US says tracking situation ‘very closely’ after Sri Lanka President Sirisena dissolves Parliament

WASHINGTON, Nov 10: The United States Saturday said it was tracking the situation “very closely” after Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena dissolved Parliament, with the White House voicing concern over the island nation’s external debt situation.
Sirisena Friday dissolved Parliament and announced snap polls on January 5 after it became evident that he did not have enough support in the House for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed by him under controversial circumstances.
“We’re certainly tracking the situation very closely in Sri Lanka,” a senior US administration official told foreign reporters in a conference call ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Asia Pacific region.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was responding to a question on the latest development in Sri Lanka.
He expressed concern over Colombo’s external debt situation.
“We are of course quite troubled by the dynamic that predated the current political situation in which you had significant increase in debt that was taken on by the previous government there in the name of development assistance,” the official said.
Without naming any specific project, he said the commercial liability of many of those projects appears to be questionable.
The US is “watching” the current situation in Sri Lanka and is “studying it very closely”, he said.
Earlier, the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department said in a tweet, “The US is deeply concerned by news that the Sri Lanka Parliament will be dissolved, further deepening the political crisis.”
“As a committed partner of Sri Lanka, we believe democratic institutions and processes need to be respected to ensure stability and prosperity,” it said.
The senior US administration official said, “I would say speaking about countries generally, not just the country we’re talking about, generally speaking one of the key tenants of President (Donald) Trump’s free and open Indo-Pacific concept and our Indo-Pacific Strategy is to protect the sovereignty of countries all across the region.”
“The idea of sovereignty and that sovereignty resides with the people of countries; people have the right to know what kinds of agreements their governments are making with foreign countries and foreign creditors,” he said.
According to the official, the many initiatives and concrete steps that are going to be announced over the next week by the US Vice President are “in real sense, ultimately about preserving the independence and sovereignty and the freedom for countries to be themselves without being subject to interference by ambitious regional powers”. (PTI)