Tuesday, September 29, 2009

UN chief urges Sri Lanka to resettle hundreds of thousands displaced by war

Failure to rapidly resettle nearly 300,000 Sri Lankans displaced by the government's final onslaught against Tamil separatists and further suffering under harsh conditions in the camps could result in growing bitterness, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here Monday.

When meeting with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Ban said in particular the need to resolve the problem in view of the approaching monsoon season, while acknowledging the government's efforts to address post-conflict challenges in Sri Lanka.

In May the government declared an end to its military operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), ending more than two decades of fighting.

Ban noted that he had repeatedly brought up the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the political process and reconciliation, and accountability for alleged violations during the long ethnic war in his various telephone conversations with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and messages conveyed through visits by senior UN officials.

The incident between IDPs and the army in Menik Farm two days ago resulting in gunshot injuries of two children was a sign of growing frustrations in the camps.

The prime minister assured Ban that the Sri Lankan Government was keen to implement earlier pledges to resettle all IDPs out of the camps by January, but he emphasized that much international aid was needed to facilitate these efforts, especially for de-mining.

Ban underlined the importance of winning the trust and confidence of the population in the North, especially those in the IDP camps, as failure to do so could undermine the prospects for reconciliation.

Wickramanayaka indicated that efforts toward an inclusive political framework were continuing, including through close engagement with minority representatives such as the Tamil National Alliance. Ban stressed the need to expedite a serious, independent and impartial accountability process to look into alleged violation of international law during the conflict as a critical part of moving forward and building peace in Sri Lanka.

The prime minister thanked Ban for UN support and appealed for the Organization to use its influence to facilitate international support for Sri Lanka's recovery efforts.

Both reaffirmed their commitment to continue close engagement in addressing common concerns during this critical transitional phase. The secretary-general welcomed the delegation's pledge to share with the UN the government's recovery and resettlement plans through regular exchanges in a comprehensive and transparent manner.

He highlighted that this would help the UN and others to support national post-conflict efforts more effectively.

© Xinhua

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