Tamil Diplomat

There are still “real challenges” in Sri Lanka: Kerry

The US today offered to immediately engage with the new Sri Lankan government to address issues of human rights and inclusivity but cautioned that there are still “real challenges” in the country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned President Maithripala Sirisena late Sunday to say the US now hoped to strengthen its ties with Colombo.

Kerry spoke with Rajapakse just “days ago,” he told a press conference, to highlight “the importance of maintaining a peaceful process no matter what”.

“So it is good that the people of Sri Lanka have been able to have an election that has been accepted and which has resulted in a peaceful change of power,” he told reporters in Gandhinagar, western India.

But the top US diplomat cautioned: “There are still real challenges in Sri Lanka.”

“We offered immediately to engage in a dialogue to begin to work at guaranteeing that the problems with respect to human rights, the problems of inclusivity, challenges with respect to governance are going to be addressed.”

There was however “hope that we can now forge a different outcome in Sri Lanka. The election hopefully will become a demarcation point for a new moment, a new chapter, a new set of opportunities for the people of Sri Lanka.”

Kerry had earlier voiced appreciation for Rajapakse’s early concession of election defeat, although a Sirisena aide has since said the former president tried to hold onto power by staging a coup.

Kerry is in India ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama, who will be guest of honour at the country’s January 26 Republic Day celebrations, AFP reported.