After military victory, Sri Lanka promises political solution (Lead)

May 21st, 2009 - 9:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo/New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) After decimating the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka assured India Thursday that it was committed to a political solution to overcome long-standing Tamil grievances in the country.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave the assurance to India’s National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who reached Colombo on a two-day visit Wednesday.

India and Sri Lanka agreed that the time had come to focus attention on relief and resettlement of over 200,000 civilians displaced by fighting in recent times and to find a lasting political solution that addresses Tamil cry for equality.

“Both sides agreed that with the end of military operations in Sri Lanka, the time was opportune to focus attention on issues of relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and re-conciliation including a permanent political solution in Sri Lanka,” India’s external affairs ministry said in New Delhi.

The issue of re-settlement of civilians, estimated by the UN to be around 265,000, figured prominently in the discussions the Indian special envoys had with President Rajapaksa.

They also met presidential adviser Basil Rajapaksa, secretary to the president Lalith Weeratunga and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They interacted with various political parties in Sri Lanka.

“Both sides emphasized the urgent need to resettle the IDPs (internally displaced persons) in their villages and towns of habitation and to provide to them necessary basic and civic infrastructure as well as means of livelihood to resume their normal lives at the earliest possible,” the ministry said.

Sri Lanka conveyed its intention to dismantle the relief camps at the earliest and outlined a 180-day plan to re-settle the bulk of IDPs to their original places of habitation.

India, on its part, pledged to “to provide all possible assistance in the implementation of such a plan in areas such as de-mining, provision of civil infrastructure and re-construction of houses.”

Rajapaksa underlined his resolve to find a lasting political settlement and indicated that Colombo will proceed with the implementation of the 13th amendment to the constitution that provides for devolution of powers to the provinces within a united Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa also indicated that his government intended to begin “a broader dialogue with all parties including the Tamil parties in the new circumstances for further enhancement of political arrangements to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka”.

The Sri Lankan military decimated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Monday by killing its entire leadership including its chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.

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