As the US government engages in the complicated process of approving its budget for Financial Year 2018, we are told that the Trump administration had requested US$ 3.4 million in foreign assistance for Sri Lanka. Readers could be forgiven if they thought it was a typo in the news reports they read. But it was confirmed in Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells’s statement to the US House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on Sept. 7.
US Senate and House Sub-committees have both opposed the 92% slash in funding, with the Senate Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Appropriations recently approving a sum of US$35 million under the ‘Economic Support Fund,’ according to reports. But this amount, modest as it is, comes with hefty conditions attached that would have implications for Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence, since it is conditional on laws being repealed or changed, demands as to how Sri Lanka’s military shall be deployed, decisions on the military’s restructuring and its size etc. It further links the assistance to ‘supporting a credible justice mechanism in compliance with UNHRC Resolution (A/HCR/30/ L.29) of October, 2015’ (which incorporates all of the above and more).
The latter condition was also central to Wells’s testimony before the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee when she said “We (meaning the governments of the US and Sri Lanka) “are working together to fulfil the steps to which our nations agreed in a resolution 30/1 at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015.” Wells links the assistance to constitutional reform, devolution of power, repeal of the PTA and other specifics contained in Resolution 30/1 such as the Office of Missing Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and prosecutions for alleged war crimes. Such is the tall order that (it would appear) is expected in order to receive the grand sum of US$3.4 million in assistance in 2018.