Tuesday, February 14, 2012

US backed resolution guarantees a soft policy towards Sri Lanka

JDS News

The United States of America has assured that it will support the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

The LLRC cleared the Sri Lankan military of allegations that it deliberately attacked civilians and deprived them of food and medicine as a tactic of war.

US Under Secretary General of State Maria Otero, the most senior US official to visit Sri Lanka since 2005, told journalists in Colombo on the 13th of February that the United States will support a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council in March that provides an opportunity for the Government of Sri Lanka to describe what it intends to do to implement the LLRC's recommendations.

While human rights activists were calling for global powers to support a resolution at the 19th session of the UNHRC that convenes on the 27th of February in Geneva for an international investigation against Sri Lanka on war crimes allegations in the war against Tamil Tigers, comments by US Under Secretary General and Assistant Secretary Robert O Blake indicated that US was content with the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.

The full statement follows:

"I am pleased to be here in Colombo for the first time. I've had a series of productive meetings with the government of Sri Lanka, as well as civil society, political leaders, and journalists. President Rajapaksa was kind enough to meet with me and explain his government's vision to advance reconciliation among Sri Lanka's ethnic communities since the end of the conflict. I also had fruitful meetings with the Minister of External Affairs and the Secretary of Defense, among others.

"The United States has long been a friend of Sri Lanka; we were one of the first countries to recognize the LTTE as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. Since 1956, USAID has provided over $2 billion in assistance in Sri Lanka. This work benefits all Sri Lankans with initiatives on economic growth, agricultural development, environment and natural resources, health, education and training, democracy and governance, community reconciliation and humanitarian assistance. Current assistance is shifting from relief to sustainable development and is focused on two key areas: economic growth for conflict affected regions and strengthened cooperation between the state and an engaged, active civil society.

"Our bilateral relationship with Sri Lanka is multifaceted. While I am the most senior U.S. government official to visit Sri Lanka since Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2005, I know that you have hosted visitors from several U.S. government agencies in recent months. This shows our robust and diverse relationship and strong people-to-people and growing commercial ties.

"During my trip, I had the chance to meet with officials and groups who focus on trafficking in persons, child labor, and human rights. The Government of Sri Lanka has demonstrated improved performance, most notably in the successful prosecution and conviction of traffickers under anti-trafficking legislation, and rejuvenated its interagency task force on this issue. We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with the government to strengthen investigation and prosecution efforts and eradicate the scourge of trafficking in persons.

"Child labor is another area where the Sri Lankan government and NGOs are making a great deal of progress. Today less than two percent of children are engaged in the worst forms of child labor in Sri Lanka. This is a significant achievement, particularly in this region, and we are even more encouraged by the government's plan to entirely eliminate the worst forms of child labor from the country by 2016.

"We also appreciate the work of Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) While it has shortcoming on accountability, the Commission addressed a number of crucial areas of concern to Sri Lankans, and makes substantive recommendations on reconciliation, devolution of authority, de-militarization, rule of law, media freedom, disappearances, and human rights violations and abuses that, if implemented, could contribute to genuine reconciliation and strengthening democratic institutions and practices.

"I discussed the recommendations with the President and he assured me that they were looking to implement the LLRC report in a comprehensive manner. I urged the Sri Lankan Government to share the details of their plans and begin fulfilling the recommendations called for in the report, and to credibly address outstanding issues of accountability. I confirmed the United States will support a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council in March that provides an opportunity for the Government of Sri Lanka to describe what it intends to do to implement the LLRC's recommendations and advance reconciliation, as well as address accountability, human rights and democracy concerns.

"Ultimately, the government should address the needs of all communities in Sri Lanka by creating independent mechanisms that support reconciliation, democracy, and accountability for serious human rights abuses. It is critical to ensure the rule of law foster lasting reconciliation. We strongly encourage the Government of Sri Lanka to work with international bodies, including the United Nations, to address these matters. An agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on a lasting political settlement is also critical, and we urge both sides to approach negotiations in the spirit of trust, empathy, and good faith to reach a political solution that is in the best interest of all of Sri Lanka's citizens.

"It is our sincere hope that the Government and people of Sri Lanka will seize this opportunity to build a democratic, tolerant society that will lead to lasting peace and prosperity that leads to a future of hope and dignity for all. We hope that all Sri Lankans see diversity as a strength, not a weakness. Sri Lanka has immense potential. The United States looks forward to continuing to work with you to build on your momentum toward a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Sri Lanka."


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