A national holiday was declared in Sri Lanka this week to mark the end of fighting between government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that divided the island nation for 26 years. The victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa's government came at a high cost, however.
The United Nations estimates that between the end of January and mid-April, some 6,500 civilians have been killed and 14,000 injured. Nearly 300,000 Tamils who fled the war zone are living in or are in transit to crowded refugee camps.
To truly achieve peace after such a conflict, the government of Sri Lanka needs to begin to heal the nation's wounds and work toward justice and reconciliation for both sides. A lasting peace depends on Sinhalese, Tamils and other Sri Lankans working together to achieve new power sharing arrangements that safeguard all citizens' rights.
As Sri Lankans pull together, the United States remains deeply concerned for the welfare of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons uprooted by the fighting. It urges the government to allow humanitarian aid groups to have access to the camps and the former conflict zone and to work with international organizations such as the U.N, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and nongovernmental groups to insure that all internationally displaced persons are accorded rights and care that meet international standards.
The U.S. is prepared to work with the government there to provide for the basic needs of all of its citizens and abide by its commitment to return the majority of the displaced to their homes by the end of the year.