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
Washington DC

03 October 2007

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