US explores options for supporting the democratic transition in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 26 March 2015 13:26 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Washington, DC: The United States Government on Tuesday said it explores options to support the democratic transition in Sri Lanka as the superpower sees “tremendous opportunities” to assist the island nation in improving governance, accountability, commerce, and more. Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal said the prospects for strengthened democratic institutions, equitable economic growth and reduced ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka were much greater under the new leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena than they were during the previous regime. Assistant Secretary Biswal told the subcommittee chaired by Congressman Matt Salmon that the new President, working in a Government of national unity with Sinhalese and minority political parties, is pivoting the country away from the harmful policies of his predecessor. The Subcommittee hearing on the ‘US Rebalance in South Asia: Foreign Aid and Development Priorities’ was held to investigate the Obama Administration’s FY 2016 Budget request for the Department of State and the Agency for International Development as it relates to US priorities in South Asia. Biswal said the US is encouraged by the by the Sri Lankan Government’s pledges to create a credible domestic accountability mechanism to address the end of the war and foster reconciliation between the North and South and the 100-day program to implement democratic reforms in advance of upcoming parliamentary elections. She testified that the US has expressed its support for the new Government’s focus on strengthening its democracy, rebuilding its economy, and pursuing meaningful reconciliation, and strongly signalled its commitment to rebuild US-Sri Lanka ties. The official noted that despite the encouraging signs, the Sri Lankan people, and the Sirisena government, face tough challenges in the months ahead. “Despite these encouraging signs, Mr. Chairman, let me be clear. The Sri Lankan people, and the Sirisena government, face tough challenges in the months ahead - including the financial mess they inherited; the difficult road on accountability and reconciliation; and restoring the democratic institutions that were systematically undermined by the previous government, including demilitarization of the former conflict zones.” She reiterated the assurances made by the US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry that the United States looks forward to “deepening our partnership with Sri Lanka and working with them to advance democracy, prosperity, and dignity for all Sri Lankans.” Pointing out that the budgetary request for Sri Lanka was made before the country’s democratic transition and reflects the more constrained environment created by the previous Government, which forced the US to draw down its programs, the Assistant Secretary said the US looks to explore more options to support Sri Lanka. “That is not the Sri Lanka of today and we see tremendous opportunities to assist the country in improving governance, accountability, commerce, and more,” the official emphasized. “We look forward to working closely with this committee and with key committees in the House and Senate to explore options for supporting the democratic transition in Sri Lanka,” she stressed.