Samantha Power, Director of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the National Security Council in the Obama administration, David Pressman, Director for war crimes atrocities and civilian protection of the US National Security Council, and Ms. Patricia A Butenis, Ambassador of the US in Sri Lanka, met with Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse on June 15.
Dr. Power won a Pulitzer for "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide," her book about America's response to genocide. In the book she argues that American foreign policy in this area has failed; we promised "never again" after the Holocaust but wilfully ignored genocides in Cambodia, Iraq, Bosnia, and Rwanda. She was a key player in starting the Save Darfur movement.
Dr. Power, an academic with expertise in genocide, has been conspicuously silent until now on foreign policy matters. Observers attribute the silence to her marriage and the onset of pregnancy during the critical period when mass slaughter is alleged to have taken place in Sri Lanka in early 2009.
However, a spokesperson for the US-based activist group Tamils Against Genocide (TAG) told TamilNet last month, “the visit of Samantha Power and Mr Pressman to Sri Lanka amidst increasing calls by international community for war crimes investigations in Sri Lanka is very significant.”
Dr. Power has been an outspoken critic of the western institutions and the past US Governments for inaction and empty rhetoric against rights violations and crimes amounting to genocide, crimes very similar to what Sri Lanka has allegedly committed against Tamil civilians, TAG said.
“Unlike politically motivated visits taken by UN Officials, this visit [by Dr. Power] should be seen as a serious development inside the US administration on its internal war-crimes investigations. Also, Tamil expatriates are waiting to see if Power lives by her words in Problem from Hell, or has herself succumbed to the force of political expediency.”
Dr. Power’s book, titled "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide” was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction, and the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in U.S. foreign policy.
The US Embassy in Colombo issued a short statement, titled “Senior White House Officials Visiting Sri Lanka.” It stated:
“Two senior foreign policy advisors to President Obama are visiting Sri Lanka from June 14-18. Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President on Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights and David Pressman, National Security Council Director for War Crimes and Atrocities, will meet with senior government officials and members of civil society in Colombo, Jaffna, and Batticaloa. The visit aims to continue last month’s productive dialogue between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, in which both leaders discussed Sri Lanka’s path through economic renewal, accountability, and reconciliation to greater peace, prosperity, and a stronger partnership with the United States.”
President Rajapakse’s office meanwhile claimed of the US officials meeting: “The meeting was cordial and friendly and both sides discussed matters of mutual interest.”