July 23, Washington, D.C.: During her visit to India earlier this week, United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had “quite a long conversation about Sri Lanka” with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jeyaram Jayalalithaa, a senior State Department official said.
Addressing the media yesterday, Assistant Secretary for South Asia, Robert O. Blake, Jr., who accompanied Ms. Clinton, said the two agreed that there are concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka and expected to see greater progress towards reconciliation.
“This, of course, is of great interest to the Tamils in Tamil Nadu, and I think that was reflected in the interest that the Chief Minister showed,” Blake said.
Summarizing the stance of the US that Sri Lanka needs to investigate the alleged war crimes, the Assistant Secretary said the meeting comes in the context of a documentary broadcast by the Channel 4 television of Britain last month that got heavy attention around the world.
“And just to summarize our position on this, we believe that Sri Lanka must investigate the very troubling incidents that were reported in this documentary and in other documentaries and bring those that may be responsible for those to justice,” he said.
The two leaders have discussed the need for greater progress towards reconciliation and agreed that the Sri Lankan government should “redouble efforts to reach an agreement in their dialogue with the Tamil National Alliance on all of the key issues of concern to Tamils inside Sri Lanka.”
According to Blake, the primary issue is the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and an accounting of those who died at the end of the war and those who may still be in detention or in camps is much needed.
He said he had visited northern Sri Lanka a few months ago and mostly people are looking for answers on their loved ones. “So I think this accounting is very, very important,” Blake insisted.
The other major issue is to finish the resettlement process, he said, noting that the government has made very good progress on the resettlement and there are only about 12,000, 13,000 that still remain in the camps.
“They now have to finish the demining efforts. Were helping a lot in that regard, so that needs to happen,” he added.
In addition, the assistant Secretary said the Sri Lankan government needs to make some progress also on the human rights front and that includes ending the emergency regulations that have been in place for a long time, disarming some of the paramilitaries that continue to be responsible for human rights violations, and then more broadly just improving the overall human rights situation, particularly addressing the media freedom.