Two Congressmen want U.S. to help SL


Two members of the US Congress, who are also the co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus of Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka, have written to US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken encouraging the US State Department, to support any efforts, of a newly-formed Government in Sri Lanka, in drafting the new Constitution that genuinely restructures the State in a way that respects the secular and pluri-national nature of the Island and the right of self-determination and meaningful devolution of political, economic land and security powers.

The two Congressmen, namely Bill Johnson and Danny K. Davis, in a letter dated 19 July, also said former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country and later resigned was a culmination of months of protests over Sri Lanka’s fiscal crisis, which has resulted in Sri Lanka’s inability to repay its debt and shortages in essential food items, fuel and medicines for its citizens.

“It is vital that a new leader be elected who will follow the rule of the law and make the difficult decisions needed to return Sri Lanka to fiscal stability.

The two members of the Congress also stressed that Rajapaksa’s resignation means much more for Sri Lanka’s ethnic minorities and particularly the Tamil people, who have seen no progress towards the promised reconciliation of past war crimes, some alleged to have been perpetrated by the former president himself and an increase in assault on their civil and human rights under the Rajapaksa government. “If Sri Lanka is to see real and lasting change, it is critical that a new leader not only works to restore Sri Lanka’s fiscal health, but also work towards  the promised transitional justice and reforms that will respect the rights of all Sri Lankans, ending the cycles of violence and ethnic conflict.”  Further, they asked that the Rome Statute be ratified with retroactive effect and to support international prosecution of atrocious crimes committed during and after Sri Lanka’s long and brutal war.

They also reminded him of the demilitarising of the North and the East to support restructuring the economy by cutting the inflated defence budget and reallocating spending for economic development.

The two officials also noted that the US State Department should address the demands of long-standing protests by families of the disappeared and political prisoners from across the north and east including as a starting point by repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act and also immediately cease land acquisitions by national authorities and security forces in the north and east.

They emphasised that if advance reforms are encouraged it will put Sri Lanka on a path towards greater fiscal stability and equality for all Sri Lankans.

“Now is a critical time to ensure the rights of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious minorities are fully restored and upheld,” they said in their letter.

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan