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Lanka to probe claims Rajapaksa government tried to pay US lawmakers

Colombo (PTI): Sri Lanka’s new government will probe claims that the previous Rajapaksa regime attempted to pay off US Congressmen to win their support over the country’s human rights issues, parliament was told on Wednesday.

Marxist Janatha Viumukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake questioned the new Maithripala Sirisena government over collection of funds during Mahinda Rajapkasa regime through institutions based in the US to pay off Congressmen to back Sri Lanka on the human rights issue at the UNHRC.

Responding to the question, Deputy Foreign Minister Ajith Perera said according to the documents in the hands of his ministry, funds had been collected but it was not clear if the money was given to the Congressmen or if they had taken the money and not done what was expected of them.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe later intervened and said that such raising of funds to pay off the Congressmen was a violation of US laws. Wickremesinghe said if institutions based in the US had paid Congressmen then under US law the Congressmen need to declare for what the money was accepted.

He said he will instruct Foreign Minister Managal Samaraweera to launch a probe into the allegations. The previous Rajapaksa government had hired American public relations firms to win over US policymakers on human rights accusations against Sri Lanka after the US government moved three successive resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council since 2012.

The new government, which took over following Rajapaksa’s defeat in January 8 polls, has however cancelled the contracts with US firms, as Sri Lanka and the US are now working together to address the human rights concerns.

The last resolution in 2014 mandated an international investigation into human rights violations during the end of the conflict between the Sri Lankan government forces and the Tamil rebels. Sri Lanka’s new government has opted for a domestic mechanism to address allegations of human rights abuses during the final phase of the civil war against the LTTE.

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