US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has arrived in Sri Lanka as part of his larger trip which includes stops at India, the Maldives, and Indonesia.
Pompeo’s is the highest-level US government official of cabinet rank to visit the Sri Lanka John Kerry visit in 2015. Remarking on what will be discussed during his visit, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean R. Thompson, maintained that Pompeo would address issues of “to human rights, reconciliation, and our common commitment to democracy”. He further added that whilst the US’s partnership “with Sri Lanka goes back a long way […] we think they’re at a point to make some choices about where they head”.
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In the State Department’s fact sheet released today, they emphasised that their partnership was based on “shared values of respect for democratic governance, rule of law, human rights, including religious freedom, and agreement on the need for an open and resilient Indo-Pacific region where all countries can prosper under a rules-based international order”.
The statement follows calls from Amnesty International for 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.
Families of the disappeared have also called on the Secretary of State to push the government on the issue of truth and accountability, demanding to know what happened to their loved ones.
Sri Lanka’s trading relationship
Pompeo’s visit also follows rising tensions between the US and Chinese embassies in Sri Lanka following an interview by US Ambassador Teplitz in which she warned Sri Lanka against becoming dependent on the Chinese trade and raised concerns over China’s lack of transparency.
Thompson further raised the issue of 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”.
This statement has sparked harsh criticism from the Chinese embassy which alleges that the US is coercing and bullying Sri Lanka. During a meeting between Chinese diplomats and Sri Lanka’s president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Chinese officials maintained that they would protect Sri Lanka at “international fora including United Nations Human Rights Council”.
For more information on Pompeo’s trip read the US State Department’s fact sheet here.