As a sovereign state and one of Asia’s oldest democracies, Sri Lanka does not wish to be dictated to by others in the international community in the conduct of its internal affairs, stated the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson reacting to comments made to the media by the visiting US Asst. Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Nisha Biswal.
He said that it is evident from this visit and that which preceded from the US, as well as intrusive behavior by other representatives of that country, that there is a desire to believe the worst of Sri Lanka and seek to build on that premise to justify punitive action against the country.
“The claims, be it on the pace of implementation of the LLRC, allegations of religious intolerance or insufficient progress in addressing reconciliation and accountability, are unsubstantiated. They have been as preposterous as a visiting US official stating to being convinced of a figure of 40,000 missing persons based on a purported census of 2008 carried out by a civil society institution. Reckless and irresponsible statements without evidence have been recoursed to in order to create an impact to give way to prejudged action”, the spokesperson further said.
In fact the latest allegation of religious intolerance repeatedly stated by the US appears to be in order to give credence to isolated incidents as a regular occurrence. It is well known that many of the facilities for religious worship which have been targeted are those operating in violation of the guidelines governing the establishment of these places. It has generally been found that these incidents have been a reaction on the part of the community resident in those areas. Attributing blame to the government is totally unwarranted. While legal action has been taken with regard to some incidents, others have been settled amicably. Therefore, the criticism is grossly disproportionate and politically motivated, he added.
Details of evidence have been requested with regard to allegations of individuals who have met with foreign officials being intimidated. However, such information has not been forthcoming, thereby drawing damaging conclusions. Such intimidating action could be resorted to by interested parties in order to bring disrepute to the Government of Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is imperative to receive the required information for investigations to be initiated.
The Government of Sri Lanka more than any other entity, including short term visitors to the country, has the paramount interest of maintaining a peaceful and unified Sri Lanka. The action of a US spearheaded Resolution in the UN Human Rights Council runs completely counter to the position that country is motivated with an “inclusive vision” in this regard. It is well known that such action only serves to polarize the communities within Sri Lanka and outside, causing a strain on the sensitive reconciliation process. It also seeks to divide the international community, whereas keeping them in a cohesive group would serve Sri Lanka better through assisting in meeting the challenges.
There is a lack of objectivity in recognizing the substantial progress in addressing the challenges during the brief span of 4˝ years since the end of an armed conflict of 30 years. Therefore, “patience wearing thin” is a misnomer. It is the trajectory of the democratically elected Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the best for its people. Statements during the last few days are indicative of a desire to believe the worst and to work to a preconceived political agenda, he said.
Bona fide friendship is extremely welcome. However, the basis of a friendship is formed through fairness and open mindedness and not predetermined conclusions.
The assertion that the US does not want to see Sri Lanka being left behind in Asia’s economic progress is patronizing. As a country that faced a protracted conflict, Sri Lanka has already demonstrated economic resilience and a projection of sustained economic stability.