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'The world is watching Sri Lanka' says US Ambassador Samantha Power

The US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said the "the world is watching what is happening in Sri Lanka," as she arrived in Colombo on Saturday ahead of a trip to Jaffna tomorrow.

Speaking after a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, the US ambassador said the "world is watching what is happening in Sri Lanka far more closely than I think any of you can imagine". "The changes that have been put in place in a very complex and diverse political environment over the course of the last 9 or 10 months have grabbed the world’s attention," she added.

Stating that Sri Lanka has given the world "great hope," she said that the country "is dealing with the very difficult legacies of a long and very arduous civil conflict". "But it is putting one foot in front of the other, facing hard problems, and again showing no signs of moving away from confronting the difficult issues of the past in order to contribute to that brighter future," she continued, adding that the United States "supports your efforts to reform".

Commenting on her trip to Jaffna tomorrow, Ms Power said the visit would give her "the chance to see places I visited 5 years ago and to see the effects on the ground of some of the new policies that have been put into place in recent days and months".

She is expected to meet with civil society organisations and Tamil politicians during her visit to Jaffna, as well as visit the headquarters of Uthayan newspaper, which has been repeatedly targeted throughout the conflict. Ms Power will also participate in the inauguration of a new wing of Osmania College, which suffered significant damage during the conflict, as well as tour the Jaffna Library, where she will announce US support for the local restoration of ancient Tamil manuscripts, according to a press release.

Listen to her comments here.

Welcoming the ambassador, Mr Samaraweera said that "even in the most difficult times she always maintained faith and trust in the people of this country and the latent strength of our nation."

“We have a long way to go and this is the first time that the people of Sri Lanka require the assistance of the international community to ensure that our gains are held on and dreams of our people are realized, and we define and create our future today by our hopes and aspirations without being held back anymore by the fears and prejudices of the past," he added.

Shortly after her arrival Ms Power met with Tamil National Alliance politicians, R. Sampanthan and M. A. Sumanthiran, as she prepares to travel to the North-East tomorrow.

The announcement of her visit stirred controversy in the South, with popular opposition MP Udaya Gammanpila questioned her motives as "mysterious". Adding that he wondered whether the US saw Sri Lanka as recently conquered territory Mr Gammanpila noted, "she has authored many books and also lectures a lot on war crimes. She constantly talks about the subject." Ms Power is the author of the award winning book "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide".

"Therefore I would like to tell Samantha Power, that it would be better if she does not visit our country" he concluded.

Also see our earlier post:

Samantha Power Must Recalibrate Washington’s Sri Lanka Rhetoric (20 Nov 2015)

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