Thursday, December 10, 2009

U.S. appreciates resettlement of war displaced people in Sri Lanka

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said here Wednesday that he appreciated the resettlement process of the Tamil civilians who were displaced by the final battles of the civil war between the government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels early this year.

Blake, who is also a former U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, told reporters that the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has created a tremendous opportunity for the people of Sri Lanka.

For the first time in over a generation, Sri Lankans live in a country that is not divided by war or marred by terror and violence, said Blake.

His remarks came after Tuesday's visit to Menik Farm welfare center in the northern district of Vavuniya where more than 100,000 Tamil civilians are still being accommodated.

Blake said the United States welcomes the recent progress made by the Sri Lanka government to resettle a majority of the war displaced civilians to their homes and allow increased freedom of movement to those still in the camps.

"I visited Manik Farm on Tuesday morning and saw evidence of this progress. I was pleased to see that those living in the camps have greater freedom to come and go. I also visited some returnees in the Mannar area and witnessed some of the ongoing demining activity where again progress is being made," he said.

Blake said that large areas of the north remain heavily mined and the reconstruction of infrastructure is at its beginning stages.

He said the United States stands ready to continue their assistance in these areas, adding that it has already contributed 6.6 million U.S. dollars for demining activities in the north.

Commenting on the island's presidential election scheduled to be held on Jan. 26, Blake said the United States does not take sides in elections in other countries "except to express our strong support for a free and fair democratic process."

"Next month, you will decide who will be your next president. It is a historic election for your country. For the first time in decades, a united Sri Lanka will vote in a national election. I am confident relations between the United States and Sri Lanka will grow no matter which candidate is victorious," he said.

Blake added that the United States is still Sri Lanka's most important trade partner, receiving over one quarter of Sri Lanka's total exports, more than any other single nation.

"In areas such as education, science, and culture, as well, our bilateral relationship has benefited people in both of our countries," Blake said.

© Xinhua

Related Links:
Statement by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake - US Embassy, Colombo
US praises resettlement of Sri Lankan refugees - AP
US not taking sides in Sri Lanka’s polls:Robert Blake - Daily Mirror
US Under-Secretary of State ‘satisfied’ with SL Resettlement Process - Asian Tribune
Sri Lanka-US ties normalise: Blake - Daily Mirror

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