Ambassador responds to U.S. lawmakers’ call to ensure Sri Lankan government protects rights of citizens

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Responding to a call by ten U.S. lawmakers to the Department of State to ensure the Sri Lankan government protects the rights of citizens, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United States Mahinda Samarasinghe asserted that democratic and peaceful protests will not be stifled.

Expressing concern over the unprecedented and disastrous economic crisis and anti-government protests, ten members of U.S. Congress have written to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power, calling on them to provide additional support to Sri Lanka and to ensure the rights of protesters.

“We urge the State Department to continue to use all diplomatic means available to ensure the Sri Lankan government protects the right of suffering citizens to peacefully protest and does not utilize violence against peaceful demonstrators and journalists,” the lawmakers wrote.

Ambassador Samarasinghe addressing the U.S. lawmakers’ concerns asserted that democratic and peaceful protests and protestors will be respected and will not be stifled.

“Their voice will be heard through new measures to consult the people’s views and promote a culture of participatory governance,” he assured.

However, the Ambassador stressed that Sri Lankan State does not condone acts of violence, destruction of public and private property by acts of arson or vandalism, obstruction of normal civilian life and governmental function nor other lawless acts.

“These, you will agree, do not fall under the broad rubric of peaceful protests nor of democratic dissent,” the Ambassador noted.

The U.S. lawmakers urged the Administration to continue to support the Sri Lankan government and people as they work to implement democratic and economic reforms.

“We urge USAID to take immediate action to provide additional relief to the Sri Lankan people, including increased food, medical, and fuel aid,” said the group of Congress members.

Expressing gratitude to the support provided by the United States to Sri Lanka to overcome the challenges the country ids facing, Ambassador Samarasinghe apprised the Congresspersons of recent developments in diverse fields that address some issues and concerns mentioned in their communication.

He informed that Sri Lanka’s Parliament will debate an interim budget on August 30 through September 02 that will enable the process of economic recovery while maintaining essential supplies and services that support a return to normal civic life.

He asserted that while economic stabilization is a priority, efforts to uphold democratic values, the rule of law, promote and protect human rights and foster reconciliation continue undiminished.

The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution presented to Parliament is expected to transfer significant powers from the Presidency to a parliamentary body – the Constitutional Council – which is a body representative of the legislature and civil society, the Ambassador explained.

The Sri Lankan envoy said Sri Lanka hope to work closely with USAID in delivering relief to the Sri Lankan people and look forward to welcoming Ambassador Samantha Power to Sri Lanka when she makes a short visit to Sri Lanka next month.

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