Despite pressuring Sri Lanka on issues of accountability and judicial independence, the United States promised yesterday to continue development assistance and initiate “access-to-justice” programmes.
USAID Asia Bureau’s Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Denise Rollins, who is in the country overseeing USAID funded initiatives, expressed that the US had voiced concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka however this did not impede them from contributing to Sri Lanka in a positive manner.
“We have voiced out concerns, however we don’t want to be seen as merely throwing stones at Sri Lanka we also want to contribute to Sri Lanka in a positive way. We have addressed the issue of the impeachment of the Chief Justice, but we are also interested in strengthening the legal system. Recently, USAID announced a US$4.5 million programme to support the Sri Lankan Government’s main policy objectives to promote social integration and economic development by focusing on access to justice,’ Ms. Rollins said. “An integral element of this goal is an efficient legal system that meets the needs of the people of this country. The programme will focus on technical assistance and training to judges and court administrators.”
When asked whether the US would withdraw from aid commitments in Sri Lanka if the government failed to satisfactorily address issues of accountability, Ms. Rollins said the political concerns would not translate into a withdrawal of aid, at the present time.
“The US will continue to put pressure on Sri Lanka and continue to raise the issues of concern. However this does not translate to pulling back on our assistance. I don’t see that political pressure will impact development aid, at this point. Our assistance focuses on the most vulnerable populations and we do not believe that they should suffer,” she said.
On the allegation that USAID’s ground level staff was involved in creating dissent among rural populations she said work done by USAID was self-evident. “Don’t believe everything you hear, we are very transparent and anyone is welcome to look at our assistance programmes. Our work speaks for itself,” Ms. Rollins said. (Dianne Silva)