US sanctions Sri Lankan governor over civil war killings

The US is denying visas to Northwestern Province Governor and former Navy Chief Wasantha Karannagoda and his wife on human rights grounds.

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The United States says it will deny visas to a Sri Lankan provincial governor accused of killings during the island’s long civil war on human rights grounds.

A Sri Lankan investigation also accused Wasantha Karannagoda, a former naval chief, of abducting and killing teenage children from wealthy families after extorting money.

The charges were dropped by authorities in 2021, sparking outrage from human rights groups, and he was soon appointed governor of the North Western Province by then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who served as defense chief when Sri Lanka defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 .

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that “the allegation that Wasantha Karannagoda committed a gross human rights violation, documented by NGOs and independent investigation, is serious and credible.”

Neither the governor nor his wife, Srimathi Ashoka Karannagoda, would be allowed to visit the US, Blinken said in a statement.

“The United States reaffirms its commitment to upholding human rights, ending impunity for human rights abusers, acknowledging the suffering of victims and survivors and promoting accountability for perpetrators in Sri Lanka.

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The move on human rights grounds comes as the US and India are sounding the alarm over the intrusion into Sri Lanka by China, the island’s biggest creditor.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its external debt last year and saw furious protests that brought down Rajapaksa over economic mismanagement that caused acute shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

During the 26-year conflict, Tamil rebels fought for an independent homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east of Sri Lanka.

More than 100,000 people, including 40,000 civilians according to a United Nations panel, may have died in the conflict. Sri Lankan government officials deny abuses.