|FOREIGN MINISTER BRIEFS US CONGRESSMAN
ON RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN SRI LANKA
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
02 October 2007