US accused of turning a blind eye on Sri Lanka's 'back-pedalling'

The Obama administration failing to apply pressure on Sri Lanka to honour pledges made at the UN for a fair and international war crimes process has been described by a leading US based policy think tank as shocking.

"At a time when truth and reconciliation is most vital, important international players like the United States are turning a blind eye to President Sirisena’s backpedalling," says Oakland Institute, releasing its latest report largely illustrating the plight of internally displaced (IDP) tens of thousands of Tamils in Sri Lanka's war torn north, seven years after the government declared an end to the war.

The report, 'Waiting to Return Home' quoting Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) says that an estimated 73,700 people were internally displaced in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in July 2015.

IDMC has also estimated that several tens of thousands among the 794,000 who are registered as having returned to their homes, have still not achieved a durable solution to their displacement.

All those displaced are barred from returning to their traditional lands by a 1,60,000 strong military made up of Sinhalese that occupies the north and the east by setting up High Security Zones (HSZ).

Sirisena's pledges

Several pledges by President Maithripala Sirisena to return land to IDPs, following his election to power in January 2016,  have not been met in full, according to the Oakland report.

"These promises total 3,132.5 acres. For comparison, the Palaly HSZ alone was, until recently, over 6,152 acres in size, demonstrating just how much land is under occupation. According to Colombo-based Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a total of 12,751.24 acres of land, including both stateand private lands, continues to be occupied in the Northern Province alone."

Authors  Anuradha Mittal and Elizabeth Fraser say that the report reveals "just how little has changed and details the myriad issues with the release of lands to the IDPS, amidst ongoing issue of torture, the government's wavering commitment to a war crimes court. The report also raises  questions about the changes in the posture of the international community, including the United States, which had previously championed the struggle for truth and reconciliation in Sri Lanka."

Trade Vs accountability

Nevertheless, US is apparently more concerned in strengthening its trade relationships with Sri Lanka's present administration that has demonstrated a western bias unlike its former regime.

Recalling a recent bilateral event  “US-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue” hosted by US State Secretary John Kerry as recently as February 2016, the Oakland report quotes the Sri Lanka Foreign Minister describing the post Mahinda Rajapaksa relationship with the Obama administration as a “veritable renaissance.”

"As Sri Lanka’s largest export market, the US could instead put pressure on the government to stay true to the promises it made through the UN Resolution for a fair and international war crimes process, but thus far has chosen not to," says the latest Report.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.