On Friday night, the Channel 4 video was screened in Capitol Visitors Centre, Congressional Auditorium in Washington DC, for members of the United States Congress. The Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International-USA, the International Crisis Group, and Open Society Foundations were responsible for organising this event.
U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, gave the introductory remarks before the film screening. After the film, panellists discussed ongoing efforts “to further accountability in Sri Lanka, including the findings of the recent U.N. Panel of Experts report on war crimes in Sri Lanka, and the U.S. response to these developments.”
Friday’s event, there is little doubt, was an indictment on the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington DC. Despite millions of dollars being paid to a US-based public relations firm both for promoting Sri Lanka as well as writing speeches, very little appears to have been done. Just two weeks ago, this PR firm’s campaign material spoke of how the Sri Lanka Ambassador, Jaliya Wickremasuriya, was the first to get in touch with US Congressmen — in other words an unprecedented feat not performed by his predecessors. This is anything but factual. Senior External Affairs Ministry officials are of the view that the Embassy’s focus had shifted considerably from addressing US establishments to those of the Sri Lankan expatriate community in that country.
The question raised in the External Affairs Ministry is how the government was losing the support of so many Congressmen who were one-time supporters of Sri Lanka. One of them is Congressman Robert Aderholt, the current Republican Co Chair of the House Sri Lanka Caucus, who had visited Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami. Republican Frank Wolfe, a conservative who was very anti-LTTE and backed US military assistance to Sri Lanka is another. A host of Republicans, Joe Pitts, Shelley Berkely, Sue Myrick, John Costello, Scott Garrett, Ileana Rois-Lehtinen, Bill Young, Jim Moran, Dana Rohbacher and others have supported Sri Lanka at one time or the other and now turned against.