Examine root causes for US perception of anti-Western sentiment: Ministry of External Affairs

govtThe External Affairs Ministry rejected a security message issued by the United States last week, which had warned its citizens about increased anti-Western sentiments and violent demonstrations in Sri Lanka, stating that the US should itself examine the root causes of the widening gap in relations between the two countries.

In a statement released on Monday, the Ministry said:

The Ministry of External Affairs takes serious note of the Security Message for US Citizens issued by the United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security on 8th August 2014, which regrettably creates a false and alarmist view of the conditions prevalent in Sri Lanka.

The right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest are important values in a democracy, and the public in Sri Lanka have the liberty to exercise these rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution of the country. However, there have been no instances of violent protests targeting the US Embassy, its diplomats, officials or citizens, though claimed by the US State Department’s Security Message, that such incidents could occur.

The recent demonstration on 8th August in front of the US Embassy on the current situation in Gaza was organized by an opposition political party. The protest had been peaceful. In fact it is known that the US Embassy in Colombo maintains working relations with all opposition parties, including that which staged this demonstration.

With reference to the US perception that there is increasing anti-Western sentiment, for which the basis is unclear, it would be prudent for the US authorities to examine the root causes for such a development, and corrective measures may be sought in order to stymie the widening gap in the bilateral relationship.

The law enforcement authorities in Sri Lanka have taken necessary action consistently to ensure the safety and security of diplomats, their families, premises and property in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and continue this practice diligently. A significant number of US citizens live in Sri Lanka and also visit the island every year. There have not been any reports of their safety and security being challenged. The Government of Sri Lanka remains firm in its commitment to maintain law and order in the country and protect not only its own citizens, but diplomats as well as non-nationals in the country at all times.

Ministry of External Affairs

11th August 2014

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