US Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice G. Wells told the House Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation on 22 October 2019 that the Trump administration will push the new Sri Lankan Government on the human rights issue. She said that the progress on constitutional reform, replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, establishing a truth and reconciliation commission, and creating a credible judicial mechanism to ensure accountability for past crimes has been slow or stalled, .
STATEMENT OF ALICE G. WELLS, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY
Sri Lanka: The peaceful resolution of Sri Lanka’s constitutional crisis last December demonstrated the resiliency of its democratic institutions, with the government’s protection of minorities following ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks last Easter demonstrating its commitment to human rights principles.
When Sri Lankans go to the polls on November 16 to elect their next president, we expect this contest will be free, fair, and non-violent –and exhibit the qualities befitting Asia’s oldest democracy.In order to support further progress, we continue to work closely with Sri Lanka, including in support of human rights, reconciliation, and transitional justice.In addition to diplomatic engagement, we work with Sri Lanka to strengthen its democratic institutions and support civil society organizations.We are also building Sri Lankan capacity to improve public financial management, fight corruption, and promote accountability.
Following the April 21st ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, the government was initially slow to counter threats of reprisals against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslims.However, by May, authorities had moved to protect minorities, including refugees and asylum seekers, and prevented large outbreaks of communal reprisal violence. Sri Lanka has also led the region on a variety of development indicators that support the lives of its citizens. It continues to make progress on transitional justice, albeit slowly.
We welcomed Sri Lanka’s renewed commitment this year in Geneva to accountability, justice and reconciliation, and we will encourage sustained follow through on implementation. Transitional justice is critical to realizing the Sri Lankan people’s desire for long-term peace and stability.In this regard, we are encouraged by the government’s progress on the operationalization of an Office of Missing Persons and the establishment of an Office of Reparations.We also are encouraged by the continued release of land in the north and east back to its original owners.However, progress on other commitments has been slow or stalled, including on constitutional reform, replacing the Prevention of Terrorism Act, establishing a truth and reconciliation commission, and creating a credible judicial mechanism to ensure accountability for past crimes.
We have publicly voiced our disappointment in the appointment of Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva as Army Commander given the allegations of gross human rights violations and war crimes against him –as documented by the United Nations and other organizations –are serious and credible.
Sri Lanka is an important maritime power and Indo-Pacific partner, and we have made clear that this promotion forces us to curtail mutually beneficial bilateral security cooperation under U.S. law. We look forward to continuing our work with Sri Lanka on these and other issues and will actively press our human rights agenda with whichever candidate emerges victorious from next month’s election.