The Government, had declined issuing a visa to the US Ambassador at Large for Women’s Issues, Catherine Russel, who had to cancel a 2 day visit scheduled to Sri Lanka for February 10. Russell was scheduled to travel to Jaffna during her two day visit and the US Embassy in Colombo expressed regret at the visa not being granted.
A Us Embassy Spokesman said,
“It is regrettable that the Government of Sri Lanka has refused to grant a visa to Ambassador Catherine Russell for this trip,” a US Embassy Spokesman said. “Ambassador Russell’s mandate is to promote stability, peace and development by empowering women politically, socially and economically around the world.”
“The United States will continue to raise important issues related to gender-based violence, the impact that the conflict had on families (particularly female-headed households), the need for greater economic empowerment by women, and for greater political participation by women across Sri Lanka,” he said.
However External Affairs Ministry officials claimed that the visa was not rejected and that there was an issue with the dates.
The External Affairs Ministry said that both the US and Sri Lanka were attempting to reach a consensus on fresh dates as External Affairs Minister, Professor G.L. Peiris would not be available on the dates originally proposed by the US.
Ambassador Russell had planned to spend a day in Colombo and a day in Jaffna. Her agenda had included meetings with Government officials, the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus as well as with women’s organizations from around Sri Lanka. Her visa application was officially submitted on January 27 and rejected on January 31.
The US official—who is a high-ranking, former senior White House aide—is travelling in the region over the next week. Authoritative sources said the US Embassy now expects to connect Sri Lankan civil society, parliamentarians, women’s groups and other representatives with her via video conference. Her objective is reportedly to raise their concerns about the issues women face in Sri Lanka.