With US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Sri Lanka scheduled for this week, there remains a strong possibility that the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact will be on the agenda for discussion, despite authorities remaining coy about the subject.
US Secretary Mike Pompeo
When contacted by The Sunday Morning, US Embassy in Sri Lanka Spokesperson Nancy VanHorn said that a wide range of topics would be discussed at the meeting.
When queried specifically as to whether the MCC compact is on the agenda, VanHorn, who did not deny the possibility of discussing the MCC agreement, reiterated her earlier statement.
“A wide range of topics will be discussed and economic ties between the two governments will indeed be a key topic,” she said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardena, when asked by The Sunday Morning on 16 October whether the MCC compact would be discussed with Pompeo, said that it was a friendly visit and many topics could be touched on.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardena
“We don’t know yet, but obviously they will raise matters important to them. What matters to us, we will have to express. But it is a very friendly visit,” he said.
Meanwhile, during a media briefing held with Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Assistant Secretary David R. Stilwell and Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Dean R. Thompson on US Secretary Pompeo’s travel to India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Indonesia in Washington last week, Thompson said Pompeo will meet with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Foreign Minister Gunawardena to emphasise the US commitment to a strong, independent, and democratic Sri Lanka.
“We want to partner with Sri Lanka on our shared goals of sustainable economic development and a free and open Indo-Pacific. In the interest of strengthening our longstanding partnership with Sri Lanka and reinforcing our long-term commitment to the region, we encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices. We urge Sri Lanka to make difficult but necessary decisions to secure its economic independence for long-term prosperity, and we stand ready to partner with Sri Lanka for its economic development and growth,” Thompson stated.
It was also noted that the US would urge Sri Lanka to uphold democracy and human rights.
“The Secretary will also emphasise the ties between our people, our shared commitment to democracy, and the importance of our ongoing regional maritime security co-operation. We’ll continue to urge Sri Lanka to advance democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, religious freedom, and justice, which promote the country’s long-term stability and prosperity and ensure the dignity and equality of all Sri Lanka’s diverse communities.”
In answering a question, Secretary Thompson noted that the US closely watches the developments in Sri Lanka on these fronts, and the US Secretary will, of course, be raising issues related to human rights, reconciliation, and our common commitment to democracy.
“Our partnership with Sri Lanka goes back a long way through a lot of different eras, and right now, we think they’re at a point to make some choices about where they head,” he noted. “We’ll be discussing where they’re headed and looking for ways to strengthen their commitment to human rights rule of law and democracy.”