Since the end of its almost 30-year civil war, Sri Lanka has struggled to achieve justice and reconciliation and hold on to the traditions of democracy and tolerance. With its recent elections, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, Sri Lanka has a chance now to achieve justice, reconciliation, and lasting peace.
This process, said Assistant Secretary Malinowski, will require acknowledging the suffering of the innocent and accounting for the wrongdoing of the guilty on all sides of Sri Lanka’s civil war. The country’s next steps towards reconciliation will be challenging: returning land to civilians that was seized by the army; accounting for thousands of missing Tamil prisoners; and establishing domestic mechanisms to provide justice to victims and hold accountable those responsible for atrocities during the war.
The United States’ hope is that Sri Lanka will stay the course and continue to build the more democratic, inclusive and open society that its people so clearly desire.
During a recent visit to Sri Lanka, Assistant Secretary Malinowski stressed the importance of women in the reconciliation process. Sri Lanka “needs the perspectives, talents, and skills of its women to enlarge the scope of conversations about peace and reconciliation.” Experience has shown that a country becomes truly strong not by spending on its military but by investing in and empowering its women.
The vast majority of Sri Lankans want to live in a united and democratic country, not divided between victors and vanquished or separated by ethnicity or religion. As Assistant Secretary Malinowski observed, “Whatever their religion or ethnic group, the vast majority of Sri Lankans feel they would benefit from a government that is more accountable and transparent, with less impunity and corruption.”
The Sri Lankan people and their new government have taken a great leap already to reclaim a transparent and democratic government; it is the United States’ hope that they will stay on that course.
The world needs Sri Lanka to keep showing that a society historically divided by ethnicity and faith can find peace through democracy, dialogue, and reconciliation. The United States and the international community stand ready to support Sri Lanka’s journey toward a lasting peace.