US uses aid weapon: Lanka may lose Rs. 1.4 billion

By Anthony David

Sri Lanka stands to lose 13 million dollars (Rs 1.4 billion) in development assistance from the United States if a ban on aid becomes law. Altogether US AID has sought US$ 55 million (Rs 6 billion) for aid programmes for the fiscal year 2012 (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012).

On Thursday, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee decided by a unanimous voice vote on such a ban if the government does not address “accountability issues”, ensures media freedom countrywide and withdraws emergency regulations. It followed an amendment moved to the Foreign Relations Authorisation Act 2012 moved by leading Democratic Congressman Howard Berman.

The amendment, however, will become law only after the US House of Representative and the Senate have talks on the Authorisation Act which apportions funds for the next fiscal year.

In the current fiscal year (October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011) US assistance in all categories amounts to about US $ 69 million (Rs 7.9 billion). Of that sum 18 million dollars (Rs. 1.7 billion) is for development assistance, a US Embassy official told the Sunday Times.

He said USAID development assistance included programmes that focus on:(1) Economic growth: for instance, public-private partnerships, and job training.

(2) Democracy and governance: increasing citizens’ engagement with regional and local governments, fostering inter-community reconciliation, promoting social equity, technical training and support to local government institutions, civil society organizations, community reconciliation groups, and journalists.

(3) Post-conflict stabilization: training and employment opportunities for at-risk youth, including former combatants, small-scale infrastructure, vocational training, the return of displaced persons, and community policing.

(4) Humanitarian assistance: food and non-food aid.

The other funds were to help with floods and the “complex emergency,” humanitarian aid which included emergency food; agriculture and food security; economic recovery and market systems; water, sanitation, and hygiene; logistics and relief commodities; shelter and settlements; IDP and refugee assistance and protection; and other programs.

Meanwhile the US believes that Sri Lanka must investigate the very troubling incidents reported in the Channel 4 documentary and in other documentaries and “bring those that may be responsible” to justice.

These remarks were made to reporters after a US delegation led by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who visited India and other countries returned to Washington yesterday.The Press Trust of India quoted Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake as saying that Secretary of State Clinton and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jeyaram Jayalalithaa had a long conversation over the current situation in Sri Lanka and felt the need for greater progress towards reconciliation there.

“They actually had quite a long conversation about Sri Lanka, and I think they both agreed that we have concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka," Mr Blake said.

"More broadly, the Secretary (of State) and (Chief) Minister Jayalalithaa talked about how there needs to be greater progress towards reconciliation and that really, the government should redouble efforts to reach an agreement in their dialogue with the Tamil National Alliance on all of the key issues of concern to Tamils inside Sri Lanka," Blake said.

"That includes issues like an accounting for those who died at the end of the war, those who may still be in detention or camps somewhere because I think that's probably the number one issue of concern to a lot of these IDPs," he said.

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