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* U.S. disappointed with Sri Lanka's backward movements on democracy
Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 02:36 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 27, Colombo: The United States expressed disappointment over Sri Lanka's slow progress towards achieving reconciliation and accountability after the end of the war and even more, over taking some backward movement on democracy, such as impeaching the Chief Justice.

The Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs at U.S. Department of State Robert Blake expressed these observations Tuesday in Capitol Hill at the hearing of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in response to a question raised by the Chairman Rep. Steve Chabot on U.S. policy in Sri Lanka.

Responding to the Chairman, Blake said the U.S. decided to support Sri Lanka's domestic probe, Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission process hoping that Sri Lanka would take the opportunity to rapidly address the issues of accountability for the civilian deaths estimated between 10,000- 40,000 by a UN panel.

But four years after the war, Sri Lanka's progress thus far on implementing the LLRC action plan has been slow and U.S. has been disappointed that the government has not proceeded so far with elections for the Northern Provincial Council.

"We've been disappointed that there hasn't been a conclusion of the dialogue between the Tamil National Alliance - the umbrella groups, the Tamil groups as well as the TNA dialogue with the government on devolution and we've been disappointed that there has been some backward movement on democracy, things like the 13th amendment and the recent impeachment of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice," the former Ambassador to Sri Lanka said at the hearing.

Blake told the subcommittee that since the progress is slow, the U.S. is pursuing another vote this year for the resolution it presented last year to continue to urge Sri Lanka to implement its own LLRC report.

"I think there is good support thus far to have another vote this year to continue to urge Sri Lanka to implement its own report and that's why we are pursuing that again this year," the Assistant Secretary said.

Text of Blake's response at Subcommittee hearing (starts at 5:15 on video )

I've been working on Sri Lanka now for six years and know the country extremely well and consider myself a friend of the country and a supporter of the country and at the end of the conflict as you know there were many questions about the number of civilians that were killed at the very end of the conflict, an independent UN panel estimated between 10,000- 40,000 innocent civilians may have been killed.

Nonetheless the United States decided that we would support a domestic probe that is a Sri Lankan domestic process to try to get to the bottom of that and to investigate that and to develop what is now called a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission process.

But we did so with the understanding Mr. Chairman that there would be rapid progress towards reconciliation and accountability, and I must say progress thus far on implementing the LLRC action plan has been slow and we've been disappointed as you say that the government has not proceeded so far with elections for the Northern Provincial Council four years after the end of the war, we've been disappointed that there hasn't been a conclusion of the dialogue between the Tamil National Alliance the umbrella groups, the Tamil groups as well as the TNA dialogue with the government on devolution and we've been disappointed that there has been some backward movement on democracy, as you say, things like the 13th amendment and the recent impeachment of Sri Lanka's Chief Justice.

So for that reason last year we supported a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council to put additional pressure on Sri Lanka to implement its own LLRC report, we did so with the support of countries like India and a large majority of other countries in the HRC. I think there is good support thus far to have another vote this year to continue to urge Sri Lanka to implement its own report and that's why we are pursuing that again this year.



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