Sri Lanka discussed widely at State Department press conference
Sri Lanka was discussed widely at the US State Department daily press conference held yesterday.
Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino was asked about the situation in Sri Lanka and also about reports that China had funded crossovers.
QUESTION: Right. I want to start on something that I don’t usually start on here, Sri Lanka. What is your understanding of the situation with the prime minister and the government there? Do you consider the former prime minister to still be the legitimate prime minister? And if you do or if you don’t, do you believe that his ouster was an unconstitutional change in government, which would require – which would be a coup, which would require U.S. action?
MR PALLADINO: Yeah. What we would say that we believe – the United States believes the determination should be made in accordance with the Sri Lankan law and due process. But to step back from that, we are following developments in Sri Lanka with concern, and we are – we urge all sides to respect due process. We call on the president, in consultation with the speaker, to reconvene parliament immediately and allow the democratically-elected representatives of Sri Lanka to fulfill their responsibility to affirm who will lead their government.
We expect the Government of Sri Lanka to uphold its commitment to human rights, rule of law, reform, accountability, justice, and reconciliation regardless of who occupies that leadership position.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Your first answer there – the determination will be made by them? You mean the determination of whether this is a coup or not? What determination?
MR PALLADINO: Leadership in Sri Lanka. We call for it to be made in determination with Sri Lankan law and due process.
QUESTION: But it’s your responsibility – the U.S. government’s law – that says that you have to – I realize the previous administration found a crazy way around this in Egypt. But if you determine – and you should make that determination – whether the government was changed unconstitutionally, there should be some kind of consequence legally.
MR PALLADINO: We call on the president of Sri Lanka, again, to reconvene his parliament and to allow the democratically elected representatives of the Sri Lankan people to fulfill their responsibility in accordance with Sri Lankan law and due process to determine the leadership of their government. And I have no further information on this subject.
QUESTION: So in other words, you have not made a determination one way or another?
MR PALLADINO: We call – this determination needs to be made in accordance with due process and Sri Lankan law. That’s the United States’ position.
QUESTION: I’m not talking about the determination of who leads the country. I’m talking about the U.S. determination on whether what happened was an unconstitutional change in democratically elected government.
MR PALLADINO: We’re following it closely with concern, and I’ll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? Can we have a follow-up on it?
MR PALLADINO: AFP. And I don’t have much more than this. I’m sorry, Shaun, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Sure. On the role of China, at least one member of parliament in Sri Lanka has accused Beijing of contributing to the ouster of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. Does the United States believe in that assessment, and what has the U.S. role been in dealing with the two sides there?
MR PALLADINO: I would just say that we would call on all sides to respect the law and due process and refrain from intimidation and leave it at that.
QUESTION: Okay, can I just have another?
MR PALLADINO: Okay, one follow-up.
MR PALLADINO: Last one.
QUESTION: Yeah. So there are thousands have rallied for the sacked prime minister, and the Chinese ambassador was the first one who went and congratulated the incoming prime minister. And do you have information about this, chances or – of violence, and have you – your embassy, your consulates – have you increased your security? Are you looking – what are you looking for the security for the – because of the violence that is expected? And there is already a little bit of violence going on.
MR PALLADINO: Yeah, I don’t have anything specific for you on that today. I don’t, all right.
QUESTION: It is correct, though, Robert, that you are concerned, and you talked about it in Latin America before, creeping Chinese influence all over the place. This is a case where you have a similar situation, or at least allegations of a similar situation. What is the embassy in Colombo doing? I would point out that this is yet another place where there’s a current crisis going on that you talk about from the podium in which the United States does not have an ambassador.
MR PALLADINO: Yeah, we’ve got our Charge, Robert Hilton, as currently in charge. And our ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives last week was sworn in and arrives tomorrow. So as of tomorrow we will have an ambassador at the helm.
QUESTION: Okay. But what’s the embassy’s involvement, which is the main part of it?
MR PALLADINO: They’re engaged on this issue. We continue to follow it extremely closely, and we’re concerned. I’ll stop there. Let’s —
QUESTION: Well, Robert, can I just ask if there have been any calls by senior State Department officials to try to —
MR PALLADINO: Nothing to announce today on that, no.
QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up?
MR PALLADINO: Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: You never imagined so many questions about Sri Lanka.
QUESTION: Well, actually this is not about Sri Lanka.
MR PALLADINO: Okay.
MR PALLADINO: I have nothing to announce today.