Japan under pressure over Sri Lanka aid

TOKYO, May 26, 2007 (AFP) – An international human rights group is lobbying Sri Lanka’s top donor Japan to exert greater pressure on the island nation to address spiralling violence. But Tokyo said it has no plans for now to slash aid and follow the lead of Sri Lanka’s former colonial ruler Britain and Germany, which have frozen debt relief due to rights concerns.

“It has dramatically worsened over the last year,” Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch said of Sri Lanka’s rights record, during a week-long mission to Tokyo for meeting with Japanese officials.

“I think in the month of March alone, 100,000 people were internally displaced.”

Japan is the single largest donor to Sri Lanka, providing 63 percent of the international aid to the island in 2003.

Japan also organised a 2003 meeting that raised pledges of 4.5 billion dollars to rebuild Sri Lanka amid hopes then that the country could end three decades of ethnic bloodletting.

“Japan is obviously playing a very prominent role,” Richardson said. “It’s a lead donor, it’s a coordinator of the donor consultation group.”

“What we have asked Japan to do is take advantage of this position and its considera