Sri Lanka assures it would push political solution

May 21st, 2009 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo/New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) With the end of a decades-long insurgency led by the Tamil Tigers, India and Sri Lanka Thursday agreed that the time was “opportune” to focus attention on relief, the resettlement of over 200,00 displaced civilians and finding a lasting political solution that addresses aspirations of Tamils in the island country.
“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 a statement in New Delhi.

The statement came after National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon returned from their two-day visit to Cololmbo Thursday. The issue of an urgent re-settlement of civilians, estimated by the UN to be around 265,000, who are presently living in trying conditions in refugee camps figured prominently in discussions India’s special envoys had with President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

They also met senior officials, including presidential adviser Basil Rajapaksa, Lalith Weeratunga, secretary to president and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. They also interacted with various political parties in Sri Lanka.

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

The Sri Lankan government 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 it will proceed with implementation of the 13th amendment that provides for devolution of powers to the Tamil areas within the framework of a united Sri Lanka.

Colombo 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”.

A day after the quarter-century long insurgency came to an end in Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa Tuesday struck a note of reconciliation in his nationally televised address to parliament. “At this victorious moment, it is necessary for us to state with great responsibility that we do not accept a military solution as the final solution,” said the president. “It is necessary that we give these people (the Tamils) the freedoms that are the right of people in all others parts of our country.”

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