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Political reconciliation in Sri Lanka and freedom of movement of its Internally Displaced Persons, or IDPs, is of vital importance to that country's future, said Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake.
Assistant Secretary Blake met in Washington, D.C., October 9 with 16 representatives of the Sri Lankan community in the United States from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds to discuss the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka and prospects for political reconciliation there. The Assistant Secretary welcomed the opportunity to listen to the concerns and perspectives of Sri Lankan-Americans and to share the steps the United States is taking to help address the humanitarian crisis and promote national reconciliation.
He reviewed the long friendship between the U.S. and Sri Lanka, noting that the United States has provided over $56 million in humanitarian assistance in 2009, including $6.6 million in demining assistance. While the Government of Sri Lanka has made some progress in easing camp congestion, registering IDP's, and expanding access by humanitarian organizations, said Assistant Secretary Blake, much remains to be done. He emphasized in particular the importance of the government allowing freedom of movement for IDP's.
Assistant Secretary Blake noted that to achieve lasting peace, the Sri Lankan government must promote justice and political reconciliation for all parties and dialogue with all parties, including Tamils inside and outside Sri Lanka, on new mechanisms for devolving power. The Sri Lankan government must also seek to improve human rights and accountability.
Assistant Secretary Blake urged Sri Lankan Americans to "seek opportunities to channel their resources and expertise toward supporting national reconciliation and the reconstruction of Sri Lanka."
Overcoming decades of hatred, violent conflict, and underdevelopment, will be a long and difficult challenge for Sri Lanka. It will require much vision, courage, tolerance, and wisdom from the Sri Lankan people and their leaders. But going forward, they can count on the steadfast support of the United States.