US Urges Sri Lanka’s New President to Reform Security, Uphold Human Rights

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The United States is urging Sri Lanka’s new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to uphold commitments to reform the security sector and to ensure human rights and accountability.

In a statement Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States “stands ready to work” with Rajapaksa and called Sri Lanka a “valuable partner.”

He said the United States wants to work with Sri Lanka in “deepening good governance and promoting justice, reconciliation and human rights.” He also said he wanted the two countries to cooperate in “fostering a free and open Indo-Pacific region where all countries can prosper.”

Rajapaksa was sworn in as president on Monday after winning a landslide victory with large support from the country’s majority Sinhalese Buddhist community.

In his inaugural address at the Ruwanwell Seya Buddhist Temple in the north-central region Monday, Rajapaksa urged the minority Tamil and Muslim communities who voted against him to work with him.

Both communities had expressed their concern during the presidential campaign about a victory for Rajapaksa, a hardline former defense official under his older brother, ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa, who is 70, oversaw the military defeat of the Tamil separatists 10 years ago.

The newly-installed president pledged in his address Monday that national security would be a major priority of his administration. Sri Lanka was rocked by the deadly Islamic State-inspired suicide bomb attacks on Easter that killed 269 people.

Rajapaksa’s opponent in Saturday’s vote was Sajith Premadasa, the 52-year-old son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa.

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