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Restore democracy say US Senators – Lakbimanews

[MISC, Sunday, 21 June 2009 07:34 No Comment]

By Mendaka Abeysekera , US Correspondent

Two top US senators urged the Obama administration last week to take measures to restore democracy and reconciliation in Sri Lanka in the post war period.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the present chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Robert Casey, chairman of Foreign Relations Subcommittee, stated that the US government must continue to use all of their leverages on Sri Lanka, including their support for international lending, to encourage respect for basic human rights and a sustainable political settlement.

In a letter addressed to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, the two senators said thousands of survivors of the conflict in Sri Lanka remain in need of assistance. Those who spoke out against abuses by both, the LTTE and the government are facing daily threats to their freedom and their lives, they claimed.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D- Vermont) and Senator Robert Casey (D- Pennsylvania) also pointed out that Sri Lankan government officials and pro government commentators have made “chilling statements equating dissent with treason, and accusing journalists and civil society activists who called attention to its abuses of being in league with LTTE”.

“In a country with a history of disappearances, such statements are an invitation to violence. Already last week, a leading Sri Lankan journalist, Poddala Jayantha, was attacked and abducted near his home,” they stated.

The top US senators said that, while the LTTE has been thankfully defeated in the battlefield, we have clearly not seen a resolution of the conflict. On the contrary, they said, the government’s statements and actions threaten to deepen, rather than heal , the nation’s divide.

Senators Leahy and Casey said that they believe it would send the wrong signal to approve the US $ billion 1.9 IMF loan for Sri Lanka.

"Before receiving major financial support, the government should first take at least some steps to reassure the world that it is adjusting its policies, by allowing access to the conflict area and international monitoring of the screening process, placing IDP camps under civilian control , releasing IDP’s and reuniting them with their families and pursuing reconciliation with critics rather than squashing dissent,” the letter to Hillary Clinton stated.

Meanwhile, Russ Feingold, the US senator from Wisconsin, also urged Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take steps now to demonstrate a serious commitment to a political solution, the rule of law, and most importantly, to genuinely addressing the needs of the Tamil people.

"I was pleased that President Rajapaksa acknowledged that Sri Lanka must not accept a military solution as the ultimate solution. As we have seen in conflicts around the world, a military ceasefire will not hold if the underlying causes that led to this conflict are not addressed. The fundamental grievances of the Tamil minority have been overshadowed, distorted, and in some cases silenced by the severe tactics of the LTTE, who since 1997 have been designated by the US as a terrorist organization. The LTTE claimed to be the voice of the Tamil people and yet their commitment to both indiscriminate and targeted violence, as well as reports from the last days of fighting that they used Tamil civilians as human shields, would indicate otherwise. If we are to see legitimate reconciliation in Sri Lanka, the grievances of the Tamil minority must be seen as distinct from the violence of the LTTE and addressed thoroughly and justly,”" Senator Russ Feingold stated at US Senate last week. Two weeks ago, Senator Leahy had proposed another round of financial sanctions against the Mahinda Rajapakasa government to the US Senate.

Senator Leahy along with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Senator Bob Casey (D- Pennsylvania) has introduced an amendment, which blocks financial support to Sri Lankan Government, except for basic human needs.

According to Senator Leahy, the purpose of this amendment is to prohibit certain forms of financial support to Sri Lanka unless the secretary of state certifies that the Sri Lankan government has taken certain steps to address the humanitarian situation in areas affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka.

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