|FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS US CONGRESS MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT
RECENT IMPROVEMENTS ON THE GROUND IN SRI LANKA
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, continuing
his meetings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday (3 October 2007), met
with Congressman Frank Pallone (Democrat/New Jersey) and Congressman
Jerry Weller (Republican/Illinois) who have been the long standing
chairpersons of the Sri Lanka Congressional Caucus. The discussions
revolved around the recently introduced amendments to the Appropriations
Bill of the Department of State for FY 2008, which has not taken
into account recent improvements on the ground in Sri Lanka.
The Minister and the Congressmen had a frank
exchange of views on the issues raised in the proposed amendment.
The Minister who had met both Congressmen during his last visit
to Washington D.C. in March 2007, provided an update on the action
taken by the Government of Sri Lanka with respect to clearing
the Eastern Province of the LTTE, the progress made by the Commission
of Inquiry (COI) investigating the major alleged human rights
incidents which was also observed by the IIGEP, as well as the
deliberations taking place within the All Party Representatives
Committee (APRC). The Minister said recent foreign dignitaries
such as Sir John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian
Affairs and Humanitarian Coordinator who had already undertaken
a successful visit to Sri Lanka in August, had acknowledged that
“the situation which had gone through a bad period, was
getting better”. It was noted that Mr. Manfred Nowak, UN
Special Rapporteur on Torture, is currently visiting Sri Lanka
while Ms. Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
will be visiting from 9 - 13 October and Mr. Walter Kaelin, the
Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on the Human
Rights of the IDPs, will visit from 13 - 21 December 2007.
Minister Bogollagama also shared Sri Lanka’s
vision of the future course of action the Government proposed
to take with respect to restoring peace in the country and sought
bipartisan support from the US Congress in ensuring that Sri Lanka
continues to receive U.S. assistance. The Sri Lanka delegation
also handed over documentation relating to action taken against
errant service/police personnel and details of the access provided
to INGOs and the media personnel to visit the conflict areas.
The delegation pointed out that contrary to the proposed amendment,
the Sri Lanka Government did not see the need for any new presence
of field officers of the UN High Commission of Human Rights, as
foreign Missions and a large number of international organizations
continue to operate in these areas.
Against this backdrop, the Minister Bogollagama
expressed the hope that the US Congress would continue to support
Sri Lanka in its endeavours to defeat terrorism, which will lead
to the restoration of the normalcy in Sri Lanka.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
03 October 2007