US Congress wants an end to extra judicial killings in Lanka

35 Congressmen write to President Bush urging stepped up efforts

By Sonali Samarasinghe

President George Bush has been urged in writing by 35 US Congressmen to step up US efforts in Sri Lanka to end the extra judicial killings in government controlled areas and promote strong human rights protection for civilians.

The Congressmen have also called on President Bush to enhance Treasury Department efforts to disrupt LTTE financing and work towards a strengthened mandate for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to engage in human rights field monitoring.

The letter to Bush dated June 29 was initiated by Congressmen Rush Holt and David Price and came after a week of lobbying and representations by Investment Promotion Minister G.L. Peiris in Washington to go soft on Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

Peiris told US authorities it would be a tragic error to withhold pecuniary resources from Sri Lanka because that will create conditions in which extremism and terrorism would thrive. Washington sources said the initiative of the Congressmen was a clear signal they did not buy into the case made by Peiris.

The Congressmen comprising the Sri Lankan caucus were to write to President Bush following Peiris’s visit and were to state that they condemn actions on both sides (government and LTTE) that have endangered and imperiled civilian populations.

The letter was signed by Congressmen Price (North Carolina),Holt, Lantos, Wexler, Crowley, Frank, Shays, Lee, Bordallo, Schakowsky, Lofgren, Hinchey, Moran, DeLauro, Courtney, Sutton, Stark, Higgins, Fattah, Davis (Illinois), Sherman, Hastings, Capuano, Cummings, Payne, Ruppersberger, Kildee, Markey, Baldwin, Honda, Tiberi, Moore (Wisconsin), Ackerman, Wu and Pallone.

The Congressmen had in their letter told the President they were writing to once again urge him to increase US efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Sri Lanka.

They have also pointed out that since December 2005 renewed hostilities between the government and the LTTE have caused ‘monumental suffering to Sri Lankan civilians, including widespread human rights abuses by both sides, over one thousand civilian deaths and disappearances and displacement of an estimated 290,000 civilians.’

The Congressmen have further said there is a pressing need for a more concerted effort by the international community to bring both sides back to the negotiating table. They also refer to the report of the International Crisis Group (ICG), which refer to the international response to Sri Lanka’s human rights problems as being disjointed, lackluster and tardy.

The Congressmen add that the ICG has recommended a series of actions the international community should take to help resolve the conflict and stop the widespread abuse of human rights and urges the US to serve as leader of such a renewed international effort.

“Several of us previously urged you to increase US diplomatic engagement and high-level political contact in Sri Lanka to work toward achieving a lasting peace. We continue to believe that such a step is imperative”, the Congressmen also wrote to Bush. []

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