Feb 27, Colombo: A Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of House Foreign Affairs Committee called on the United States to re-chart its strategy in Sri Lanka.
Addressing the subcommittee hearing on "The Rebalance to Asia: Why South Asia Matters (Part I)", Ranking Member Eni Faleomavaega said he agrees with the Kerry-Lugar Congressional report which declares the need to 're-chart' U.S. strategy in Sri Lanka beyond humanitarian and political concerns.
"The U.S. simply cannot afford to lose Sri Lanka due to its strategic importance," Faleomavaega reiterated.
The Ranking Member said he visited Sri Lanka last week and met with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for more than 2 hours. He also met with the Governor of the Northern Province and personally visited Jaffna to see firsthand the post-conflict developments since 2009 when Sri Lanka eradicated three-decade long Tamil Tiger terrorism.
"After a 30-year terrorist conflict, the challenges the Sri Lankan government faces are enormous but the strides the government has made to rebuild in a way that establishes lasting peace and equality for all citizens should be firmly acknowledged," Faleomavaega said.
He suggested that the United States should join Australia in praising the work the Sri Lankan government has done in the North and East of the island in such a short period since the war, as Australian Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop and the parliamentary delegation that she led recently stated upon their visit.
The subcommittee member regrettably pointed out that in the UN resolution U.S. intends to submit again to the UN Human Rights Council, it fails to mention one positive post-war development in Sri Lanka.
"Such failure suggests that the United States is not being even-handed when it comes to dealing with sensitive human rights issues across the globe and I am deeply concerned that our inconsistent policies will lead to a loss of credibility for the United States which will negatively impact our relations in the Asia Pacific region for years to come," he stressed.
He called upon the U.S. to find a better way forward rather than using UN resolutions to de-stabilize developing nations like Sri Lanka while ignoring human rights abuses in nations like Indonesia where our geopolitical interests supersede our human rights agenda.
He suggested that U.S.- led UN resolution also should be withdrawn for focusing only on the last few months of the war and failing to acknowledge that for almost 30 years the "Tamil Tigers hacked to death innocent men, women and children - Sinhalese and Tamils alike - and carried out over 378 suicide attacks - more than any other such organization in the world."
"While there is still much work left to do, I believe the people of Sri Lanka deserve our support as they work to rebuild after having lived through almost three decades of terrorist attacks. This is why I acknowledge the progress of the government and why I am committed to doing all I can to promote lasting peace and equality for all citizens - especially the Sinhalese and Tamils who have suffered long enough," Faleomavaega said in concluding remarks.
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State Robert O. Blake also testified on Sri Lanka at Tuesday's hearing.
Faleomavaega's Press Release