US urges respect for human rights in Sri Lanka

April 15, 2010 (AFP) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Sri Lanka to respect human rights and heal its communal divisions as the island emerges from decades of ethnic bloodshed. In a message marking Sri Lanka’s New Year and released by the US embassy in Colombo on Thursday, Clinton said the government defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels nearly a year ago had paved the way for a new era.

“This is an opportunity for Sri Lankans of all backgrounds, living inside and outside the country, to renew their bonds and work together to build a prosperous, democratic nation defined by tolerance and respect for human rights,” Clinton said.

“The United States is eager to support you in this journey and to build even stronger ties of friendship,” she added.

Sri Lanka had accused the United States of supporting the opposition in January’s presidential ballot which saw Mahinda Rajapakse elected for a second term.

Washington denied the charge but relations have remained strained.

The United States has withheld military training for Sri Lankan security personnel since accusing Colombo of rights abuses in the final stages of the offensive against the Tamil Tigers.