The leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a joint statement today to mark the apparent end of the decades-long civil war in Sri Lanka with the government's victory over the rebel Tamil Tigers.
The statement is from Committee chairman John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, ranking Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
“We welcome the news that Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war has been brought to a close. For the past twenty-six years, the people of Sri Lanka have suffered enormously from a conflict that appeared intractable. Some 70,000 were killed, many more injured, and countless others were uprooted and forced to flee the violence. In recent months, civilians in the north-eastern part of the island have faced terrible hardship, and exceptionally difficult conditions still persist for hundreds of thousands that have been internally displaced. The scale of the suffering has been obscured by denial of access to humanitarian workers, journalists, and most other outside observers.
“Today can be a turning point for the people of Sri Lanka. The government has a chance to forge a long-term political solution, one that acknowledges the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankans, including Sinhalese, Tamils, and other groups. This means taking steps toward reconciliation and justice, including devolution of power to local bodies as provided for by the constitution of Sri Lanka. It will not be easy, but we are looking to the leaders of the Government of Sri Lanka to move the country forward in peace after more than a quarter-century of conflict.
“In the short term, we urge the Government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the north for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons by facilitating humanitarian access to the government camps and by fulfilling its promise to return the majority home by the end of the year. We call on the Government to protect all of its citizens, including those still trapped in the conflict zone such as Doctors Varatharajah, Shanmugarajah, and Sathiyamurthy and other religious and secular leaders who have provided vital humanitarian services.”
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