US following development in Sri Lanka, urges all parties to respect due process

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Sri Lankan PM Ranil Wickremesinghe easily overcomes no-faith vote A turmoil in Sri Lanka was developed following the sacking of its Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

The United States is following developments in Sri Lanka with concern after a political turmoil sparked by the sudden sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and urged all parties to respect the due process, a senior US State Department official has said. Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday sacked Wickremesinghe and appointed former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new prime minister, triggering political chaos in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Next day, he suspended Parliament after Wickremesinghe, who had termed his sacking as illegal and unconstitutional, sought an emergency session to prove his majority. The president also withdrew Wickremesinghe’s personal security and vehicles in order to accord them to his 72-year-old successor, who staged a dramatic political comeback.

“The United States continues to follow developments in Sri Lanka with concern and urges all sides to respect due process,” a State Department Spokesperson told PTI on Monday.

“We expect the government of Sri Lanka to uphold its commitments to human rights, rule of law, reform, accountability, justice, and reconciliation, regardless of who occupies leadership positions,” the spokesperson said.

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The President, in consultation with the Speaker, needs to reconvene parliament immediately and allow the democratically elected representatives of the Sri Lankan people to fulfil their responsibility to affirm who will lead their government, the spokesperson reiterated. Meanwhile, according to an expert, the political shake-up in the Indian Ocean island nation was a win for China, as it would give a second chance to China’s attempts to play a dominant role in the island’s politics and development which may serves as a significant impediment to the US’ efforts for greater engagement in the Indo-Pacific.

In the Foreign Policy magazine, Bharat Gopalaswamy from the Atlantic Council think-tank wrote that the political shake-up in this island nation was a win for China.

The resurgence of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the new Prime Minister, he wrote, means a second chance for China’s attempts to play a dominant role in the island nation’s politics and development. It would serves as a significant impediment to the US efforts for greater engagement in the Indo-Pacific, he wrote. Gopalaswamy said that Rajapaksa was Sri Lanka’s president from 2005 to 2015, during which he used heavy-handed tactics to end the country’s decades-long civil war, drawing accusations of war crimes, while encouraging large-scale Chinese investment to spur economic growth.

“During his tenure, the country undertook numerous loss-making projects financed and built by China, including the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port in Hambantota and the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport—dubbed as the ‘world’s emptiest airport’—both in the country’s south,” he said.

Gopalaswamy said Rajapaksa’s appointment illustrates the limitations of the US economic diplomacy and development finance policy in the Indo-Pacific.

“Despite recent reforms and rhetoric, the Trump administration has yet to find a realistic alternative to the sheer scale and availability of Chinese financing for infrastructure development in the Indian Ocean,” he said.

“Until the United States is both willing and able to engage with countries in the Indo-Pacific on an individual basis and to provide mutually beneficial development financing on a scale comparable to China’s, leaders pursuing rapid growth and infrastructure development will continue to turn to Beijing for opportunities, regardless of concerns about predatory or coercive lending behaviour,” he wrote in the Foreign Policy magazine.

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