Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama on Tuesday (02 October 2007) began meetings on Capitol Hill to brief members of Congress on recent positive developments in Sri Lanka and to seek congressional support in the task of restoring peace in the island. He met with Congressman Rush Holt (Democrat/New Jersey), Congressman Scott Garrett (Republican/New Jersey) and Congressman Robert Aderholt (Republican/Alabama).

The Minister emphasized that Sri Lanka was not seeking a military solution to the conflict in Sri Lanka and was deeply committed to finding a durable negotiated political settlement that would be acceptable to all sections of Sri Lanka. To this end the government was proceeding to build consensus in the South around a set of political proposals aimed at solving the conflict through the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC).

He also briefed the congressmen on the efforts taken by the Government over the past year to restore normalcy in the Eastern Province, he said Sri Lanka wanted the Eastern Province that was recently cleared of the LTTE, to be developed as a model in post-conflict re-construction. The majority of IDPs in the Eastern Province have been resettled in their homes leaving a balance of around 38,000, who would be resettled shortly upon completion of demining. The destroyed essential infrastructure including roads, bridges, irrigation tanks, supply of electricity and water supply was also been restored and most of the schools have been reopened. The Minister said the need of the hour was for livelihood support and that the international community including the USA, EU, Japan, the UN & International NGOs and local NGOs, were supporting the government in these efforts.

Minister Bogollagama also briefed the Congressmen on the action taken by the Government to investigate alleged human rights violations such as abductions, disappearances and killings. The Minister presented a compilation of measures taken to promote and protect human rights while combating terrorism. He explained that the Foreign Ministry has constituted an Intre-Ministerial Coordinating Committee, which meets weekly to review the status of incidents, adding that the progress made through this mechanism helped in making more transparent to the public and the international community, Sri Lanka’s proactive stand taken to address alleged violations of human rights.

He expressed regret that despite these positive developments, concerns continue to be voiced in recent weeks in the US Senate regards Sri Lanka, and said that it was unfortunate that there were misperceptions concerning the Sri Lanka Government’s efforts to counter the terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE.

Earlier in the day, the Minister assisted by Secretary/Foreign Affairs Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the U.S. Bernard Goonetilleke and senior officials from the Foreign Ministry and Mission, also met with the Washington based representatives of Amnesty International, and the U.S. Representative for the International Working Group on Sri Lanka and Coordinator for the U.S. NGO Forum on Sri Lanka. Dr. Kohona also met with the Washington based Director/South Asia of Human Rights Watch.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

02 October 2007

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