Sunday, May 24, 2009

UN Urges Sri Lanka Reconciliation Talks After Victory

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Sri Lanka to start a process of reconciliation and dialogue after a military offensive ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in the South Asian nation.

Sri Lanka should undertake confidence-building measures to “clearly and unmistakably” signal its intentions in addressing the root causes of Tamil grievances, Ban said after his two-day visit to the country ended yesterday, in a statement on the UN Web site.

“The long conflict is over,” Ban said. “Now is the time to heal -- for all Sri Lankans to unite for a just and lasting peace. We must seize this opportunity.” History could repeat itself if issues of “reconciliation and social inclusion” aren’t dealt with, Ban said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa said his government will implement a power-sharing plan for the north based on a 1987 constitutional amendment that arose from a peace accord with India. The plan will establish a provincial council to assume some of the central government’s role.

The UN says Sri Lanka’s government lacks resources to look after some 300,000 people displaced by the conflict.

“There is a wide gap between what is needed and what is available,” Ban said. “The UN and other international humanitarian agencies need immediate and unimpeded access to the camps” to help Sri Lanka meet urgent needs, Ban said in the statement.


Sri Lanka will allow access to aid agencies once “some aspects of security” have been completed, Rajapaksa said in a statement on the Defense Ministry’s Web site. The government has to be assured there are no “infiltrators” from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam among the refugees, he said.

Ban urged the government to expedite screening and registration of the refugees, make it easier for families to reunite and to allow people more freedom of movement.

Rajapaksa last week declared victory in Sri Lanka’s 26- year-old battle with the LTTE after the army defeated the last of the rebels, who had been confined to a sliver of territory in the northeast. The Tigers fought for a separate Tamil homeland in the country’s north and east and at their peak controlled a quarter of the nation’s territory.