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Sri Lanka IDPs Are Waiting

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Nearly 3 months have passed since fighting ended in Sri Lanka between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam insurgents. After 26 years of conflict, hopes were high that violence and hatred would at last give way to reconciliation, justice, and economic development for all to share. But for some 300,000 ethnic Tamils displaced by the fighting, hope is giving way to frustration.

Many internally displaced persons, or IDPs, continue to be held in government-run camps in northern Sri Lanka. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake says that some progress has been made. About 10,000 have been allowed to leave the camps and approximately 75,000 others are to be released this month. "But most are not allowed to leave," he said, "and it's important for them to have this freedom of movement."

Assistant Secretary Blake and U.S. Chargé d'Affaires in Sri Lanka James Moore recently met with 16 representatives of U.S.-based organizations representing members of the Tamil diaspora to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka and prospects for political reconciliation.

Assistant Secretary Blake and Chargé Moore said more needs to be done to ease camp congestion, register IDPs and expand the access of humanitarian organizations. To help Sri Lanka recover following the crisis, the United States has provided approximately $56 million in humanitarian assistance in 2009.

Assistant Secretary Blake and Chargé Moore underscored the importance of political reconciliation. The United States has stressed to the government of Sri Lanka that to achieve a lasting peace, it must promote justice and political reconciliation for all parties, dialogue with all parties -- including Tamils inside and outside the country -- on sharing power, and improving protection of human rights.

Assistant Secretary Blake and Chargé Moore recommended that the government of Sri Lanka and the American Tamil diaspora community seek opportunities to engage one another on political reconciliation and the reconstruction of Sri Lanka. The United States will do its part to support that engagement.