COLOMBO: Signifying a distinct shift in its attitude to Sri Lanka, the United States on Monday praised the newly elected government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for putting Lanka firmly on the path of democracy.
Addressing media persons after talks with Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal said that the Sirisena government has “already accomplished much in such a short time.”
The US had had very frosty relations with the predecessor government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, which had accused Washington of trying to bring about a regime change through manipulation.
Biswal said that she is “excited” to be in Lanka and see for herself the “energy” that has been released in the island nation since the Presidential election. The world is also talking about Lanka’s democracy “for all the right reasons”, she added.
Offering a helping hand in regard to a wide range of issues confronting Lanka, the ranking US official said: “ Sri Lanka can count on the US to be a partner and a friend in the way forward, whether it is about rebuilding the economy, preventing corruption and advancing good governance, or about ensuring human rights and democratic participation for all of its citizens.”
But she warned that “difficult challenges” lay ahead.
Biswal did not directly refer to the on-going US-initiated UN probe into allegations war crimes committed by the Lankan armed forces in the final phase of the 2006-2009 Eelam War IV. But she did say that Washington wants to work with Colombo to “find constructive ways forward on all the areas of interest between our two nations”.
The Sirisena government has said that it will not allow its citizens to be probed by the UN investigators, but has promised to hold a credible domestic inquiry into the charges as per international standards. The US is still to respond to this assertion.
Later in the evening, Biswal had talks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Mangala to Meet Kerry on Feb.12
In his remarks, Lankan Foreign Minister Samaraweera said he would be traveling to Washington for talks with Secretary of State John Kerry on February 12. .
“We want to raise the relationship between our two countries to a new level of cordiality and I hope to continue this dialogue in Washington,” he said.
Sharma and Swire Come Calling
Meanwhile, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, and the British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Hugo Swire had talks with Lankan leaders here on how the Commonwealth and the UK could help Lanka build up its economy even as it takes steps towards ensuring human rights.
Swire, who visited the war affected Northern Province, said that he was impressed with the progress but hoped that the Sirisena government will cooperate with the UN team investigating war crimes.