Strong intent in new Lankan govt to address rights issues: US

Nisha Desai Biswal

The new Sri Lankan government has “a very strong intent” in addressing rights concerns, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal said, calling for a “credible domestic” probe with “substantial involvement” from the international community to address justice and accountability.

Less than a month after she visited Sri Lanka ahead of a crucial report on alleged war crimes during the country’s decades-long civil war with the LTTE, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told PTI: “We have seen (in the new government), what we would say a very strong intent.”

“We have seen that the government in the past nine months in office has done more to try to build trust and move the country towards a more inclusive society, than perhaps been done in the last nine years and beyond,” said Biswal, the Administration’s point person for South and Central Asia.

“That is an encouraging sign. It is a long road ahead for the country, for the government, for the (new Sri Lankan) President (Maithripala Sirisena) and for the people,” she said in response to a question.

Biswal said much needs to be done to heal the wounds that are still open on both sides from a very brutal and a very divisive conflict between the troops and the LTTE.

“That would take time and would take very persistent efforts on all sides towards reconciliation and no one should be saying one about the process. It is a difficult process, it is a long process. There will inevitably be setbacks.

“It is fundamentally in the interest of the Sri Lankan people to secure the peace and prosperity for all of these citizens, and I think what motivates us is that hope and that desire to support a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka that brings opportunities for all its citizens,” Biswal said. During her visit to Lanka late last month, she said the US will move a pro-Sri Lanka resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in its September session, in what was seen as a U-turn in America’s stance.

Interestingly, it was a US-moved resolution that called for the first time an international probe into alleged war crimes and was adopted last year in the 47-member UNHRC. The US was at the forefront in adopting a total of three resolutions at the UN human rights session on Sri Lanka. Biswal said that from the very beginning, the US has said it would support a credible domestic effort to address those long-standing issues of justice and accountability in Sri Lanka.