Sri Lanka strongly objects to U.S. allegations on rights

Feb. 3, 2014 at 1:20 AM
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Sri Lanka accused Washington of trying to divide the island nation and rejected a U.S. official's contention its human rights situation is worsening.

Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, responding to the comments of visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal, said it was "patently unfair" of her to say human rights and democracy in the country, as well as the rule of law, were weakening, the Colombo Page reported Monday.

Peiris said the United States is attempting to divide the country and that Biswal's comments at the end of her two-day visit suggested she wanted to believe the worst of the regime in Colombo, the Internet newspaper said.

Biswal, making her first trip since being appointed to her new post, spoke during the weekend about Sri Lanka's slow pace of progress of looking into alleged human rights violations during the 2009 Sri Lankan military campaign that ended the 26-year-old civil war against the Tamil separatists.

"We are concerned about the worsening situation with respect to human rights, including continued attacks against religious minorities, as well as the weakening of the rule of law, and an increase in level of corruption and impunity," a State Department transcript showed Biswal told a Saturday news conference. "All of these factors lead to undermine the proud tradition of democracy in Sri Lanka."

Biswal said during her trip she held "frank discussions with the government, with [the] opposition, and with civil society representatives in Colombo and in Jaffna," while noting the United States and Sri Lanka have a longstanding partnership based on shared democratic values and strong economic and cultural ties.

"But as I have noted earlier, the patience of the international community is wearing thin over the pace of progress, including with the implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC," she said.

The LLRC stands for Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission set up by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in May 2010 after the end of the civil war.

Peiris said it was clear from the remarks of Biswal and other U.S. representatives that there is a preconceived desire to believe the worst of the Sri Lankan government and build on that to justify punitive action against the country.

Biswal said the United States plans to sponsor a third resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in March.

Asked if the resolution would specifically be on war crimes or whether it would ask for war crimes to be probed, Biswal said it was too early to determine the exact text of the resolution, adding "what we have called for in the prior two resolutions has been for a process, a Sri Lankan-led process, to address issues of justice, reconciliation and accountability and for Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the LLRC."

The Rajapaksa government has so far not accepted calls for an international inquiry.

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