US asks Sri Lanka to turn page, reach out to Tamils

May 19th, 2009 - 10:49 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 19 (IANS) As Colombo declared victory against the Tamil Tiger rebels, the US asked Sri Lanka to turn the page on its past and engage Tamils to create a political arrangement that protects the rights of all its citizens

“This is an opportunity for Sri Lanka to turn the page on its past and build a Sri Lanka rooted in democracy, tolerance and respect for human rights,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters Monday.

“Now is the time for the government to engage the Tamils, Sinhalese and other Sri Lankans to create a political arrangement that promotes and protects the rights of all Sri Lankans,” he added.

Welcoming the end of fighting, Kelly said the US was relieved that the immense loss of life and killing of innocent civilians appears to be over.

Providing basic assistance and services to the estimated 280,000 people who fled the fighting in the northern part of the country and expediting their return to their homes should be a top priority for the government, he said.

Kelly said it was “too early really to comment” whether the US still opposed the International Monetary Fund giving Sri Lanka a $1.9 billion loan, seen as vital to helping it recover from the global financial crisis and rebuild after the war.

“Let me just limit myself to saying that the Secretary (of State Hillary Clinton) will be consulting with friends and allies on next steps,” he said.

Asked why the US was not congratulating Colombo for concluding a decisive military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Kelly said the US focus for now was on addressing the very urgent needs of the dispossessed, displaced Sri Lankan people.

“Our policy on the LTTE - the Tamil Tigers - has been very clear. We see them as a terrorist organization.”

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