Robert Blake reiterates value of 'accountability and transparency' in Sri Lanka visit
Robert Blake, onetime American ambassador to Sri Lanka, the incumbent assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in the U.S. State Department reminded the Government of Sri Lanka and reiterated his call for accountability and transparency, a popular feature in all his official visits to this South Asian nation.
As in previous visits he emphasized the vitality of investigating "serious allegations of human rights violations" a reference to the period of the intense battle between the well-equipped Tamil Tiger cadre, who were using heavy artillery using civilians as cover, and the government military in the final months of the battle in 2009.
In a statement issued by the American Embassy in Colombo Mr. Blake said: "On issues of accountability, it is our hope that three years after the end of the conflict, there can be a credible and transparent accounting, investigation and prosecution of some of the outstanding and serious allegations of human rights violations".
He emphasized "the importance of progress in reducing the role and profile of the military in the North, and full respect for human rights".
The assistant secretary cautioned the Sri Lanka government the "importance of progress in reducing the role and profile of the military in the North", continuing in the same tone emphasizing on "full respect for human rights."
Mr. Blake was advocating these norms to a nation that battled a vicious terrorist movement for twenty six years defeating it with utmost difficulty when some of the Western nations including the United States pushed Sri Lanka to open dialogues and settlements with a vicious terrorist movement, something the U.S. never compromised in the process of dealing with terrorism.
He in fact was lifting the United States to the level of 'paragon of virtue' in making these advocacies.
In doing so, he reminded Sri Lanka the US$2 billion assistance the U.S. provided since this South Asian nation's independence in 1948, an amount the U.S. provides for Egypt for one single year, and that his country was the main trading partner for Sri Lankan produce and goods.
Mr. Blake's this line of advocacy and thinking is closer to holding a nation captive under the United States clutches.
Following is the full text of Mr. Blake's statement to coincide with the press conference in Colombo at the end of his two-day visit.
(Begin Text) Great to be back in Sri Lanka. I have had a wide-ranging and productive series of meetings with political leaders, business community leaders and members of civil society. Before I go further, let me take the opportunity to welcome the arrival of our new Ambassador Michele Sison. She only arrived last week, but comes ready to serve the United States as one of our most experienced career diplomats and experts in South Asian affairs. I know Sri Lankans will extend her the same warm welcome and hospitality you extended me throughout my stay in Sri Lanka.
The United States has had a long and productive partnership with Sri Lanka. We have provided over $2 billion in assistance and have an important economic relationship – the United States is the largest single export destination for Sri Lankan goods. And we have a strong partnership in counterterrorism and maritime security. We have also worked closely together on issues such as demining and support for the IDPs.
I had positive meetings with the Minister of External Affairs Peiris, Minister de Silva, Minister Samarasinghe, Secretary to the President Weeratunga, Defense Secretary Rajapaksa, leaders of the TNA, and civil society.
I discussed in all our meetings the need for accelerated progress to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and the National Action Plan. I emphasized the importance of progress in reducing the role and profile of the military in the North, and full respect for human rights.
On issues of accountability, it is our hope that three years after the end of the conflict, there can be a credible and transparent accounting, investigation and prosecution of some of the outstanding and serious allegations of human rights violations, as well as progress on the missing. I also urged that the Northern Provincial Council elections be held as soon as possible and encouraged an early resumption of talks between the TNA and the government to agree on powers to be devolved to the provinces.
On the economic front, I am pleased that the American Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a trade fair to celebrate its 20th anniversary. I met with members of the AmCham at a lunch earlier today to discuss both the opportunities in sectors such as tourism and information technology, and the challenges that need to be overcome for Sri Lanka to attract greater investment.
On a related note of partnership, I wanted to pay special recognition to the fact that the U.S.-Sri Lankan Fulbright Commission is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. Thanks to this program, nearly 650 Sri Lankan students have gone to the United States, while Sri Lanka has hosted over 380 Americans as researchers, teachers, and students.
This powerful legacy has touched generations in both of our countries and made both of our societies stronger as a result. We are so pleased to be continuing this important bilateral cooperation and I also wanted to thank and commend Fulbright executive director Tissa Jayatilaka for his leadership of the Fulbright Commission for more than two decades.
Our hope remains that all Sri Lankans will be able to enjoy the same rights and dignity, and share a democratic, secure, and prosperous future. (End Text)
- Asian Tribune -