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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2646

Ten-Fold US aid for "American-leaning Sri Lanka government"

By Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune US National Correspondent
Washington, D.C. 14 May (Asiantribune.com):

Chairman of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee of the U.S. Congress Foreign Relations Committee Matt Salmon acknowledged at a hearing at Capitol Hill on May 11 that "Sri Lanka's new government has been counted as more American-leaning than the previous government", and that in 2017 US budget allocations "Sri Lanka has been given a ten-fold increase."

"Such an increase is toward bolstering democratic change and strengthening civil society organizations," Congressman Salmon told chairing the subcommittee at a testimony on FY2017 Budget Priorities for South Asia.
Testifying before the Asia-Pacific Congressional Subcommittee, State Department's assistant secretary for the region Nisha Desai Biswal thanking "the unity government led by a president and prime minister" declared that "Sri Lanka now has the opportunity to assume its rightful place as a leader in the international community, one that contributes to the global economy; promotes human rights, accountability, transitional justice, and democracy; and that helps to uphold international law."

Ms. Biswal underscored "Sri Lanka’s strategic position in the Indian Ocean" which "makes it a key player in regional efforts to ensure maritime security, protect freedom of navigation" while reminding that Sri Lanka possesses "natural ports and abundant resources."

She reminded the Congressional committee on Wednesday at the testimony that "US-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations are at an all-time high, and we are now working with Sri Lanka to implement the steps agreed to in the resolution we jointly sponsored at the UN Human Rights Council last year".

"With all of these factors in mind", she said "our FY 2017 budget request of $39.8million will support the government’s reforms to stimulate trade and investment, improve governance and human rights, and pursue reconciliation and accountability".

As much as assistant secretary Biswal highlighted that the American assistance was tied to many goals the U.S. envisaged such as accountability for what happened during the final stage of the battle between the GSL military and the Tamil Tiger fighting cadre, the assistant administrator for Asia at USAID Jonathan Stivers noted in his testimony on Wednesday that "U.S. support helps advance Sri Lanka’s reform, accountability and reconciliation agenda".
The USAID assistant director for Asia made a significant disclosure at this testimony that his agency's assistance is focused on strengthening Sri Lanka's parliament: "On democracy and governance, this is a new era for democratic institutions. Prominent among them is the Parliament, which is poised to play a greater role in policy making and government oversight" he said.

He insinuated the U.S. interest in 'limiting the powers of the executive" saying "The January 2015 presidential elections ushered in a new chapter in Sri Lanka’s history and offers an opportunity for a stronger partnership between our two nations. Sri Lankans went again to the polls in August 2015 to support a sweeping reform agenda that seeks to limit executive power, ensure greater freedom of expression, address corruption and begin the process of reconciliation and transitional justice after years of conflict".

The assistant director further said: "USAID also supports other key democratic institutions including the judiciary, the Election Commission and the Auditor General. This assistance supports strengthening the rule of law and access to justice consistent with Sri Lanka’s international human rights obligations, supports the continuation of credible elections, and helps take on corruption by improving transparency of public financial management systems. Further, the government has expanded space for civil society to participate in issues of accountability, rule of law, human rights and reconciliation — and we continue supporting local organizations to serve an important role in bolstering democracy and conflict resolution".

- Asian Tribune -

US Assistant Secretary for Asia Nisha Desai Biswal
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