The United States said on Wednesday that it will deny visas to a provincial governor from Sri Lanka who had been accused of murdering people during the lengthy civil conflict on the island.
Wasantha Karannagoda was among those charged in a Sri Lankan probe of kidnapping affluent families' adolescent daughters and murdering them after demanding money.
He was appointed governor of North Western Province by then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who served as defense minister when Sri Lanka destroyed the Tamil Tiger insurgents in 2009. Authorities dismissed charges against him in 2021, provoking a protest from human rights organizations.
Karannagoda's critics, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, continue to make “serious and credible” claims, and neither the governor nor his wife will be permitted to go to 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 move on human rights comes as the major creditor of the island, China, is making advances into Sri Lanka, alarming both the United States and India.
Due to economic mismanagement that resulted in severe shortages of food, gasoline, and medicines, Sri Lanka this year went into default on its foreign debt, which sparked irate rallies that ultimately to Rajapaksa's overthrow.
According to a UN commission, the 37-year battle may have resulted in the deaths of 40,000 people. Government authorities deny any wrongdoing.