By: Chandrashekar Bhat
The United States said Wednesday (26) it would refuse visas on human rights grounds to a Sri Lankan provincial governor who had been charged with killings during the island’s long civil war.
A Sri Lankan investigation accused former navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda, among others, of abducting teenage children of wealthy families and killing them after extorting money.
Authorities in 2021 dropped charges, prompting an outcry from human rights groups, and he was soon named governor of North Western Province by then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who served as defence chief when Sri Lanka defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.
A UN panel has said 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the last stages of the 37-year conflict. Government officials deny abuses.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said allegations against Karannagoda remained “serious and credible” and that neither the governor nor his wife would be allowed to visit the US.
“The United States reaffirms its commitment to upholding human rights, ending impunity for human rights violators, acknowledging the suffering of victims and survivors and promoting accountability for perpetrators in Sri Lanka,” Blinken said in a statement.
The action on human rights comes as both the US and India voice alarm over inroads in Sri Lanka by China, the island’s biggest creditor.
Sri Lanka last year defaulted on its external debt and saw angry protests that toppled Rajapaksa over economic mismanagement that brought acute food, fuel and medicine shortages.