Sri Lanka Tries To Dispel Shadow of War…

Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, has good reason to be pleased.

The Bank has achieved much in recent years. Inflation is coming down and is below 5%. Interest rates are lower too. Foreign exchange reserves have never been higher, and GDP growth has averaged between 7% and 8% over the last three years.

And yet foreign direct investment (FDI) lags. Last year the government had hoped for some $2bn (£1.2bn) in FDI. It got $1.3bn.

That is why Mr Cabraal is on a mission to market the country to international investors.

On a recent trip to London, accompanied by a delegation of officials and business representatives, he was prepared for questions on human rights to come up.

They nearly always do, but he played it down: “There are a few who have asked the question – but not all. And every time they have asked the question we have explained to them in detail what is taking place and they have been satisfied with our answers.”

Sri Lanka’s civil war between the northern Tamil Tigers and the government dragged on for 26 vicious years, ending five years ago this month.

In March the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes by all sides during the final months.

Sri Lanka has refused to allow any such investigation.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International insists that the government “continues its crackdown on dissent, which appears to be aimed at intimidating and punishing those who attempt to communicate concerns about human rights violations in Sri Lanka to the United Nations”.

I put the question again to Mr Cabraal. Is the issue of human rights a block on investment? Not at all, he replied. He has sold £6bn in Sri Lankan bonds to investors around the world, 70% of them from the US, the EU and the UK. The idea that they have been put off buying because of human rights issues is “entirely untrue”.