Trump Shouldn't Reward Sri Lanka's Sirisena

The incoming administration of Donald Trump continues to contact a host of world leaders. On December 1, Vice President-elect Mike Pence reached out to Norway, Armenia and Mongolia, among others.

Let's take a look at the readout of his call with Maithripala Sirisena, Sri Lanka's president:

"The President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena thanked Vice President-elect Pence for his commitment to strong relations between the two nations and to government reform. Vice President-elect Pence shared his gratitude for the desire to work together and complimented President Sirisena for the work he has done to heal Sri Lanka and unite the country following civil war."

Sirisena's office has provided a slightly different take on the call and notes that "Vice President-elect Mr. Mike Pence informed President Sirisena that they will work towards arranging a visit by President Sirisena to Washington DC for a meeting with President-elect Mr. Donald Trump."

Inviting Sirisena to Washington would be both unwarranted and unwise. Frankly, over the past two years, the U.S. has been supportive enough. The incoming administration could easily maintain bilateral ties without being too effusive about it. Besides, a U.S.-Sri Lanka Partnership Dialogue is due to be held next year in Colombo.

The conventional wisdom says that Trump will deprioritize human rights and democracy promotion abroad. If American foreign policy were to move decisively in that direction, then we'd be unlikely to see many constructive efforts from Washington at the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, a multilateral venue which has highlighted Sri Lanka's human rights record and conflict-related matters in recent times.

The deemphasis of rights issues is precisely what Colombo would probably like to see. Sirisena had already reached out to Trump with the hope that America's next president will help Sri Lanka avoid further scrutiny over abuses allegedly committed during the nation's civil war. Trump should repudiate Sirisena's efforts to whitewash past crimes and hold off on inviting him to the White House.