US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed Sri Lanka’s new reformist government Saturday for making "enormous progress" since the departure of strongman Mahinda Rajapakse and for pursuing reconciliation with Tamils
US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed Sri Lanka's new reformist government Saturday for making "enormous progress" since the departure of strongman Mahinda Rajapakse and for pursuing reconciliation with Tamils after the island's devastating ethnic conflict.
As he met top officials including President Maithripala Sirisena, Kerry said he saw "extraordinary opportunities" opening up for bilateral ties and said Washington stood ready to help Colombo in any way it could.
"Today we have talked about the enormous progress Sri Lanka has made in just a few months," said Kerry as he appeared alongside Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
"I'm here today because I want to say to the people of Sri Lanka that in (this) journey to restore your democracy the American people will stand with you," added Kerry.
"There is progress on democratic institutions, progress on creating more accountable government, passage of (the) 19th amendment in which the president kept his promise to reduce powers of the presidency."
Since coming to power in January elections, Sirisena has begun delivering on his pledges to reduce some of the powers of the president, effectively reversing changes brought in by Rajapakse to tighten his grip.
Lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday in favor of restoring a two-term limit for the president and reviving independent bodies to manage key institutions such as the police and the judiciary.
Kerry also praised the new government for reaching out to the Tamil minority after the end of a 37-year ethnic conflict that claimed more than 100,000 lives.
"You are working on creating an enduring peace and you are working on providing prosperity for all of your people," he said.
Sirisena, who mopped up most of the votes among the Tamil minority in the polls, has vowed to pursue reconciliation efforts more vigorously than Rajapakse, who had a reputation as a hardline Sinhalese nationalist.
Samaraweera, who was on hand to welcome Kerry at Colombo airport, had equally warm words for his guest, the first US secretary of state to visit Colombo in a decade.