Kerry says Sri Lanka still faces “challenges”

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – Praising the new Sri Lankan government for taking “tough decisions” visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the country still faced “many challenges”, in an indirect reference to human rights allegations Washington insists should be probed.

Sri Lanka had made “enormous progress” in its efforts to restore democracy, Kerry told a news conference in Colombo referring to measures taken by the government which ousted the Rajapaksa regime in January to re-establish good governance and democratic freedoms.

An example, Kerry said,  was the passage of the 19th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution which reduced the powers of the executive president, gave more powers to parliament and the people and restored the independence of public institutions.

These measures will lead to a “much more enduring  peace and shared prosperity for all Sri Lankans,” he said.

But, he said, there was still a “tremendous amount of work” that both Sri Lanka and the US can do together on creating enduring peace and providing prosperity for “all your people.”

“Many challenges still lie ahead,” Kerry warned.

The US has been pressing for an international war crimes probe into allegations of human rights abuses in the military campaign that defeated Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009 after 30 years of war.

But the United Nation Human Rights Council agreed to put off till September a report on the issue that was to have been heard in March after the new government promised a more robust domestic inquiry.

“ What struck me was the readiness of this government to open its doors and minds to different ideas and new and more effective ways of doing things,” Kerry said.

“One thing about the Sri Lankan government is very clear. The President, Prime Minister and the Foreign Mjnister are not afraid of tackling tough issues. They are willing to make difficult decisions and are committed to keeping their promises.”





Kerry added: “I want to say to the people of Sri Lanka that in this journey to restore your democracy the American people will stand with you. We intend to broaden and deepen our partnership with you.”

Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera said the government was committed to restoring ethnic harmony and accountability.

“Ensuring accountability in the ‘New Sri Lanka’ will feature as a key component of the reconciliation process,” he told the news conference.

“The architecture of a domestic accountability mechanism with international technical assistance as promised by our manifesto are now being planned.”

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