US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Richard Boucher on Thursday conveyed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, America's "deep concern" over increasing human rights violations and threats to press freedom in Sri Lanka, while assuring him American help to fight LTTE terrorism.
Addressing the media after talks with a cross section of the Sri Lankan polity, both in Colombo and Jaffna, Boucher said that the US Secretary of State and he were frequently discussing the "deteriorating" Sri Lankan situation. The two had "lots of concerns" about the rights situation and the ill effects of the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement on the island's economy.
"While the number of abductions has come down in Colombo, it is increasing in Jaffna, where people now fear for their lives," the ranking US official said.
He had asked the Lankan government to crack down on the Tamil para-militaries aligned with the Security Forces. He noted with satisfaction that the government had given some guidelines to the police and the forces on arrest and detention.
On the intimidation of media editors, Boucher said that the US would raise its voice against these as it gave a lot of importance to press freedom.
Boucher said that he was happy that the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) had submitted its proposal for devolution of power to solve the ethnic problem. But he pointed out that a national consensus was necessary to ensure that the Tamil minority got "a place in Sri Lanka where they could run their own affairs."
But Boucher emphasised that there was no love lost between the US and LTTE, which he dubbed as a bunch of terrorists who recruited children for war. The US was helping Sri Lanka militarily and also destroying the financial networks of the LTTE overseas, he said.
On sanctions against Sri Lanka to make it conform to human rights standards, Boucher said that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US private sector initiative, had decided to postpone projects in Sri Lanka in view of the unfavourable security situation. But other humanitarian projects would continue, he assured.
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