By: Mohnish Singh
The US is keen to see the ongoing talks between the Sri Lankan government and the minority Tamil leaders produce “real results”, a top official from the Biden administration said here on Wednesday.
US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who arrived on a one-day visit to Sri Lanka last night, called on Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and also met the representatives of Tamil political parties on Wednesday.
“I felt in general that these minority leaders were glad that they were in consultations with the government,” she said.
The Tamil leaders and the government have been engaged in talks since December last year.
Nuland said the US was eager to see that those consultations produce “real results” for people on the ground.
“We obviously encouraged that dialogue to continue and for the minority group to work together to offer concrete solutions that will meet the needs of their community so that talks could become a little more concrete,” she said.
President Wickremesinghe has underlined the need to fully implement the India-backed 13th Amendment to the Constitution to grant political autonomy to the minority Tamils in the country.
Last week, he offered the full implementation of the 13th Amendment as a solution to the long-standing demand for political autonomy by the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.
The 13A provides for the devolution of power to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. India has been pressing Sri Lanka to implement the 13A which was brought in after the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement of 1987.
Wickremesinghe, who took over as the president last year amidst the unprecedented economic crisis and political turmoil, said last month that as the head of the nation, it was his duty to implement the prevailing laws.
“As the president, I am duty bound to implement the prevailing law of the country,” he said at an all-party meeting on January 27.
Stating that the 13A would be fully implemented on the same basis as it was already a part of the country’s Constitution, he said: “If not, Parliament must take steps to abolish the 13A”.
Wickremesinghe is expected to make a statement on this next week following his all-party talks.
On Sri Lanka’s much-awaited IMF bailout package, Nuland said: “all eyes are on China to do what the IMF wants”.
“As the largest bilateral creditor of Sri Lanka, we expect that China will provide credible and specific assurances regarding its readiness to join the rest of us in meeting IMF standards regarding debt restructuring,” she said.
Nuland said the US would release a further USD 30 million in assistance to Sri Lanka towards food security in the ongoing economic crisis.
This is in addition to the USD 240 million worth of assistance already extended since last year.
“We want to see an IMF agreement as quickly as possible, that is what Sri Lanka deserves and needs. The US is prepared to do our part, our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part, India has made strong commitments that it will provide credible assurances that the IMF is looking for, what China has offered so far is not enough,” Nuland said.
India’s finance ministry last month issued a letter to the IMF to confirm its support to Sri Lanka on the issue of debt restructuring.
Sri Lanka is eagerly waiting for the USD 2.9 billion facility from the global tender which has been stalled by the slow nature of debt restructuring negotiations.