US to support new Sri Lanka government

US official pledges support for new Sri Lankan government's reform program

US to support new Sri Lanka government

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka

The United States will be softening its stance on Sri Lanka after January's change of government, a U.S. official said Monday. 

Visiting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. State Department Nisha Biswal promised support to new President Maithripala Sirisena’s 100-day reform pledge.

"The government’s 100-day program is ambitious and a lot of hard work has been put in already. But we recognize that there is a lot of work ahead and many challenges," said Biswal at a joint press conference in Colombo. 

"Sri Lanka can count on the United States to be a partner and a friend, whether it is on rebuilding the economy, on preventing corruption and advancing good governance, and ensuring human rights and democratic participation for all of its citizens," she said. 

Biswal, who arrived in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, on Sunday, was expected to raise the issue of urgent government action on a U.S. and UN-backed request into alleged human rights abuses committed during the final phases of the country's decades-long civil war in 2009. 

Sri Lankan security forces fought a bloody war against separatist Tamil Tigers rebels for nearly 27 years. An estimated 100,000 people died during the conflict, including 40,000 in the conflict's final phase.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said: "The assistant secretary and I have discussed a range of issues aimed at further strengthening our bilateral relations. We wish to work with a new level of cordiality."

Samaraweera is to undertake his first visit to Washington D.C. in 10 days to meet the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Earlier, Biswal met a handful of civil society activists at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo to "feel the pulse" regarding the course of action the U.S. should follow.

Washington consistently urged the previous regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa to improve its human rights record and improve post-war reconciliation efforts with the Tamil minority but Rajapaksa resisted all international calls, claiming they were conspiracies to undermine Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

Biswal is scheduled to meet with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to discuss further bilateral issues.

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