Sri Lanka To Probe Claims Rajapaksa Govt Tried To Pay US Lawmakers

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, Deputy Foreign Minister Ajith P Perera told parliament today, media reports said.

Janatha Viumukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake questioned the 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. He further said that 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. He pointed out that if institutions based in the US had paid Congressmen, the Congressmen need to declare for what the money was accepted.

He said he will instruct Foreign Minister Mangala 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.
(with inputs from PTI)

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