legal reform, draft legislation and the use of constitutional reform for the transformation of conflict and peacebuilding
  • Critical analyses of the law and policy making prcess
  • Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on fundamental rights as well as pre-enacment judicial review on legislation
  • Implementing strategies for peace and governance reform using traditional and new media

Ongoing projects and programmes

Citizen Dialogue on the LLRC 2012

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission presented their much awaited report on Dec 16 2011. Following a war which lasted almost 30 years, and resulted in death, destruction and devastation, this report is the result, after 18 months, of a presidential commission of inquiry studying the failure of the ceasefire agreement of 27/2/2002, highlighting lessons learnt, and aiming to promote national unity and reconciliation among all communities. This can be said to be one of the most important documents in the history of Sri Lanka.

Firmly believing that civil society has an important and constructive contribution to make to the conflict transformation process in Sri Lanka, the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) is working to promote a democratic dialogue at community level on the contents and recommendations of the LLRC report (and the resulting Action Plan) and to channel resulting opinion into a national discourse on implementing the LLRC, while increasing overall awareness of the LLRC report, among the public at large.

As part of this programme initiated by CPA, brief, reader friendly resource materials on LLRC were prepared for wider dissemination in Sinhala and Tamil, to interested parties.

These include the Guidebook on the LLRC Report, which translates and simplifies the original report, and the Saama Vimarshi/ Samadana Nokku(Peace Monitor) publication on the LLRC.

CPA also directly translated the Chapter on Recommendations as well as the Action Plan, which latter has to date, not been officially translated.

In order to reach out to the public at large CPA is working with district level partners; 48 trainers from a similar number of district organizations were trained to conduct awareness sessions on LLRC in their respective districts within the next couple of months. A targeted thousand such sessions are underway which will reach around 30,000 people islandwide. Dialogue at the local level will feed into an action oriented comprehensive report on implementing the recommendations of LLRC which will be shared with key actors at the national level at the end of the programme.

Publication on Power-Sharing Proposals
This publication is a compilation of all power sharing ideas and proposals articulated in the country over several decades. The compilation also contains in-depth commantaries of these proposals by leading experts on Sri Lankan constitutional law in the country including Mr. Rohan Edrisinha and Mr. Asanga Welikala of CPA. This is a joint CPA – Berghof Foundation for Conflict Resolution in Sri Lanka publication.

Budget Transparency
The project is aimed at increasing both public scrutiny of local authorities and their capacity building on all fiscal aspects of local governance including budget monitoring. The project is implemented in two stages. Stage One focuses on ten elected Pradeshiya Sabhas. Six Urban Councils and nine Municipal Councils will be covered in the second stage.

Knowledge, Attitudes, and Perceptions (KAP) Survey on Political Parties in the Southern and Eastern Provinces
The KAP survey on Political Parties was conducted to better understand how political parties in Sri Lanka are perceived at the grassroots level. The survey focused on public awareness and knowledge of political parties, party ideologies and issue stands, public views of political parties and leaders and the roles they play in Sri Lanka?s political system. The survey was conducted in the Southern and Eastern Provinces for the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Background to Governance and Anti Corruption Unit

The Governance & Anti Corruption programme commenced in July 2007 with launching of National Anti Corruption Action Plan in partnership with USAID. G&AC mainly works as a facilitator with more than 75 areas specific partners including Local Authorities and different type of CSOs. This unit focuses on Governance issues with particular emphasis on Local Authorities and the Transparency & Accountability angles of their budget processes. Other important areas of concern are procurement, Right to Information and accountability. The ANSA supported project currently being implemented studies Pradeshiya Sabha Budget Processes and Awareness and sensitization and aims to motivate newly elected members and officials of Pradeshiya Sabhas, as well as community members. Above 75 area-specific local partners are in the network, providing a wealth of information and networking opportunities. The programme also works to disseminate trilingual, user friendly publications on relevant subject areas and analytical studies.

Past projects and programmes

The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution: Substance and Process
An edited collection of essays on the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution (enacted in September 2010) was published in April 2011. The controversial Eighteenth Amendment repealed and replaced key elements of the Seventeenth Amendment with regard to good governance and de-politicisation, and abolished presidential terms limits. The volume is edited by Rohan Edrisinha and Aruni Jayakody, and contains chapters, in addition to the editors, by Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Niran Anketell and Asanga Welikala. The essays deal with a comprehensive range of political and constitutional issues attending the Eighteenth Amendment, including the process used to enact it, the substance of the amendment, the Supreme Court’s pre-enactment Special Determination as to constitutionality , and the broader comparative and theoretical concerns raised by its provisions. The book was published with the financial support of the FriedrichNaumannStiftung fur die Freiheit (FNF). (Governance)

Constitutional Government, Fundamental Rights & States of Emergency in Sri Lanka, Asanga Welikala author
Commissioned by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Fur Die Freiheit this monograph reviews the Sri Lankan constitutional and legislative framework relating to States of Emergency as well as governance and fundamental rights.

Commentary on Returns, Resettlement and Land Issues in the North of Sri Lanka
Authored by BhavaniFonseka and published in September 2010, this Policy Brief is a critique of the status of returns and resettlement in the North, examining the situation in the area by looking at issues such as land, assistance and security. The paper questions conditions and standards for return and resettlement, and notes shortcomings in the planning and response to disasters, and the need to transfer decision-making powers to local civilian authorities. The paper further highlights the loose and interchangeable use of the terms ‘return’ and ‘resettlement’ by various stakeholders, which misrepresents the situation on the ground. The full report can be found here.

Land in the Eastern Province: Politics, Policy and Conflict
This Policy Brief, dealing with land issues in the Eastern Province, was published in May 2010. Written by BhavaniFonseka and MirakRaheem, it highlights the gaps and shortcomings in several areas including the existing legal, constitutional and policy framework, as well as the practical challenges faced in the ownership, control and land dispute resolution mechanisms in the Eastern Province. The report also presents a host of recommendations in order to address these problems, which includes several policy reforms at the central government level. This report can be downloaded here.

Devolution in the Eastern Province: Implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment and Public Perceptions 2008- 2010
Following extensive research in the Eastern Province during 2009, this report was published in August 2010. It comprises two parts, reflecting the qualitative and quantitative dimensions of the research. The first part, written by Asanga Welikala, restates the constitutional and legal framework for devolution within the unitary state under the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and critically evaluates the manner of its implementation in the Eastern Province since 2008 when the elected Provincial Council was reconstituted.The second part is a presentation of the state of public opinion and perceptions with regard to devolution in the Eastern Province. The publication is the result of collaboration between CPA’s Legal & Constitutional and Outreach Units, and was financially supported by the FriedrichNaumannStiftung fur die Freiheit (FNF). This publication is available in all three languages:

Elections and Minorities: Present Problems and Alternatives for the Future
In April 2010 the CPA released a policy brief on elections and minorities in Sri Lanka. The brief focuses mainly on issues highlighted in the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2010 in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, especially with regard to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The report proposes a list of recommendationsto overcome these problems. The publication was commissioned as a part of a project carried out by CPA and Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and is available in all three languages. The report can be downloaded here.

Power-Sharing in Sri Lanka, Constitutional and Political Documents 1926 – 2008
This major publication is a compendium of important proposals and political ideas that have featured in debates about power-sharing and the constitution of the Sri Lankan State since before independence to the present. The hard cover publication of 896 pages contains 51 such documents and extracts, clustered in 37 chapters. The commentaries by the editors,RohanEdrisinha, Mario Gomez, V.T. Thamilmaran and AsangaWelikala, place these documents and ideas in their historical, political and analytical context.The selection ranges from the early articles and speeches made by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in favour of federating with India, to the debates within the APRC convened by President MahindaRajapaksa. This book was published with the support of the Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies.

Essays on Federalism in Sri Lanka
CPA has since its inception been at the forefront of the advocacy of federalism as a political and constitutional idea for addressing many of the constitutional problems and anomalies that characterise the Sri Lankan State.Federalism today finds itself in need of a robust defence. Essays on Federalism in Sri Lanka, edited by Rohan Edrisinha and Asanga Welikala, brings together some of the research and conference papers, speeches, newspaper articles and opinion pieces written in support of the federal idea and federal-type constitutional options for and in Sri Lanka in the recent past. The collection has the modest aim of serving as a convenient reference for arguments already made, but which are in need of reiteration.

A State of Permanent Crisis: Constitutional Government, Fundamental Rights and States of Emergency in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has been governed under emergency powers for the best part of the last three decades. The crisis conditions necessitating recourse by the State to emergency powers are the result of deep-rooted political anomalies of the Sri Lankan State and its constitutional order. This book, published in 2008 and authored by Asanga Welikala, describes through a coherent analytical framework, the endemic and seemingly permanent state of emergency that Sri Lanka has been and continues to be governed under, whilst assessing the implications this has had for notions of constitutional government and for the protection of fundamental rights within the current constitution. The publication of the book was supported by the financial assistance of the Friedrich NaumannStiftung fur die Freiheit (FNF). (Governance)
The full book can be downloaded at

The Electoral Reforms Debate in Sri Lanka
In the context of the ongoing debate on electoral reform in Sri Lanka, CPA and the FriedrichNaumannStiftung fur die Freiheit (FNF) presented this publication in 2008. The publication edited by Rohan Edrisinha and Asanga Welikala, comprises in essence of three parts. The first is a collection of articles drawing on material produced by the authors, dealing with various aspects of electoral reform from a legal and constitutional perspective. The second concerns the challenges and problems arising out of the practice of electoral democracy in Sri Lanka, in particular the incidence of violence and malpractice. The third and final part of the publication present a number of key documents which include the interim report of the Parliamentary Select Committee, and several important decisions by the Supreme Court with regard to elections and franchise.

GSP + and Sri Lanka: Economic, Labour and Human Rights Issues
In 2008, the extension of the EU’s GSP Plus trade concession to Sri Lanka became a highly contentious issue. The extension of the trade concession was dependent on the fulfilment of a number of conditions which included maintaining proper labour standards, human rights, environmental protection and good governance. The CPA and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) published this book as a reference tool for the conduct of a more informed public debate in this regard. The publication analyses on the effects of the GSP Plus on the Sri Lankan economy, and provides a critical appraisal of Sri Lanka’s position with regard to GSP Plus compliance requirements, in particular the benchmarks for Sri Lanka to achieve compliance with ILO labour standards,and its fulfilment of the international legal obligations arising under the ICCPR. The book has been complied with contributions from Rohan Edrisinha, Asanga Welikala, Dr. MuttukrishnaSaravanathan, H.M.P. Sanjeewanie and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The full contents of the book are available for download here. This publication is also available in Sinhala and Tamil.

A Profile of Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues in the Vanni and Vavuniya
This report focuses on the human rights and humanitarian situation resulting from the conflict between the Government and the LTTE, during the final phases of the war in March 2009. The report is the result of a field trip undertaken by CPA to Vavuniya during February of 2009, as well as follow up interviews, reports, articles, and a discussion held in Colombo. By highlighting critical issues and putting forward recommendations, the report aims to increase public engagement on the issues and support efforts to address the needs and rights of the affected population in this area. The full text of the report can be downloaded here.

A Profile of the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS
According to recent statistics from the Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Clinic in Sri Lanka, there are currently 712 people in Sri Lanka living with HIV/AIDS. However, as a result of the stigma, discrimination and fear associated with HIV/AIDS, many people have been reluctant to reveal their status. Furthermore, there are probably countless others who are simply unaware that they are infected. As a result, the actual number of people living with HIV/AIDS is unknown, although it is estimated by UNAIDS to be 3,500.

In view of this need to raise awareness on the issue, the Asia Pacific Leadership Forum (APLF) commissioned the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) in 2005, to conduct a study on the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, in the areas of education, employment, family life, health care, housing and social life. The study looks at the experiences and needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families in the aforementioned areas and formulates recommendations to help reduce levels of stigma and discrimination with regards to HIV/AIDS. The publication is available in all three languages and the English version is available online here.

Informal Dispute Resolution in the North East and Puttalam
Informal dispute resolution seemingly offers many advantages over formal means of redress. In particular, it is more flexible than the judicial system and can tackle issues which may not be addressed by formal mechanisms.This study commissioned by the UNHCR, financed by the Co-existence Initiative, and conducted by MirakRaheem and VannessaGosselin, provides a preliminary snapshot and analysis of existing community-based informal dispute resolution mechanisms from all districts of the North and East as well as Puttalam, while providing recommendations of best practices of dispute resolution mechanisms. The full content of this is available in:

A Case for Decriminalisation of Homosexuality in Sri Lanka
‘Society presumes that sexual preference is a matter of choice. But is that really the case? Is not sexual preference pre-determined? Even if it is a matter of choice, why would it be acceptable for society to force a person to change his/her choice?’This brief compiled in 1999 with the assistance of Companions on a Journey and funding by HIVOS, highlights the adverse impacts of Section 365 A of the Sri Lankan Penal Code under which homosexuality is considered an offence. By comparing the laws of other countries, exploring the cultural and religious perspectives towards homosexuality, including Sri Lanka’s own heritage, as well as through discussing the psychological aspect of homosexuality from many angles, this brief attempts to make a case for the repeal Section 365 A. The final part of the report comprises of a survey on homosexuality carried out among a cross section of people of the main religious practices in Sri Lanka.

The Federal Idea: A Glossary of English, Tamil and Sinhala
There are various fears and misconceptions about federalism in Sri Lanka. This primarily stems from a lack of understanding as to what federalism actually is and what it is not. One of the challenges is with regard to the translation of terms and concepts associated with the federal idea. Often the Sinhalese and Tamil translation of terms is difficult or erroneous, thereby contributing to the lack of clarity and misunderstanding. A well-known example of this is the fact that in Sinhala the words ‘unitary’ and ‘united’ are used interchangeably. This publication, produced in 2008 with the support of the Forum of Federations and local experts, presents some key words connected to the federal ideaand its broader application in Sri Lanka, in the form of a tri-lingual glossary.

Land and Property Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
On 22 February 2002, a Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) was signed between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE which paved the way for a peace process to put an end to two decades of war in the island. This created enough stability for a vast majority ofthe estimated800,000 displaced to contemplate return to their homelands. Thereby land and property issues affecting displaced persons and returnees in the North and East have become issues of crucial importance.This policy brief released in 2003, aims at identifying the main land and property issues currently emerging in the North East and at providing principled and practical recommendations to relevant decision-makers to address challenges regarding land and property, resettlement, relocation, rebuilding and restoration of normalcy in the region. The full content of the report is available here. And in Sinhala here.

The Role of the Ombudsman
The office of the Ombudsman or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, as he is called in Sri Lanka, was created by the constitution to investigate and report on allegations of infringement of fundamental rights and other injustices by public officers. This publication, released in 1999, is the result of a workshop conducted by the CPA on ‘The role of the Ombudsman’ held on the 24th of April 1998 and highlights the importance of the office in inculcating a culture of accountability and transparency in Sri Lanka as well explores remedies to correct the weaknesses that plague the office at present. This publication is available in all three languages.

Tsunami Recovery Impact Assessment & Monitoring System (TRIAMS)
The Tsunami Recovery Impact Assessment and Monitoring System (TRIAMS) was created in order to have in place a monitoring system that makes periodic assessments of the tsunami recovery process, and thereby understand the impact of tsunami response efforts. As a part of the Tsunami Beneficiary Survey series the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) commissioned SI to design and implement a perception survey to assess the rehabilitation process from the recipients point of view in order to establish a benchmark for the recovery process and create indices for the NGOs and other agencies involved.

The Right to Vote and the Law relating to Election Petitions
The electoral process is the basic mechanism for choice and change in a functioning democracy. This publication comprises of the transcript and presentations made at a seminar on the Right to Vote and the Law relating to Election Petitions organised by CPA on the 26th of February 2000. In addition, selections of important reports, judgments and articles on the subject have been annexed to provide the reader with a comprehensive overview of the issue. The issues covered range from the law pertaining to election petitions and its application, to the bad practices and procedures that are followed on which the law is silent or to which the law is weakly applied.

The first part of this publication comprising of the background paper submitted at the seminar titled ‘The Right to Vote: Its impact on Election Laws in Sri Lanka by Rohan Edrisinha and Sundari de Alwis, can be found here.

Women’s Access to and Ownership of Land and Property in Batticaloa, Jaffna and the Vanni
There are numerous laws, policies, regulations and structures which impact on how land is controlled and acquired by the State. In Sri Lanka the Thirteenth Amendment was an attempt to devolve land powers to the Provincial Councils but its implementation has been weak at best, leaving land regulation and policy highly centralised. While both men and women suffer due to weak governance mechanisms, these tend to have a disproportionate impact on women, especially those in Sri Lanka who are traditionally governed under customary laws. This study aims to shed light on some of these issues affecting women in the North and East in terms of access, control and ownership of land and property. This study was commissioned in 2005 by the Local Initiative for Tomorrow (LIFT) Project and CARE International with the financial assistance of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The principal research was carried out by Bhavani Fonseka, Araliya Senapathi and Karen Whiting.

Survey on Social Equity and Local Governance
International Alert (IA) commissioned Social Indicator (SI) to conduct a survey on Local Business Communities’ Experiences and Perceptions of the Functioning of Local Government Structures.

Project on Assessing Policies Relating to Housing in Sri Lanka
This project involved desk and field research with regard to the assessment of policies and practices related to housing in disasters, both in the context of the conflict and the tsunami. The project was spearheaded by CPA in consultation with other relevant actors, including government actors, international and national organizations (I/NGOs), academics and activists. A steering committee was established to guide the activities. Assistance will be sought from Oxfam to facilitate visits to field sites, obtaining of statistics and other information required for the research. A key objective of this exercise is to document several housing initiatives, highlighting points and thereby provide policy makers with a profile of work that has taken place in Sri Lanka in relation to housing in the last five years. This project also involves a visit to Sri Lanka by the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing. This project is funded by Oxfam GB.

Electoral Reform Debate in Sri Lanka, edited by Rohan Edrisinha and Asanga Welikala
This edited work is the product of a research project on the electoral reform debate in Sri Lanka. Papers include discussion of the findings of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform. The project included a workshop. This project is funded by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Fur Die Freiheit.

A Survey on Corruption in Sri Lanka, 2007
The study was a household survey commissioned by ARD Inc. as part of the Sri Lanka Anti-Corruption Program (ACP). It measured the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of corruption that ordinary citizens undergo when receiving services from the public sector. The study had a predemoninant public institution focus and looked at eight sectors -Education, Health, Local Government authorities, Land Registration authority, Public utility Water and Electricity board – Police, Judiciary and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

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