US plans to help Sri Lanka on governance, accountability

US senate foreign relationsThe US government said on Tuesday that it was exploring the possibility of increasing its assistance to the Sri Lankan government to help it tackle issues like governance, accountability, commerce and “much more”.

Addressing the house foreign affairs committee subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal said that after the “dramatic opening” created by the election of President Maithripala Sirisena in January, the US is willing to assist the new government.

The US government cut down its grants and spending in Sri Lanka over the past few years during the previous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa, which alienated its western allies by forging close ties with China.

“We have expressed our support for the new government’s focus on strengthening its democracy, rebuilding its economy, and pursuing meaningful reconciliation, and strongly signalled our commitment to rebuild US-Sri Lanka ties,” said Biswal.

The US government said that Sri Lanka was facing the problems of corruption, cronyism and divisive policies that threatened to divide and destabilise the country.

Biswal said that the United States was willing to help the Sirisena government which has inherited a “financial mess” and a “difficult road on accountability and reconciliation” from its predecessor.

“I want to reiterate the assurances made by President Obama and Secretary Kerry that the United States looks forward to deepening our partnership with Sri Lanka and working with them to advance democracy, prosperity, and dignity for all Sri Lankans,” stated Biswal.

Biswal said that the US was “encouraged” by the current Lankan government’s pledge “to create a credible domestic accountability mechanism to address the end of the war and foster reconciliation between the North and South”.

The gap between the United and States and Sri Lanka widened during the past five years after the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, ending a three-decade war.

Since the end of the war, western nations led by the United States, have been calling for investigations into alleged war crimes, which the previous government refused to conduct under the supervision of international investigators.

Biswal said the current Sri Lankan government has “welcomed” the US assistance “to address ethnic grievances and fight corruption.” (Khaleej Times)

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