US looks for ways to support return of Sri Lanka’s displaced to original homes

Aug 11, Washington, DC: While declining to comment on the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa last month during which the issue of Sri Lanka’s displaced was discussed, the State Department said that it continues to look for ways to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons to their original homes.

“We continue to look for ways to support the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of all of Sri Lanka’s displaced persons to their homes and areas of origin,” the State Department said in response to a question taken at Wednesday’s Daily Press Briefing.

Secretary Clinton, who met the Chief Minister in Chennai last month, said she shares the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s concern over the plight of internally-displaced Sri Lankan Tamils living in camps and the United States is looking at some innovative and creative ideas to enable the Sri Lankan Tamils in camps to get back to their own homes.

According to the State Department, the United States has provided nearly $20 million to support the post-conflict humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka this fiscal year. That amount includes $4.9 million to the United Nations refugee agency in Sri Lanka, UNHCR for its efforts on behalf of the displaced and returnees.

The United States on Tuesday calling for an independent international investigation reiterated its stance on the allegations of human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the last phase of the war.

The State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the U.S. supports a full and credible and independent investigation of alleged violations of international human rights and law and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka.

She made this statement in response to a question regarding the Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s recent rejection of calls from the UN, U.S., and international communities for a neutral international investigation into the war crimes.

Ms. Nuland said the U.S. would like Sri Lanka to conduct an investigation that meets the international standards and if Sri Lanka fails, the international pressure would mount for an investigation.

“We want to see the Sri Lankans do this themselves in a way that meets international standards. So what I would say to Sri Lankan critics is take your responsibility and mount an investigation that meets international standards. And we continue to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to do just that and to do it quickly,” the spokesperson said.

“And we hope Sri Lankans will do this themselves. But if they do not, there’s going to be growing pressure from the international community for exactly the kind of international action that Sri Lankans say they don’t want,” the spokesperson warned.

“If Sri Lankans want to take their responsibility to solve these issues themselves, then they need to do it and they need to do it quickly,” she stressed.

When asked how much time would the U.S. allow Sri Lanka to respond, the spokesperson declined to “speculate on timelines.”

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