COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has told the United States that it is putting together an independent domestic mechanism to investigate charges of war crimes.
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said this to the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Biswal, at the bilateral talks held here on Tuesday.
Briefing the media after the talks, Samaraweera said that he outlined to Biswal “measures being taken to address concerns regarding alleged human rights violations, including through independent domestic mechanisms”. He did not specify the mechanisms.
In her statement, Biswal said that the US reaffirms strong support for the “commitment” of the Lankan government to Good Governance, and described its progress towards combating corruption and promoting reconciliation as “tremendous.” The US is “incredibly proud’ of the journey undertaken by Lanka, she added.
While Biswal was effusive, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights, Tom Malinowski, was forthright in delineating America’s expectations. He said that twice this year, Lankans had voted for the rule of law, for reconciliation; and against the politics of extremism, and ethnic and religious division.
“They have indicated that the promise of this transition needs to be fulfilled,” he stressed.
“We recognize that some of the choices ahead are going to be difficult. We recognize that this process is going to take time. Nobody expects miracles. But we do see an extraordinary opportunity so long as the forward momentum is sustained,” Malinowski said.
“So long as the government of Sri Lanka keeps making courageous decisions, the US will standby its side and provide the support that is needed to keep this process going forward, “ he assured.
Time Running Out
Despite Foreign Minister Samaraweera’s claim that a domestic mechanism is being set up, there is yet no sign of any activity on this front, observers say. At the March session of the UN Human Rights Commission, Colombo had promised to set up a domestic mechanism by the September session. Now that the parliamentary elections have cleared the political decks in the island nation, Colombo should be able to deliver on its pledge. But time is running out.