By Easwaran Rutnam
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake will urge Sri Lanka to ensure the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report scheduled to be released in November is “credible”.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the US has also taken note of a statement by Amnesty International questioning the credibility of the commission and it’s report.
“I think where we stand is to wait for the Sri Lankan Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission to come out with its own report in November. Obviously, one of the purposes of Assistant Secretary Blake’s visit will be to talk to the Sri Lankans about that report and to do what we can to ensure that they are doing a thorough and credible job with it.
Our first goal is to ensure that it is a good, strong, credible report that can take Sri Lanka forward,” Nuland told reporters at the daily State Department press briefing on Friday.
Blake is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka tomorrow before proceeding to India for talks, the US State Department said.
In India Blake is expected to discuss Sri Lanka among other matters and the stand taken by the US on alleged war crimes committed in the island, US sources said.
Meanwhile the New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Blake to make it clear to Sri Lanka that time was running out for the government to come clean on abuses in the final stages of the war and hold the military and civilian officials accountable.
HRW Asia Director Brad Adams told The Sunday Leader that the US has been too soft so far on Sri Lanka and Blake must press Sri Lanka to remove laws which allow preventive and prolonged detention without charges and also to end the climate of fear that pervades much of the media and civil society.
Blake’s visit to Sri Lanka comes as the UN Human Rights Council session gets underway in Geneva with some member states expected to raise their concerns over the failure by the government to address allegations of human rights abuses.Blake will travel to Sri Lanka and India between September 12-16, 2011. In Sri Lanka he will meet with government officials, civil society representatives, university students and political leaders while in India he will meet with the government of India interlocutors and have internal consultations with staff at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
Jaliya briefs Congress
The Sri Lankan Ambassador in the US Jaliya Wickramasuriya briefed members of the US Congress last week and also discussed US policy towards Sri Lanka. A release by the Sri Lankan Embassy in the US yesterday said that at the meeting between Ambassador Wickramasuriya and key members of the US Congress, a copy of the Defence Ministry video “Lies agreed upon” was also handed over to the Congress members.
The meeting between Wickramasuriya and members of the US Congress came ahead of the visit to Colombo by US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake.
Ambassador Wickramasuriya told the Congressional chiefs of staff, who are the senior managers of Congressional offices, that Sri Lanka’s critics make unfounded complaints that are designed to undermine post-conflict reconciliation and development.
He also discussed redevelopment efforts in the North and East, as well as projects in other parts of Sri Lanka.
“We hope for a higher GDP in 2011,” he said. “And tourism is up by more than 50 percent, and still climbing. U.S. companies like Boeing, Caterpillar, Starwood Resorts – so many others — want to do business in Sri Lanka. They are excited about doing business there.”