John Kerry makes a 'carefully-worded' statement on Sri Lanka
Emphasizing the importance of implementing recommendations of Sri Lanka's own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and encouraging "to reverse recent negative developments on rule of law and human rights", the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry did not fail to recognize that Sri Lanka is in fact "on the path toward lasting peace and prosperity following decades of civil war and instability".
Mr. Kerry made this official statement following the vote at the UNHRC in Geneva on the U.S.-sponsored Resolution on Thursday, March 21.
Following is the full statement Mr. Kerry made:
(Begin Text) Today’s vote in the UN Human Rights Council encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to continue on the path toward lasting peace and prosperity following decades of civil war and instability. This resolution, which builds on a similar 2012 resolution, reaffirmed that Sri Lanka must take meaningful action on reconciliation and accountability in order to move forward. The United States, together with international partners, calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its public commitments to its own people on these longstanding issues.
While some important progress has been made, there is much work still to be done. We look to the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and to reverse recent negative developments on rule of law and human rights. The United States stands ready to assist with this vital work. I look forward to continuing our engagement with the Government of Sri Lanka and strengthening our friendship with the Sri Lankan people. (End Text)
The former U.S. Senator and Chairman of the Senate's most influential Foreign Affairs Committee is no stranger to Sri Lankan issues. He and Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Republican Senator Richard Lugar jointly issued a report on Sri Lanka in December 2009 in which it faulted the Clinton-Blake State Department's over-emphasis of humanitarian and political concern over Sri Lanka's strategic location in the Indian Ocean.
The report said:
"While the United States shares with the Indians and the Chinese a common interest in securing maritime trade routes through the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Government has invested relatively little in the economy or the security sector in Sri Lanka, instead focusing more on IDPs and civil society. As a result, Sri Lanka has grown politically and economically isolated from the West.
"This strategic drift will have consequences for U.S. interests in the region. Along with our legitimate humanitarian and political concerns, U.S. policymakers have tended to underestimate Sri Lanka's geostrategic importance for American interests. Sri Lanka is located at the nexus of crucial maritime trading routes in the Indian Ocean connecting Europe and the Middle East to China and the rest of Asia."
The crust of the Kerry-Lugar report was:
"The United States cannot afford to ``lose'' Sri Lanka. This does not mean changing the relationship overnight or ignoring the real concerns about Sri Lanka's political and humanitarian record. It does mean, however, considering a new approach that increases U.S. leverage vis-a-vis Sri Lanka by expanding the number of tools at our disposal. A more multifaceted U.S. strategy would capitalize on the economic, trade, and security aspects of the relationship. This approach in turn could catalyze much-needed political reforms that will ultimately help secure longer term U.S. strategic interests in the Indian Ocean. U.S. strategy should also invest in Sinhalese parts of the country, instead of just focusing aid on the Tamil- dominated North and East."
The Kerry Foreign relations committee report took a different view to that of Clinton-Blake platform when it said "Sri Lanka's strategic importance to the United States, China, and India is viewed by some as a key piece in a larger geopolitical dynamic, what has been referred to as a new ``Great Game.'' While all three countries share an interest in securing maritime trade routes, the United States has invested relatively few economic and security resources in Sri Lanka, preferring to focus instead on the political environment. Sri
Lanka's geostrategic importance to American interests has been neglected as a result."
And then this policy sentiment: "The United States needs to re-evaluate its relationship with Sri Lanka to reflect new political and economic realities. While humanitarian concerns remain important, U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka cannot be dominated by a single agenda. It is not effective at delivering real reform, and it shortchanges U.S. geostrategic interests in the region."
The report opined what the Clinton-Blake State Department never focused: "The United States does have influence in Sri Lanka. The challenge today is how to creatively leverage political and humanitarian reform with economic, trade, and security incentives so as to link an expanded partnership with better governance and a strengthened democracy. To be effective, the United States should better understand what is important to the Sri Lankan Government and people and retool its strategy accordingly."
It is in this context that Sri Lanka needs to look forward through the Secretary of State Kerry statement following the Geneva Vote and the policy planks he took in December 2009 on Sri Lanka in particular and the South Asian Region in general.
The great Latin American revolutionary and Cuba's most famous thinker Jose Marti in 1894 said: "Seeing afterwards is worthless. Foreseeing is what really counts...and being ready".
- Asian Tribune -