By Rathindra Kuruwita
Former Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage, yesterday, told American officials including Assistant Secretary to the US Department of State Thomas L. Vajda that the United States should not place too much emphasis on human rights and democracy when working in Sri Lanka. He said so at a roundtable discussion on the Indo-Pacific Region held at the Taj Samudra in Colombo.
“Sri Lanka is in a dangerous situation. We have never been in this kind of situation before. Our economic growth is slightly above that of Afghanistan. This is worse that during the 30 years we had the war; even during the war the economy grew, Colombage said, stressing the need for significant US engagement with Sri Lanka.
He added that the US placed emphasis on human rights and democracy when working with nations like Sri Lanka. However compared to the massive loss of life during the 30 year long conflict the human security of people had increased immediately.
“Before May 2009, we lost 250 lives per month on average. How many do we lose now? Democracy, what has it given to us? Short-termism, low risk taking, division and conflict between ethnicities and elite control. This is what democracy has given us,” Colombage said.
Responding, Assistant Secretary Vajda said,
“Colombage is not the first Sri Lankan to say this to me during my short visit to Sri Lanka.”
Colombage now works as Director of the Centre for Indo-Lanka Initiatives and Law of the Sea.
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz was also present at the discussion.