U.S. officials said Tuesday it will take time for Sri Lanka to achieve reconciliation following the country's 26-year civil war, but that the new government in Colombo is making made positive steps in that direction.
Two senior American diplomats — Nisha Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, and Tom Malinowski, an assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor - met in the Sri Lankan capital Tuesday with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
Their two-day visit to the island nation follows U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's brief talks in Sri Lanka three months ago. The two countries have been making efforts to improve their relations, which were chilly during former President Mahinda Rajapaska's time in power in Colombo.
Since Rajapaksa left office, Biswal said, "we have seen not only this enduring commitment to democracy, but also just a tremendous momentum of progress toward institutions of good governance, toward combating corruption and toward promoting reconciliation."
Samaraweera said Tuesday's meetings included discussions of steps the government is taking to bring the country back together and strengthen the rule of law. Sri Lanka's civil war, which pitted government forces against rebels seeking independence for the nation's Tamil minority, killed up to 100,000 people, according to widely accepted estimates.
A United Nations report estimated at least 40,000 people died during the final months of the war in early 2009, and that most of those casualties were on the Tamil side. The U.N. Human Rights Council is due to release a report next month on possible war crimes committed during the war.
Malinowski said elections in Sri Lanka, including this year's vote that pushed Rajapaska from power, have been an important message from the Sri Lankan people that they back changes in the country.
"Twice now, they have voted — north, south, east and west — for the rule of law, against impunity, for reconciliation, for building this country, developing this country for everyone, and against the politics of ethnic and religious division, against extremism on both sides," the U.S. diplomat said.