Is USA Planning to loosen its grip on Sri Lanka
Posted on July 18th, 2016

By Gagani Weerakoon Courtesy Ceylon Today

Last week, fans of the Nuga Sevana programme in Rupavahini witnessed US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal, who is on an official visit to Sri Lanka, preparing a polos embula –local spicy with guidance and tips from none other than Sri Lanka’s celebrity Master Chef Dr. Pubilis Silva of Mount Lavinia Hotel.

Biswal, who arrived in Sri Lanka after visiting Bangladesh, went to the Holey Bakery in Dhaka, and paid respects to the victims of heinous terrorist attack that took place, a few weeks back.
Interestingly Biswal’s arrival fell a few days after Chinese Foreign Minister’s low-key yet important visit to the country. Biswal has been a frequent visitor to Sri Lanka since President Maithripala Sirisena was elected to office in January 2015 with her visiting the country at least three times in 2015, first in February which later followed her visits in August and December.
On her first visit, Biswal pointing out challenges the new regime would have to face noted that “President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe have put forth an ambitious agenda for their first one hundred days and much has already been accomplished in such a short time. But we recognize that there is a lot of hard work ahead and some difficult challenges.”

preventing corruption
“Sri Lanka can count on the United States to be a partner and a friend in the way forward: Whether it is on rebuilding the economy, on preventing corruption and advancing good governance, and ensuring human rights and democratic participation for all of its citizens.”
“The United States stands with Sri Lanka. Our friendship dates back generations and since Sri Lanka’s independence, the United States has provided over $2 billion in assistance. No country in the world buys more Sri Lankan products than the United States and we look forward to growing and deepening our partnership, to advancing trade and investment.”
While she enjoyed preparing a polos curry, her visit to the island most certainly could not be as lighter a matter as cooking a local dish.

 UNHRC
While, the attention may have drawn to progress and what the government should accomplish before the progress was discussed at the UNHRC in October this year, the fact Biswal was accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour, Tom Malinowski shows that USA has put Sri Lanka amongst their priority list.
The visit was part of a planned visit to two different countries in the region –Bangladesh and Cambodia, and projected as a farewell gesture as President Barrack Obama’s tenure coming to an end. Experts in international relations, however, are of the view that this visit was to display USA’s solidarity to Sri Lanka and its wish to continue the goodwill in a manner that Sri Lankan rulers will not be pushed once again towards China.
Not only is Sri Lanka strategically important to both USA and India, but at a time tension between China and the USA is rising, the possibility is such that the world’s most powerful country would not take any stern action that would hurt Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka-US relations
Time and again, the US top officials insisted that Sri Lanka-US relations at an all-time high and on a tremendous trajectory of partnership between the two countries which include last year’s visit by Secretary Kerry, Ambassador Samantha Power, and the Partnership Dialogue USA inaugurated in February this year.
She also said that Sri Lanka itself has been on a remarkable trajectory of addressing not only the internal issues that have challenged it, but also engaging with the broader international community in a spirit of partnership and dialogue.
“The United States has welcomed a deepening of ties between our two countries. The United States and Sri Lanka share common goals as fellow democracies, which are both working to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are partners, and today our relations are at an all-time high.
We have been proud to partner with Sri Lanka over the past 60 years, during which development and humanitarian assistance has improved countless lives, livelihoods, and living conditions all across Sri Lanka.
She also promised to continue to make substantial investments in multiple sectors — agriculture, enterprise development, education, health care, energy and natural resources, and humanitarian activities.
“As the Government of Sri Lanka moves ahead with its plans for constitutional reform, for justice and reconciliation, the United States will continue to partner with the government to foster economic development and encourage foreign investment, to work to advance opportunities for all Sri Lankans.”
These two top US officials arrived at a time where a clear division between the Executive President and part of the government on the matter of letting foreign experts is evident.

 foreign judges
Not long ago President Sirisena amidst growing resistance from his opponents on involving foreign judges and other experts in an accountability process on alleged war crimes contradicted his Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera and pledged the Maha Sangha that he would not allow any foreign involvement in the matter as long as he was in office.
It is despite this strong resistance by the Head of the State that Biswal following her meeting with Mnister Samaraweera noted that “We continue to support the Government of Sri Lanka as it takes meaningful and concrete steps in response to concerns of its people related to democratic governance and advancing respect for human rights, for reconciliation, for justice and accountability. We can envision a future which brings benefits to both countries, and to peace and prosperity and security across the Indian Ocean as Sri Lanka assumes a greater role as a key partner in this region, as Sri Lanka assumes its great potential as a hub and a gateway to connect to rising economic societies of South and Southeast Asia.”
“Much work remains, but the United States is committed to partnering with the Sri Lankan people to address challenges and help this country and its people to realise their true potential,” she said.
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary Malinowski after meeting Minister Samaraweera said, in the last few months, and in particular the last several weeks, they have seen Sri Lanka take very concrete steps forward in its reform, democratization, and reconciliation agenda: the bill to establish an Office of Missing Persons, ratifying the convention on disappearances, additional land releases by the military, the President’s very important directive on arrests under the PTA, and progress in work on the Constitution.
“A lot of this work was foreshadowed in last year’s Human Rights Council resolution. That resolution embodied commitments the Sri Lankan people have made in their own national interests to restore accountability and the rule of law to their country. The United States was a co-sponsor of that resolution, and as such we feel we have a shared responsibility to help see this process through. So we look forward to supporting Sri Lanka as it puts into place the remaining institutions and reforms that the resolution endorsed. We very strongly commend the government for working closely with the United Nations and High Commissioner Zeid to advance that progress.
“I also want to strongly second my colleague Assistant Secretary Biswal’s comments on economic development and on the opportunity and responsibility we have as a partner of Sri Lanka to help the people of this country achieve the peace dividend that they so deserve. I want to stress that in our minds these two objectives — economic development and reconciliation — go hand-in-hand. Without a peace dividend, it will be harder to pursue reconciliation.

“But reconciliation is also advanced, as we have seen in country after country in the world, where people can come together rather than let themselves be split apart. In a larger sense, this reminds us why what is happening in Sri Lanka is so important to people all over the world, because if you look at what’s happening in the world today, there’s obviously not a lot of good news to be found. A lot of the problems that we see are rooted in something that Sri Lanka knows all too well — this contest between the politics of division and the politics of common ground. We’ve seen, unfortunately, in many places around the world that it is easier to win in politics by making simple appeals to racial, religious, or national pride, than by doing the hard work of governing. Easier sometimes to blame others for our problems than to take responsibility ourselves. In that way you can distract people from your own failures and lack of vision.
“I think the people Sri Lanka have shown us again and again, that regardless where they come from, or what language they speak, or what faith they belong to, everyone has the same fundamental interests. Everybody has an interest in peace, everyone has an interest in law and order, in accountability, in moving this country forward. The people of Sri Lanka chose a government that seeks to serve all its people rather than setting them against each other. For that reason, the whole world needs Sri Lanka to succeed and to show others the way. We are proud to be your partner in that effort.”
If there is anything that both India and the USA do not wish to see, that is China occupying the major portion of Sri Lanka’s ground and the ocean. For USA, who is planning on increasing its presence in Indian Ocean, China increasing its presence in Sri Lanka is surely not the appetite.
At a time a Chinese company eying to acquire lands and properties occupied by World’s largest cement producer, Lafarge Holcim who is planning on fully divesting its Sri Lankan operations, its subsidiary Holcim Lanka as part of a global rationalization strategy of the Switzerland-based building materials group, USA is unlikely to do anything that would push Sri Lanka towards China. It was believed that USA’s stern approach in matters of Sri Lanka pushed the Rajapaksa regime towards bonding strongly with US opponents like China, Russia and Pakistan.

If China succeed in acquiring the deal, it will make sure Chinese presence in all salient points including Colombo Harbour, Galle Harbour and more importantly Trincomalee Harbour.
It is also no longer a secret that US is planning on stationing its Pacific Command in the Indian Ocean with the assistance of Sri Lanka. The first sign of this was US Navy’s Seventh Fleet Flagship, USS Blue Ridge, arriving in Colombo on 26 March 2016 for a five-day port call, with 900 sailors on board.
In November 2011, Hillary Clinton, the then Secretary of State, in her Foreign Policy article ‘America’s Pacific Century’ has defined the Asia-Pacific as “stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans – the Pacific and the Indian – that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy.
In his 17 November, 2011 address to the Australian Parliament, President Obama said that the future being sought in the Asia-Pacific was “security, prosperity and dignity for all”.
On the other hand, the Strategic Guidance Document published by the US Department of Defence in 2012 stated that, “US economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean Region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities”.
Under these circumstances, it is likely that USA who also does not face domestic pressure like the UK or Canada, will only push Sri Lanka to get foreign technical assistance in certain areas and not push for setting up a ‘hybrid’ court as predicted, experts opined.

3 Responses to “Is USA Planning to loosen its grip on Sri Lanka”

  1. plumblossom Says:

    Sri Lanka should tell the US that Sri Lanka cannot abide by the UNHRC resolution. The Sri Lankan Army did not commit any war crimes. It is the LTTE terrorists who committed war crimes throughout 26 years of war. No country with an ounce of self respect will place their army in harms way to be tried by a court domestic or hybrid of war crimes the army did not commit in anyway. If individual soldiers committed any crimes, a complaint can be placed in a court of law in Sri Lanka. Why is there a need for special judicial procedures? This government is a puppet of the US, EU, UK, Norway, Sweden, Canada and India and is so subservient to US interests that it is ready to try its own armed forces for crimes that the armed forces did not commit. All the while, the LTTE terrorists who committed war crimes are being shown as totally innocent. Using the ploy of wanting a new constitution which almost all Sri Lankans don’t want, this treacherous government is trying to create a separate state in the guise of a federal state as the TNA separatist terrorists and the US, EU, UK, Norway, Sweden, Canada and India wants. Sri Lanka should tell the US that Sri Lanka cannot abide by the UNHRC resolution. The worst that the US, UK, EU, Sweden, Norway and India can do is impose sanctions on Sri Lanka. So what? Sri Lanka can trade with all the countries of Asia and the rest of the world even if the US, UK, EU, Norway, Sweden and India imposes sanctions. Sri Lanka can grow rice, we have jack fruit, bananas, bread fruit and plenty of water too. So we will not starve just because the US, UK, EU, Sweden, Norway and India imposes sanctions. Also since we can trade with the powerful economies of Asia which includes the Middle East, South East Asia, South Asia, the Far East and Central Asia as well as the rest of the world, actually, we may be OK economically too despite any sanctions imposed by the US, EU, UK, Norway, Sweden, Canada and India. However by avoiding implementing the unjust UNHRC resolution, Sri Lanka will safeguard its independence and freedom which is the most important thing for the next thousands of years as we have safeguarded our independence and freedom for at least the last 2600 years and avoid the creation of a separate state or eelam in the guise of a federal state. So Sri Lanka must very urgently tell the US that we will not abide by the unjust UNHRC resolution but carry out our own domestic process of reconciliation as we see fit. Let the imperialist US impose sanctions. Nothing much will happen to our economy since we can trade with the powerful economies of Asia and the rest of the world instead but Sri Lanka would have preserved its independence and freedom for the next thousands of years and avoid the partition of the country and the creation of a separate state which will be Sri Lanka’s end.

  2. plumblossom Says:

    Not only this, the treacherous Ranil, Sirisena, CBK, Mangala, idiotic UNPers, those INGOs working for thousands of dollars and even the JVP are trying to dismember the country via constitutional changes. We patriotic Sri Lankans should demand a strong central government, no more powers to provincial councils, no merger between provinces, ideally abolition of the 13th amendment to the constitution and absolute safeguarding of the sovereignty of the country.

    The army did not commit any war crimes. it is the LTTE who committed war crimes. However, it is high time that Sri Lanka rejected the US imperialists UNHRC resolution and state at the UNHRC to leave Sri Lanka alone to get on with reconciliation as Sri Lanka sees fit.

    Actually Sri Lanka today being accused of committing war crimes by the US, UK, EU, Norway, Sweden, Canada, India etc. is very similar to the way Saddam Hussein and Iraq was accused of possessing non existent WMDs. Although Iraq did everything possible to show the US, UK, EU, Norway, Sweden, Canada etc. that it did not possess WMD it was bombed anyway, regime change brought about since Iraq has massive amounts of oil which the US, UK, EU, Norway, Sweden, Canada companies wanted to extract at cheap rates by bringing on a puppet regime. A similar scenario is unfolding in Sri Lanka since Sri Lanka is located at a strategic location, the US wanting to establish a naval/air base at Trincomalee, the US wanting to establish further US army, navy, air force bases in the island, mineral resources, marine resources, control of the Indian ocean sea routes etc. For this, the separatist, terroristic Tamils who are subservient to the US are who the US is favouring to help them with this task. This is why the US favours eelam. All patriotic Sri Lankans should therefore tell the government to withdraw from carrying out the US resolution and to tell the US to leave Sri Lanka alone.

  3. plumblossom Says:

    Sri Lanka needs a strong central government in the form of the executive presidency. It is the executive presidency which is keeping the unitary state together since provincial councils have now been provided powers. Therefore if the executive presidency is abolished, the provincial councils will become more powerful and the separatist terroristic TNA will try to break away using threats the North and the East. the PR system is the fairest system which means each vote counts. It is a very democratic system. We do not need any changes to the constitution. These changes to the constitution are only suggested to bring on stealthily a federal or a separate state by falsely labelling it as ‘unitary’ to hoodwink the idiotic Sinhala Buddhists. We do not need any changes to the constitution which is what the separatist terrorists of the TNA, US, UK, EU, Norway, Sweden and Canada wants to dismember this country. Also it is the executive presidential system which can easily carry out programmes to develop the country since otherwise there will be endless wranglings within the cabinet and in parliament about what path to follow for development to happen. A well meaning executive president can easily implement a reasonable and suitable programme to take the country forward. Another main reason to keep the executive presidency as it is to counter the separatist threat since a strong executive president can stop any treacherous activities which goes against the independence, freedom, sovereignty, unitary status etc. of the country since the executive president is elected directly by the people’s vote and is answerable to all the people of the country as a result. So for all these reasons, there is no need whatsoever to change the constitution. However the provincial councils should not be given any more powers, there should not be any merger between provinces, ideally the 13th amendment to the constitution should be abolished and there should be a strong central government if Sri Lanka is to move forward as a country and since it is a small country.

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