Economic dividends alone not enough to heal the wounds of war in Sri Lanka – US

Monday, 4 October 2010 08:57 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The future of Sri Lanka holds promise with the end of the war and the impressive economic progress but economic dividends will not by themselves heal the wounds of war and secure lasting peace and prosperity for Sri Lanka, a high ranking United States official says.

Addressing the World Affairs Council in San Diego Thursday on the U.S. policy in South Asia, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake, Jr. said a range of humanitarian, political, and other steps must be taken to ensure the Tamils of Sri Lanka a future of hope, opportunity, and dignity to reap the dividends of peace.

The former U. S. Ambassador to Colombo noted that the most of the nearly 300,000 displaced civilians have left the welfare camps and begun to reestablish their lives.

“It will now be important for the Government to work with the Tamil community to organise local and Provincial Council elections as soon as possible so that a new, freely elected indigenous leadership can emerge in the North for the first time in almost 30 years,” he pointed out.

To achieve lasting peace and true reconciliation Sri Lanka must investigate and ensure justice for the war crimes and serious violations of international humanitarian law that human rights and other groups allege occurred in the final stages of the conflict, the official urged.

He said the U.S. has welcomed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission established by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and hopes that it will probe violations of international humanitarian law, identify those responsible and make appropriate public recommendations.

“Having defeated one of the most murderous terrorist groups in the world, President Rajapaksa now has an historic opportunity to build a tolerant, multi-ethnic democracy in Sri Lanka that will bring lasting peace and unprecedented prosperity,” Assistant Secretary Blake observed.

Blake said he has a special attachment to Sri Lanka as he has served as Ambassador for three years from 2006 and witnessed the resumption and end of the conflict. Since the end of the war he has returned to the island several times and seen a renewed sense of purpose among the people, he said.

According to Assistant Secretary Blake, the U.S. has provided $89 million in food and other humanitarian aid for the internally displaced in Sri Lanka and additional assistance for demining so they can return to their villages and homes.

Another $25 million have been provided to catalyse new private sector partnerships and agricultural development to provide livelihood opportunities for the resettled people in the North.