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Lasting Peace In Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan traditional dancers perform during the 59th national Independence Day celebrations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

It has been nearly two years since the end of the conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

It has been nearly two years since the end of the conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist militant organization. "Sri Lanka has made steady progress in normalizing life for its citizens and reconciling the differences that devastated parts of the island for so many years," said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, "but there is much that remains to be done."

The United States remains concerned over some developments that are shrinking democratic space and respect for human rights in Sri Lanka. The 18th Amendment passed last year weakens checks and balances and abolished term limits, giving unprecedented power to the executive presidency. Substantial parts of the emergency regulations remain in place and the north continues to be heavily militarized.

Media freedom in Sri Lanka remains constrained with continuing incidents against journalists and independent media such as the recent arson attack on Lank-e-news. A media environment in which journalists can work without intimidation or interference, and incidents against journalists are credibly investigated and prosecuted, is essential for the reconciliation process.

Finally, it is critical that allegations of injustices and abuses committed by both sides during the conflict in Sri Lanka are investigated. And those found responsible must be held to account.

The United States has not wavered in its support for the people of Sri Lanka, providing humanitarian and livelihood assistance as the country rebuilds. The U.S. has contributed sixty-two million dollars in food aid over the last two and a half years, eleven million dollars for demining efforts, in addition to programs to help create twenty-thousand jobs in the North and East.

"Economic prosperity and development are necessary but not sufficient conditions for lasting peace and healing in Sri Lanka," said Assistant Secretary Blake. "The lasting solution for peace needs to include not just economic opportunity, but a political climate in which every Sri Lankan feels he or she has an equal stake in the country's future and the ability to realize his or her potential in an open and just society."