U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for South and Southeast Asia Dr. Amy Searight concluded her three-day visit to Sri Lanka December 17-19. During her visit, DASD Searight examined the future role Sri Lankan security forces could play in humanitarian assistance, responding to natural disasters, and increased participation in overseas peacekeeping operations.
DASD Searight met with Defence Secretary Engineer Karunasena Hettiarachchi as well as Foreign Secretary Chitranganee Wagiswara to discuss the Sri Lankan government’s efforts on security sector reform, as well as training and vetting personnel for United Nations peacekeeping operations. DASD Searight paid office calls upon the Chief Defence Staff, and the respective Tri-Service Commanders, to stress the need for land returns, reconciliation and a credible transitional justice mechanism, and to discuss future security requirements. She had dinner with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Dr. Harsha De Silva; the State Minister of Defence, Mr. Ruwan Wijewardene; and the Deputy Minister of State Enterprise Development, Mr. Eran Wickramaratne.
DASD Searight placed a priority on meeting with human rights activists and emphasized the “key role civil society plays in informing military policy and defense relationships.” She raised their concerns about accountability and reconciliation efforts in discussions with senior military leaders. In discussions with the NGOs involved in de-mining, DASD Searight discussed ongoing demining work in northern and eastern Sri Lanka and reaffirmed “the United States is committed to addressing the land mine problem in Sri Lanka,” which since 1993 has received U.S. assistance worth 6 billion rupees ($43 million). She concluded her visit by travelling to the Institute for Peace Support Operations Training – Sri Lanka, where forces are trained prior to joining UN peace-keeping missions.