In response to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s, visit Sri Lanka Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), accompanied by Sinhala Buddhist monks, have staged a protest outside the US Embassy in Colombo against what they see as US “imperial ambitions” attempting to undermine Sri Lankan sovereignty.
“The people of Sri Lanka have no intention of tying its fortunes to a regime, which has been violating every decent principle of international cooperation, collaboration and diplomacy”, read the JVP statement.
Earlier this week, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean R. Thompson, maintained that Pompeo would raise the issue of “democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, religious freedom, and justice,” adding that Colombo is “at a point to make some choices about where they head”.
This statement followed calls from Amnesty International to address the 'deteriorating human rights situation' in Sri Lanka. In this statement, Amnesty International raised concerns over the culture of impunity in Sri Lanka and the shrinking “space for dissent and criticism”. In February of this year, Sri Lanka withdrew support from the co-sponsored UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1.
Tamil families of the disappeared, have called on the US Secretary of State, to continue its push for accountability and to know the whereabouts of their disappeared loved ones:
"America alone has the powers to find our disappeared children," they said. "We request Secretary Pompeo to use his good offices to alleviate the suffering of the mothers of the disappeared children."
The travel ban on Shavendra Silva
In response to Pompeo’s visit, Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, Dinesh Gunawardena, and leader of Sri Lanka’s main opposition party, Sajith Premadasa, have called on the US to lift the travel ban imposed on Sri Lankan army commander Shavendra Silva.
The travel ban imposed on Silva, and his immediate family, relates to specific concerns over human rights abuses and war crimes committed under his role as commander of the 58th division of Sri Lanka’s army.
At the time Pompeo maintained that “the allegations of gross human rights violations against Shavendra Silva, documented by the United Nations and other organizations, are serious and credible”.
He further stated:
“His designation underscores the importance we place on human rights in Sri Lanka and globally, our concern over impunity for human rights violations and abuses, as well as our support for promoting accountability for those who engage in such acts. We urge the Sri Lankan government to promote human rights, hold accountable individuals responsible for war crimes and human rights violations, advance security sector reform, and uphold its other commitments to pursue justice and reconciliation.”
Gunawardena has attacked the previous administration for co-sponsoring the UN human rights resolution claiming:
“It was thanks to the great betrayal the previous government did by co-sponsoring a resolution at the UNCHRC against this country that these sanctions came”.
In their statement, the JVP maintains that the US, whose “influence and power are waning in the world”, is “desperately attempting to fix its interests in South Asia”.
This follows a diplomatic spat between the US and China’s embassies in Sri Lanka during which US Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz cautioned Sri Lanka against becoming dependent on China and raised concerns over China’s lack of transparency. The Chinese embassy responded, decrying the statement given by Teplitz as “despicable” and claiming that the US was guilty of upholding a hypocritical double standard.
During the meeting between Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Yang Jiechi, Director of China's Central Committee's Foreign Affairs Commission, the Chinese diplomat pledged to defend the country at “international fora including United Nations Human Rights Council”.
The Chinse further granted Sri Lanka a concessionary loan of US$ 500m which is to be repaid across 10 years with no restrictions on the loan usage as well as an agreed grant from China’s International Development agency for 16.5 billion rupees for livelihood development in the country.
The JVP has struck out against the US claiming that they are pressuring the Sri Lankan government to enter into “several critical military and trade agreements […] without proper accountability and due process”. They further concurred with the Chinese officials claiming that US guidance for Sri Lanka to maintain “economic independence” was “not just hypocritical […] but also threatening and deeply disrespectful”.
The JVP further called on the US to reveal “undeclared secret options” which they claim the US is pressuring Sri Lanka to accept. These include “signing of MCC agreement, strengthening of SOFA, pulling Sri Lanka to be a partner of QUAD”.
QUAD, or QSD, refers to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue Alliance, an informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India that is maintained by semi-regular summits, information exchanges and military drills between member countries
Sri Lankan nationalists are reluctant to join the alliance and to take a side between the members of Quad and Beijing.
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