Addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities, as well as finding a lasting political solution, is essential for long-term development in the wake of the end of the long-running conflict between Sri Lankan troops and separatist rebels, according to a joint statement issued by the Government of the South Asian nation and the United Nations.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at the invitation of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, wrapped up his visit – during which he met with top officials and others, visited camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and flew over the former conflict zone – to the country yesterday.
Addressing reporters yesterday, Mr. Ban characterized his visit to the IDP sites at Manik Farm as “very sobering.”
His mission to Sri Lanka sought to promote progress in three key areas: immediate humanitarian relief reintegration and reconstruction and an equitable political solution.
In the joint statement also issued yesterday, Mr. Rajapaksa and Mr. Ban agreed that following last week's end of military operations against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the country has entered a new post-conflict phase and faces many obstacles relating to relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation.
“While addressing these critical issues, it was agreed that the new situation offered opportunities for long-term development of the North and for re-establishing democratic institutions and electoral politics after 2 ½ decades,” it said, noting that the Government has committed to empower the people of the north, where fighting raged, both economically and politically.
Further, the two leaders agreed that all communities' grievances must be addressed and efforts made to promote a sustainable political solution to ensure long-term development, with Mr. Rajapaksa expressing his determination to commence a broader dialogue with all parties, including Tamil ones.
“The Government should undertake certain confidence-building measures to clearly and unmistakably signal its good intentions in addressing root causes of Tamil and Muslim grievances,” Mr. Ban told reporters yesterday.
During his two-day visit to Sri Lanka, he discussed with the President how the UN will aid the Government's continuing efforts to address future challenges and opportunities.
According to the statement, the world body will continue providing humanitarian assistance to the IDPs in Vavuniya and Jaffna, while the Sri Lankan Government will continue helping relief agencies and endeavour to allow IDPs to resume their normal lives as quickly as possible.
“The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement by the Government expressing its intention to dismantle the welfare villages at the earliest as outlined in the Plan to resettle the bulk of IDPs and call for its early implementation,” it noted.
Mr. Ban also called on the international community to fund the Common Humanitarian Action Plan, or CHAP, launched by the Sri Lankan Government and the UN, which seeks to meet the needs of those uprooted by the clashes.
The large number of former child soldiers forcibly recruited by the LTTE was recognized by both the President and Secretary-General as an important issue, with Mr. Rajapaksa underscoring his firm zero tolerance policy and child-friendly procedures having been set up for their release and rehabilitation in centres, in cooperation with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
“Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in keeping with international human rights standards and Sri Lanka's international obligations,” the statement said.
“The Secretary General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law,” it added. “The Government will take measures to address those grievances.”