Centre for Policy Alternatives on 8 November, 2013

Top line survey results: Democracy in post-war Sri Lanka

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8th November 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka: According to a new survey conducted by Social Indicator, the survey research unit of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lankans continue to be divided on the topic of reconciliation. However, when it comes to the economy and development, priorities across the four main communities are similar.

The top line survey report is available for immediate download here as a PDF (~10Mb). It can also be read online here.

26.5% of people from the Tamil community say that the Government has done nothing to address the root causes of the conflict while 35.5% from the Sinhalese community say that the Government has done a lot. Almost 50% from the Tamil community, 58.8% from the Up Country community and 39.3% from Muslim community believe that the Government has done a little but not enough.

61.1% of Sri Lankans think that the Government should give priority to allocating resources to rebuilding the conflict affected areas, even if this means that less money is spent on the rest of the country. This opinion is held by 80% from the Tamil community, 59.1% from Sinhala, 63.5% from Up Country Tamil and 49% Muslim communities.

Positive changes since the end of war include being able to travel within the country without fear (43.4%), roads, highways and bridges being developed (20.1%) and the development of the country (17.4%). When it comes to negative changes, 52.8% of the respondents chose not to answer the question. 10.6% said increase in crime (murder, robbery etc), 9.7% said increase in the cost of goods and 8.8% said increase in corruption.

The financial situation in the household has got worse in the last two years with 31.8% saying it has got a little worse and 21% saying it has got a lot worse. The quality of food consumed by people appears by the most affected by this financial strain, with 30.6% admitting that they have  cut back on the quality of food purchased in the last year while 20% say that they have either not taken medicine or undergone medical treatment at a time it was needed.

Cost of living is what is mostly on people’s minds when talking about the economy and development. Reduction in the cost of living is what a majority of people (78.3%) would like to see from the current development process followed by creation of more jobs and better education facilities. Given the opportunity, the top three sectors Sri Lankans would allocate money to from the National Budget would be education, health and agriculture.

Tolerance is a topic that has been debated frequently in 2013 in the light of the attacks and hate speech directed at the Muslim community. Majority of Sri Lankans (91.4%) say that their religion can be practiced without any restrictions – however, 21% from the Muslim community say that they can practice their religion but with some restriction while almost 10% say that they have no freedom. The varying degrees of tolerance of people are evident in the findings – almost 60% of Sri Lankans are agreeable to schools that are multi ethnic while 41% are not agreeable to a close family member marrying someone from a different ethnicity. 36% also are not agreeable to living in a residential neighbourhood where more than half the neighbours are from a different ethnic group.

Ninety percent (90%) of those polled are proud to be Sri Lankan and on the question of who a true Sri Lankan is, the top three descriptions given were ‘someone who was born in Sri Lanka’, ‘someone who loves Sri Lanka’ and ‘someone who lives in Sri Lanka’. The differences in opinion across the four main ethnic communities were interesting – while the description most mentioned by the Sinhalese community was ‘someone who was born in Sri Lanka’, for the Tamil community it was ‘someone who speaks both Sinhalese and Tamil’.

‘Democracy in post-war Sri Lanka’ sought to record public perspectives on democracy in Sri Lanka today and the findings are presented under seven key sections – Economy and Development, Post War Sri Lanka, The Government, Media, Tolerance, Identity, and Role of Religion and Ethnicity in Politics. This survey is a follow up to the first survey which was conducted in 2011.

Conducted in the 25 districts of the country, the survey captured the opinion of 2045 Sri Lankans from the four main ethnic groups. The selection of respondents was random across the country except in a few areas in the Northern Province where access was difficult. Fieldwork was conducted from August – September 2013.