Nisha Desai Biswal, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs, addressing the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee at her confirmation hearing said “We believe that if Sri Lanka does not address (this) through its own internal processes, that there will be increasing call for international processes to address these issues,” Biswal said.
“As Sri Lanka works to rebuild its society after a devastating civil war, I will, if confirmed, continue to stress the importance of reconciliation and accountability and for the government to meet its commitments to all of its population,” she said.
Senate member Marco Antonio Rubio noted during the hearing that in Sri Lanka there were reports of 30 churches being attacked by Buddhist extremists. He said that“30 churches have been attacked by Buddhist extremists – quite frankly I never knew such a thing existed, but apparently it does” the US Senator said, expressing concern about the increasing loss of religious liberties in countries of South Asia. Rubio called for the US Government to rethink its foreign aid support to Governments of countries in which religious freedom was under grave threat.
Senator John Mccain noted that Sri Lanka went through a terrible bloody conflict but there continues to be reports from human rights organizations that there are still significant human rights abuses taking place against the Tamils which rise to a level that is “very disturbing”.
He asked if the US should be more active in condemning the ongoing serious human rights abuses.
“The US has been very active and very engaged with Sri Lanka and with the international community in expressing our concern about both accountability and reconciliation between minority populations and majority populations in Sri Lanka. We have made clear that we believe that if Sri Lanka does not address through its own internal processes that there will be increasing calls for international processes to address these issues,” she said.
Biswal would replace Robert Blake, a former US ambassador to Sri Lanka who frequently urged the island to provide greater accountability after the bloody finale of its civil war in 2009.
Desai will become the first person of Indian or even South Asian origin to head the bureau, which oversees US foreign policy and relations with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan.