U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher said the United States is a friend of Sri Lanka and its people. Mr. Boucher was in Sri Lanka to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meeting.
At a press conference in Colombo, Mr. Boucher said the U.S. supports Sri Lanka in the war on terrorism. "We understand that people need to be able to go about their lives safely, free from fear of bombings on busses or [in] shopping malls or attacks in the streets," he said. The U.S. has designated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, as a terrorist organization. The U.S. is working with Sri Lankan authorities to interdict arms and supplies to terrorist groups.
Assistant Secretary Boucher said the U.S. wants to support the extension of democracy to all of the people of Sri Lanka. To this end, U.S. urges Sri Lankan authorities respect the human rights of all citizens. There should be an immediate end to disappearances, abductions, and illegal detentions. Paramilitary forces should be demobilized and the despicable practice of using child soldiers should be stopped at once. The government should take action to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for human rights violations.
Since the Tamil Tiger insurgency in Sri Lanka began in 1983, more than sixty thousand people have died and about one-million others have been displaced. During 2007, the U.S. provided some fifty-million dollars in humanitarian aid to the displaced. Assistant Secretary Boucher said the U.S. is now working in eastern Sri Lankan on some of the needs of the people in areas that have recently been opened up to humanitarian aid organizations. The U.S. is also working to promote agriculture and investment in the parts of the east that have had elections and are trying to develop politically and economically.
To help Sri Lanka recover from the devastating December 2004 earthquake and tsunami, the U.S. has given almost one-hundred-thirty-five million dollars in assistance.
The U.S., said Mr. Boucher, stand with the people of Sri Lanka, including "opening up a political future for everyone on the island."