US panel votes to bar aid to Sri Lanka

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2011 (AFP) – A US congressional committee voted Thursday to ban aid to Sri Lanka unless the nation shows “accountability” over the bloodshed in the final stages of its civil war in 2009. In a voice vote, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a measure that would ban all US government funding to Sri Lanka except for humanitarian aid, demining and activities to promote democracy and governance.

The measure — sponsored by Representative Howard Berman, the top member of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party on the panel — would only allow aid once the administration certifies progress by Sri Lanka on key concerns.

The concerns include “accountability for those involved in violations of human rights and war crimes at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war,” including members of the defeated rebel Tamil Tigers.

Other criteria include an improved climate for freedom of the press, an end to emergency regulations and information from the government on the fate of people unaccounted for at the end of the civil war.

The US Agency for International Development had requested close to $13 million for Sri Lanka in the 2010 fiscal year. While the House measure enjoyed broad sup