Just last week, the Channel 4 video Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields was screened at the US Congressional Auditorium in Washington DC. This week, just days after the Clinton visit to New Delhi and Chennai, the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the US capital adopted a resolution to ban aid to Sri Lanka. It was moved by Congressman Howard Berman, a key player in President Barrack Obama’s Democratic Party. On Thursday, the Committee passed H.R (House Resolution) 2583, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. This legislation cuts spending, mandates reform, and enhances U.S. security. The final decision on the amended bill has to be approved by further negotiations between the Senate and the Congress and therefore is not final US legislation.
Here is the full text of Congressman Berman’s amendment:
“Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2012
At the appropriate place in the bill, insert the following:
SEC – LIMITATION ON FOREIGN ASSISTANCE TO SRI LANKA
(1) IN GENERAL – Except as provided in paragraph (2), none of the funds made available to carry out this Act may be used to provide assistance to Sri Lanka unless a certification described in subsection (b) is in effect.
(2) EXCEPTION – The limitation on funds under paragraph (1) shall not apply with respect to democracy and governance assistance, humanitarian assistance, and assistance for demining activities.
(B) CERTIFICATION – A certification described in this subsection is a certification submitted by the Secretary of State to the appropriate congressional committee that contains a determination of the Secretary of State that the Government of Sri Lanka is making demonstrable progress in the following areas:
(1) Accountability for those involved in violations of human rights and war crimes at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in May 2009, including by any remaining members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
(2) Reconciliation, including -
(A) the establishment of a mechanism to account for events that occurred at the end of the civil war;
(B) information from the government on what happened to those missing at the end of the civil war; and
(C) expeditious release of those remaining in detention.
(3) Withdrawal of emergency regulations
(4) An improved climate for freedom of the press throughout the country.
(5) (C ) WAIVER – The Secretary of State may waive the limitation on funds under subsection (a) on a case-by-case basis if the Secretary determines that it is in the national interest of the United States to do so.”
Another resolution before the US Congress calls for an independent international investigation into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. It is now being canvassed for by a Republican (Michael G. Grimm) and Democrat (Rush Holt). Titled “Stand up for Human Rights in Sri Lanka and Co-sponsor H. Res. (House Resolution) 177, a letter signed by the duo states:
“As supporters of human rights and a peaceful existence among the people of Sri Lanka, we have introduced H Res 177, expressing support for internal rebuilding, resettlement, and reconciliation, in order to ensure a lasting peace in this nation. It is estimated that between 7,000 and 40,000 civilians were killed on both sides of the seven year war between the Tamil separatists (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2009. In addition, the shutting out of journalists and humanitarian groups during the conflict has made frank exposition of alleged war crimes extremely difficult.
“Although the Government of Sri Lanka has established a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to analyse the breakdown of 2002 ceasefire, this commission has faced strong accusations from the international community of pro-government bias and the lack of a serious intent to investigate reports of human rights violations. As such, this resolution, H.Res 177, urges the establishment of an independent international investigatory authority for the purpose of ensuring accountability for both sides of the conflict and to allow for genuine reconciliation.
“An almost identical resolution has unanimously passed the Senate of this Congress, and we hope you will join us in expressing the House’s support for this important cause……”
ST Political Column