11/28/2022 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/28/2022 23:40
WASHINGTON - On Friday, Congressmen Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08) and Bill Johnson (OH-06) introduced a bipartisan resolution expressing the sense of the U.S. House of Representatives "in support of the peaceful democratic and economic aspirations of the people of Sri Lanka." In addressing these aspirations, the resolution first acknowledges the burden of the nation's more than 30 years of civil war, the 100,000 Sri Lankans who lost their lives or went missing during the ethnic conflict, and the failure of the country's governments since 2009 to ensure accountability for war crimes or to guarantee political rights or broad economic wellbeing of the Sri Lankan people. After a tenure which had already included withdrawing the nation from a United Nations accountability and reconciliation plan regarding the war, in August 2020, Human Rights Watch described President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's rule as ''a campaign of fear and intimidation against human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and others challenging government policy."
Even after this public scrutiny, the Rajapaksa Administration continued its policies of repression, as the nation defaulted on bond and loan payments in May 2022, leading to widespread peaceful protests which the government met with unjustified force, including tear gas and live fire. Even following the July 2022 resignation of President Rajapaksa and the Parliament of Sri Lanka's subsequent election of Ranil Wickremesinghe as President, crackdowns on protests and dissent continued through the weaponization of the nation's Prevention of Terrorism Act against peaceful political opponents, activists, journalists, and minorities
Congressman Krishnamoorthi's legislation responds to this legacy and recent developments by resolving that the U.S. House of Representatives urges the Sri Lankan government and security forces to respect the rights of all Sri Lankans, particularly minority peoples, to pursue a broad and peaceful consensus with all its people to pursue an inclusive, pluralistic vision of the nation's future. More specifically, it calls upon the Sri Lankan government to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, end land appropriations, and provide restitution for already appropriated lands. Finally, the resolution calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to recognize the thousands of civilians that were killed, forcibly disappeared, or missing in the final years of the civil war and implementing the accountability and reconciliation initiative it previously agreed to pursue in concert with the United Nations Human Rights Council.
"For more than forty years, the people of Sri Lanka have suffered the ongoing wounds of civil war, economic deprivation, and political repression," said Congressman Krishnamoorthi. "My resolution expresses the House of Representatives' support for the people of Sri Lanka in their continued pursuit of peace, democracy, prosperity, and accountability for the conflicts which have ravaged their country. Further, it reaffirms that the nation's government must recognize and defend the political and economic rights of all its people, including members of ethnic and religious communities whom previous regimes have deliberately targeted and oppressed."
"I'm proud to co-lead this resolution with Rep. Krishnamoorthi. As a co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka, I have long advocated for increasing civil and human rights for all ethnicities and religions in Sri Lanka who are being excluded from society, the economy, and political life through discrimination, harassment, and persecution," said Congressman Johnson. "I am hopeful that it encourages the Sri Lankan government to take positive, visible, and concrete actions to provide greater transparency, increased human rights, and accountability for past alleged war crimes and violations of human and civil rights."
"We appreciate the leadership of Congressman Krishnamoorthi and Congressman Johnson on this resolution, which is an important step in recognizing accountability for Sri Lanka's historic and ongoing human rights violations as a necessary component in moving the island past its current economic and political crises," People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) wrote in response to the legislation. "As emphasized throughout the resolution, in this critical moment, bilateral engagement between the United States and Sri Lanka must embrace solutions that meaningfully address the Tamil people's longstanding demands for justice, demilitarization, land returns, and a sustainable political solution."
The full text of the resolution is available here.