The U.S., she says, fully supports Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomes
G.L. Peiris, Sri Lanka's minister of external affairs, to the U.S. Department of State for a meeting Friday.

Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talk to
reporters after their meeting at the U.S. Department of State Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris (center) and
Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the U.S., confer Friday at the U.S. Department of State.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered strong support Friday for Sri Lanka’s efforts to rebuild after a successful 25-year struggle against terrorism.

Following a meeting with Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, Secretary Clinton praised the Government of Sri Lanka’s decision to establish a Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission to examine conduct at the conflict’s conclusion.

"The United States strongly supports political and ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” Secretary Clinton said. “Such commissions of inquiry have played an important role in advancing accountability and redressing wrongs in other countries emerging from periods of internal strife.

“I think the steps that have been taken by the Sri Lankan Government are commendable and we are supporting that effort.”

The cordial meeting was the first for Prof. Peiris, the Minister of External Affairs, with the U.S. Secretary of State. The United States is Sri Lanka’s largest export trading partner, and it continues to provide humanitarian assistance and development aid to Sri Lanka.

A delegation of Sri Lankan diplomats, including Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya, also took part in the meeting. For the U.S., Assistant U.S. Secretaries of State Robert Blake and Eric Schwartz were also present.

Secretary Clinton noted that Sri Lanka has resettled the vast majority of the 297,000 people who were displaced by the conflict.

“There has been tremendous progress and many thousands and thousands of such internally displaced persons have returned home,” she said.  “And we have discussed the need to continue the safe, dignified and voluntary return to homes.”

During the meeting, Prof. Peiris told Secretary Clinton that Sri Lanka hopes to resettle the remaining 45,000 displaced people within the next three months.

“It is not a question of just resettling people physically,” the Minister said. “We want to ensure a restoration of livelihoods so that they’re able to live their lives with dignity without bitterness or rancor. That’s very essential.”

Secretary Clinton said that U.S. humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka will continue, but that more of it will be targeted to help Sri Lanka repair its infrastructure as displaced persons return home.

“We are still providing humanitarian assistance” Secretary Clinton said, adding, “but we’re moving far beyond that to repair schools, the help with infrastructure, to create jobs.”

During the meeting with Prof. Peiris, Secretary Clinton noted that the U.S. has lifted its travel warning on Sri Lanka as a “vote of confidence” in the country’s security and future.

The Minister told Secretary Clinton in their private session that Sri Lanka hopes to soon hold provincial elections in Northern Sri Lanka, where the fighting was heaviest.

Prof. Peiris also briefed the Secretary on the government’s rapid action to do away with the vast majority of the emergency rules that were put in place during the long conflict. Those rules, the Minister said, were no longer necessary.

The Minister informed Secretary Clinton about the exceptional political strength of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, commanding as he does a sufficient majority in parliament to move the country forward decisively.

Secretary Clinton responded that the initiatives required are “ambitious but necessary,” and added that she has every confidence in the country’s ability to accomplish these daunting tasks positively.

Peiris briefed Secretary Clinton about the proposed constitutional reforms and President Rajapaksa’s resolve to embark on an inclusive process, which includes consultation with the Tamil leadership. He observed that restoration of livelihoods and the uplifting economic conditions are a necessary prelude to these initiatives, and proceeded to describe the steps being taken by President Rajapaksa’s government in this regard.

Secretary Clinton agreed that the economic and political initiatives are complementary, and stated that the government of the United States stands ready to support Sri Lanka in these areas in a spirit of partnership.

Minister Peiris told Secretary Clinton that one of the challenges faced by the government is the creation of space for the Tamil community to elect its leaders freely at the local government level, since the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorists had destroyed its leadership.

Minister Peiris referred to a luncheon in honor of Secretary Clinton, at that time First Lady of the United States, held in Colombo at the residence of then-American Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, at which Minister Peiris and Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam were guests. He noted that Dr. Tiruchelvam was one of the many victims of the LTTE among the Tamil leadership.

Secretary Clinton welcomed the government’s plans for the revival of the electoral process at the local government level in those parts of the country which were affected by the war.

Secretary Clinton, responding to remarks by Prof. Peiris about an enhanced relationship between Sri Lanka and the United States in the post-conflict scenario, on the lines that Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar had envisaged in a report last year observed that the period during which the perception was entertained in some quarters that Sri Lanka was standing aloof from the international community is now at an end. Secretary Clinton said that she looks forward to cooperation between the two countries in a variety of fields, including economic development.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

28 May 2010


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