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Pompeo to discuss human rights and ‘where Sri Lanka is headed’ with Rajapaksas

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will raise issue of human rights and justice when he meets with  Sri Lanka’s war crimes accused president and prime minister next week, said US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean R. Thompson, adding that Colombo is “at a point to make some choices about where they head”.

Confirming that Pompeo is to meet with both Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa, Thompson said that the US would “continue to urge Sri Lanka to advance democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, religious freedom, and justice, which promote the country’s long-term stability and prosperity and ensure the dignity and equality of all Sri Lanka’s diverse communities”.

When asked about the recently passed 20th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution, a move which will strengthen the presidency and weaken checks and balances, Thompson said “obviously, we watch closely developments in Sri Lanka on these fronts”.

“The Secretary will, of course, be raising issues related to human rights, reconciliation, and our common commitment to democracy,” he added. “Our partnership with Sri Lanka goes back a long way, through a lot of different eras, and right now, we think they’re at a point to make some choices about where they head.”

The State Department official also spoke on Sri Lanka’s economy, stating “we encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices”. 

“We urge Sri Lanka to make difficult but necessary decisions to secure its economic independence for long-term prosperity, and we stand ready to partner with Sri Lanka for its economic development and growth,” he added.

With regards to the Rajapaksa relationship with China, Thompson added that Pompeo would be looking to “frame a discussion with them about a more positive trajectory”.

“So definitely we’ll be discussing where they’re headed and looking for ways to strengthen their commitment to human rights rule of law and democracy,” he concluded.

Earlier this week Amnesty International called on the US Secretary of State to address the 'deteriorating human rights situation' in Sri Lanka during his visit. "The harassment and arrest of human rights defenders, the failure to hold human rights violators accountable, and the continued marginalisation of minority communities under the present government threatens the prospects for a peaceful, prosperous future for the country," Amnesty wrote.

Pompeo’s trip will see him  visit New Delhi and stop in Colombo on his way to the Maldives. In India, he is to meet with prime minister Narendra Modi. “Secretary Pompeo and Defense Secretary Esper will then meet with their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar and Defense Minister Singh, for the third annual U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue,” Thompson added. “The 2+2 format is reserved for our closest friends and partners and reflects our belief that the United States and India are stronger, more secure, and more prosperous when we work together.”

“Looking at our relationship with India, the pace and scope of our cooperation with India continues to accelerate,” he continued. “Indeed, we have an outstanding opportunity to strengthen the U.S.-India relationship, which is vital to security and stability both in the region and in the world.”

See his full remarks here.

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