Image: Chinese influence in Sri Lanka could be seen even on signboards!
- US President signed coronavirus relief Bill which also provides some foreign aid
- SL one of 31 countries to benefit under Act, but funding comes with conditions
- In addition to standing up to China, US wants more transparency and accountability in governance
- Investigation of human rights violations, upholding rights and freedoms among other conditions
- Maintaining a functioning office of missing persons, restructuring the armed forces for a peacetime role also proposed
Sri Lanka (SL) could be a beneficiary of US funding under the coronavirus relief and spending package bill which US President Donald Trump signed into law yesterday, if the country asserts its sovereignty against influence by China and increases transparency and accountability in governance.
SL is one of 31 countries for which assistance may be obligated or expended under the new US law, but US assistance is conditional.
The Bill states that funds appropriated under this Act shall be made available as assistance for SL for democracy and economic development programs, particularly in areas recovering from ethnic and religious conflict, provided that such funds shall be made available for programs to assist in the identification and resolution of cases of missing persons.
It adds that funds appropriated by the Act for assistance for the Central Government of SL may be made available only if the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Committee on Appropriations and is conditional to the Government taking several measures.
These include effective and consistent steps to respect and uphold the rights and freedoms of the people of SL regardless of ethnicity and religious belief, including investigating violations of human rights and holding perpetrators of such violations accountable.
The other conditions include promotion of reconciliation between ethnic and religious groups, particularly arising from past conflict in Sri Lanka, by addressing land confiscation and ownership issues, resolving cases of missing persons, maintaining a functioning office of missing persons, reducing the presence of the armed forces in former conflict zones and restructuring the armed forces for a peacetime role that contributes to post-conflict reconciliation and regional security.
The US also wants the repealing or amending of laws on arrest and detention by security forces to comply with international standards and investigating allegations of arbitrary arrest and torture and supporting a credible justice mechanism.
The Act says that these limitations will not apply to funds made available for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; to protect human rights, locate and identify missing persons and assist victims of torture and trauma; promote justice, accountability, and reconciliation; to enhance maritime security and domain awareness; to promote fiscal transparency and sovereignty and for international military education and training.
“Of the funds appropriated by this Act and prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations and related programs under the heading ‘Foreign Military Financing Program’, up to $ 15,000,000 may be made available for assistance for Sri Lanka for the refurbishing of a high endurance cutter,” the US Act says. (CK)