US Secretary Mike Pompeo said that his meetings today with the Sri Lankan government’s leadership gave him ‘real hope’ that they will be able to close together on that shared vision. He was on a two day visit to the island nation.
Speaking to Ada Derana, US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo says that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement is one of many opportunities offered by the United States, and that it is ultimately up to Sri Lanka to choose whether to accept it.
Secretary Pompeo held bilateral talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena during the visit.
He stated that great democracies like the ones in Sri Lanka, and in the United States have a shared vision on how life ought to operate. “There ought to be sovereign nations and free people who get the chance to live the lives they want, and the US is here to share that message,” he said, speaking on his maiden visit to the island nation.
“The United States stands ready to do all that we can to recognise Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, but to make sure that the people of Sri Lanka understand that the US is a friend and a partner in a democracy with a shared vision for how the world ought to operate.”
Mr. Pompeo said that there are many opportunities and many things that can be done for both nations to enhance relations, such as American private businesses investing in Sri Lanka.
“Not only those who are here today investing more, but new opportunities in agricultural or renewable energy and technology, and lots of opportunities for the Sri Lankan people.”
However, he said that Sri Lanka also has to do its part and be welcoming. “Have the rule of law and transparency so that American investors will want to come and invest here.”
He said it will be good for American companies that will come here, and also will be really good for the Sri Lankan people. “There will be jobs and opportunities, and wealth creation, and all the things that democracies and the private sector can do in a way that authoritarian regimes simply can’t.”
Secretary Pompeo was also asked about the recent comments made by Assistant Secretary Dean Thompson urging Sri Lankan to make ‘difficult but necessary decisions’ to secure its economic independence for long term prosperity.
“I know precisely the things that Sri Lanka needs to do but more importantly the Sri Lankan people know, and the Sri Lankan leadership,” he said in response.
He said it is not about America imposing its vision on Sri Lanka, but quite the opposite. “It is Sri Lanka sharing with America the things we can do to make life better for the Sri Lankan people here.”
“Those are the choices we hope Sri Lanka’s government makes.”
He emphasized that when Sri Lanka does make those choices there will be opportunity, there will be good partnerships, not only with the United States but with the other democracies in the region.
Part of what prospectively looks like real opportunity and real sovereignty, he said. “Those are the things that will make life better for the Sri Lankan people, not a history where you have other countries show up and put huge debt on the country and impose huge burdens on the country.”
“And when they come here, they don’t show up with the private sector and don’t hire Sri Lankans. The democratic countries including the United States have a very different vision,” he said.
Asked whether the US will respect Sri Lanka’s wishes to remain a neutral country and not be entangled in a geopolitical power play, he stated that its about choices.
“Every country makes choices. The choices will be: do you want democracy and freedom?”
The Secretary of State said he is confident that the Sri Lankan government does want exactly that.
“When you choose those things, you end up with different kinds of partners. You end up with partners who respect Sri Lanka’s decision-making a sovereign entity, and when there needs to be security cooperation, we provided two coast guard cutters so the two can do good work on countering narcotics, and we show up here and ensure that the terror risk is reduced inside of Sri Lanka.”
He said these are the kind of things that democracies work on together. “We have a shared vision and a shared goal, and I am very confident that the Sri Lankan people will end up in a place that ends up with a very close and very dynamic, powerful partnership that benefits both of our two countries.”
Regarding the MCC agreement, he said that it’s one of many things that’s being proffered. “If it doesn’t make sense for Sri Lanka, then Sri Lankans will choose not to accept that.”
He said the relationships, the strengths, the depths, and complexity of the relationship between the two nations far exceeds any one transaction and one opportunity.
“There will be plenty. We will work closely on them alongside the Sri Lankan government.”
Asked about China and India’s increased role in Sri Lanka, and what the US has to offer, Mr Pompeo said that what America offers almost always is companies and private investment, partnerships and friendship.
“That’s how we roll in the United states. We won’t show up with state sponsored enterprises. We won’t show up with debt packages that a country can’t possibly repay.”
“We won’t attempt to use that debt to extort actions by the government,” he remarked.
He said that US wants what the Sri Lankan people want – a chance to thrive, a chance to have real opportunities, a chance to travel around the world, and make a better life for each of them and for their families.
“Those are two very different models. One is for democracy and freedom, the other is a tyrannical authoritarian model.”
He said they are convinced that the Sri Lankan people will make the right choices for themselves, and as that has been for a very long time.
During his visit, Secretary Pompeo also visited the Shrine of St. Anthony at Kochchikade in remembrance of the Easter Attacks and to show support for victims and their families.
He left for the Maldives after concluding his Sri Lanka visit on Wednesday (28).