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Senior US official to visit and 'strengthen co-operation' with Sri Lanka

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu, who recently praised Ranil Wickremesinghe as “the right man for Sri Lanka” will be on the island, this week where he’s tipped to reaffirm the US support. 

The US State Department announced that Lu is scheduled to travel to India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh from May 10 to May 15. “His trip will strengthen bilateral cooperation with each country and demonstrate US support for a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” a media note from the Department read. 

While in Sri Lanka Lu is expected to meet with government officials, political parties, and the president. According to the media note in his meetings, he will reaffirm US "support for Sri Lanka’s economic recovery and" the "importance of robust civil society as a cornerstone of a free and democratic society".

It was only recently that Lu called Sri Lanka a "great comeback story". 

“If you will go back with me in time, you will remember, a country in crisis," said the senior US diplomat. "You will remember mass riots in the streets, lines for petrol, and food snaking around the corners, the seizure of the president's home, and protestors swimming in his swimming pool,” he added, referring to the mass Aragalaya protests, which dominated the South. “It is a very different place, the country is stable, food and fuel crisis are stable, they’ve gotten reassurance on their debt restructuring, and the IMF money is gone. How did they do that?”

The statement came as there was significant concern over Sri Lanka's human rights record and a potential impending crackdown on activists with the passage of the Online Safety Act. Lu has previously claimed, in a meeting with the Tamil National Alliance, that "human rights are central to US foreign policy in Sri Lanka".

His latest visit comes as the International Truth and Justice Project in its most recent report found that since Wickremesinghe took over office, at least 11 Tamils have been unlawfully detained, and faced interrogation and torture including rape. Methods included severe beatings, asphyxiation with petrol or chilli powder, burning, drownings, and suspension by ropes. 

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