At a recent meeting of members of Sri Lanka's business community, U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Robert Blake said 3 themes go to the heart of U.S. policy toward Sri Lanka –- post-conflict reconciliation requires a political solution and improvement in human rights for all; new directions in U.S. partnership with Sri Lanka; and how the U.S. and Sri Lanka can weather the current financial crisis.
More than 25 years of conflict between the insurgent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, and the Sri Lankan government has cost the lives of some 70,000 people. Ambassador Blake noted that there are some in Sri Lanka who argue either that there is no need for a political solution in Sri Lanka or that such a solution can await the end of the conflict.
The U.S. position has remained constant throughout the conflict, said Mr. Blake. Tamil Tiger terrorism cannot be tolerated and the rights of all Sri Lankans can best be protected through a political solution that meets aspirations of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese.
"One important way forward is for Sri Lanka to complete the work of the All Parties Representative Committee, which has reached agreement on 90 percent of a blueprint for constitutional reform that most Sri Lankans believe offers great promise," said Ambassador Blake. Improving human rights conditions is also important to achieving a political solution and reconciliation between all of Sri Lanka's communities.
For its part, the U.S. is committed to helping Sri Lanka. Over the past 50 years, the United States has provided more than $2 billion worth of assistance to the people of Sri Lanka. Thus far in 2008, the U.S. has donated $32 million in food and commodity assistance to those affected by fighting in the north. Over the next 4 years, the U.S. will focus on fostering regional governance and development – areas that are crucial to long-term development prospects.
The current world financial crisis poses a challenge to Sri Lankan trade and economic development. Sri Lankans should resist pressures to erect trade barriers or to slight international agreements that facilitate international free trade. The U.S. and Sri Lanka can and must continue to work together to meet present challenges to secure a better future.