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US Praises Sri Lanka "Anti-Terror" Work as Biswal Meets Tamils & Ambo

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 30 -- In the US State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 submitted to the US Congress today, the section on Sri Lanka makes no mention of the war crimes and human rights issues others in the State Department say are so important.

   Instead, the report praises Sri Lanka programs with Australia, Canada and the European Union, as well as with US Homeland Security:

"in 2013 the Sri Lankan government was a proactive partner with the U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security, Defense, and Energy on securing its maritime border. The U.S. Coast Guard, under the Department of State’s Export Control and Related Border Security program, continued to train Sri Lankan Coast Guard and Navy personnel on border and export control matters, and the government of Sri Lanka continued to cooperate with U.S. Customs and Border Protection through the Container Security Initiative.

"Border security remained a significant issue for the Sri Lankan Government in 2013. In 2013, the U.S. State Department trained 25 Sri Lankan immigration officials on fraudulent document recognition, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) trained 40 immigration officers in techniques to improve border surveillance and combat human trafficking. IOM also continued to work with the Australian government to provide specialized training to Sri Lankan immigration personnel on profiling, identification of violators, and arrests and prosecutions, among other border control-related training.

"Beginning in late 2012, the Sri Lankan government began partnering with the Canadian Counterterrorism Program on two border security related projects: the Interpol Database system, used to store and share profiling information in real time, and the Lost and Stolen Passport program, which addresses the large-scale border control issues the Sri Lankan government faces.

"Also in 2013, the Sri Lankan government collaborated with the EU Immigration Department on the Advanced Passenger Information system, which transmits passenger information to Government of Sri Lanka immigration officials upon arrival."

  The report comes a day after Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal attended a reception in honor of Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S. Jaliya Wickramasuriya -- and met before that, behind closed doors, with Tamil Diaspora groups.

  The US anti-terror report does not mention for example the increase in rapes of Tamils in Sri Lanka, on which Inner City Press has been asking at the UN, story here.

  In Washington amid talk of accountability in Syria, on January 28 lobbyists for Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa government were making a pitch on Capitol Hill, in advance of the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

  Registered foreign agents Thompson Advisory Group invited members of Congress and staffers to hear President Mahinda Rajapaska's chief of staff or Permanent Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal at an hour and a half lunch in the Members' Dining Room on January 28.

  Former Congressman from Oklahoma Ernest Istook helped them make the (impunity) pitch, along with another government video, "Sri Lanka: Rebuilding and Reconciling," narrated by a former CNN anchor, Gene Randall. Inner City Press obtained (or intercepted) the pitch and is putting it online here.

  At the US State Department's briefing on January 27, spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked about the visit, and said she'd venture to send something around after the briefing:

MS. PSAKI: You had one on Sri Lanka?

QUESTION: I do, yeah. Apparently, there’s a delegation in town today, and they’re – one of the things I believe they’re talking about is a potential U.S. plan to sponsor a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council this March. I believe it has something to do with concerns about calls for an international inquiry into allegations of war crimes during their civil war. And so I’m wondering if the U.S. is planning some kind of resolution, and if the U.S. does support an inquiry for war crimes.

MS. PSAKI: I believe – I know I’ve seen that report. Let me see if I have anything on that in particular. And if not, I’m happy to get you all something on where we stand after the briefing....Unfortunately, I don’t have anything new on that here, but let us venture to send something all around to all of you.

  Inner City Press asked; a polite interim response was received. But as of 7 pm on January 27, no real answer. This comes after US Ambassador on international justice Charles Rapp visited Sri Lanka and faced government organized protests.

  At the UN, now-gone US Ambassador for reform and management Joe Torsella worked behind the scenes on the outrage of Sri Lankan military figure Shavendra Silva being accept by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous as an advisory on peacekeeping operations. Torsella is now gone, his replacement not yet in place.

  Inner City Press has submitted to the State Department a Freedom of Information Act request about the Administration's Atrocities Prevention Board -- expedited processing was denied, but responses and disclosures should be coming, surely, some day. Watch this site.


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