Rights, war crimes absent in US remarks on Sri Lanka
ECONOMYNEXT – Two top US diplomats who became the first foreign dignitaries to hold talks with Colombo after since last week’s elections, signalled a softening of Washington’s policy towards Sri Lanka.
Assistant Secretaries of State, Nisha Biswal and Tom Malinowski, were gushing praise for President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while taking swipes at toppled Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The two diplomats did not refer to "human rights," "war crimes" or "accountability" and instead stressed on democracy, rule of law and economic prosperity in contrast to their previous public stand during the Rajapaksa-era.
The country voted twice this year "against impunity, for reconciliation, for building this country, developing this country for everyone and against the politics of ethnic and religious divisions, against extremism on both sides."
The remark was seen as a thinly veiled reference to the divisive politics of the Rajapaksa regime and its backing for groups like the ultra-nationalist Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).
Assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labour, Tom Malinowski, even cautioned others not to expect quick results from the new government as it embarks on a process of nation building and ensuring reconciliation.
"We recognise that some of the choices ahead are going to be difficult. We recognise that this process is going to take time. Nobody expects miracles," he said after talks with the new foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera in Colombo.
He said the Us had an "extraordinary responsibility" to support Sri Lanka.
"The United States will stand by its (Sri Lanka’s) side and provide the support that is needed to keep this process going forward until Sri Lanka succeeds in every respect in terms of security, economic development, democracy and playing its rightful role as a respected leader in the world stage."
The superlatives were stressed by Biswal who reportedly had uneasy exchanges with members of the former regime.
"I want to say… that we are infallibly proud of the journey that is being undertaken here, the story that is unfolding in this great country is one that stands as a testament to the rest of the world," Biswal said.
US diplomats visiting Sri Lanka during the Rajapaksa regime had usually strongly-worded remarks calling for war crimes investigations and respect for human rights and media freedom.
None of that was mentioned in the opening remarks of the two diplomats who were due to meet with President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe before their return. (Colombo/Aug26/2015)