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US Senator asks Lankan Prez to address needs of Tamils

[PTI, Friday, 5 June 2009 16:25 No Comment]

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa needs to take steps to show a "serious commitment" towards achieving a political solution to the decades-long ethnic problem and to genuinely addressing the needs of the minority Tamils following the defeat of LTTE, an influential US Senator has said.

"I urge President Rajapaksa to take steps now to demonstrate a serious commitment to a political solution, the rule of law, and most importantly, to genuinely addressing the needs of the Tamil people," Senator Russ Feingold said on the Senate Floor.

At the same time, in proportion to the passion and effort with which the world’s diplomats have demanded peace and respect for civilians throughout the conflict, donor countries must remain actively engaged and dedicated to helping bring about a lasting resolution to the issue, he said.

Expressing concern over the humanitarian situation in the country, Senator Feingold said the Sri Lankan Government must not shirk its responsibility to help the displaced people return to their homes swiftly and safely.

"The international community, too, can provide assistance to help these people return home safely or seek other lasting solutions," he said.

"The US government should join with its international partners to coordinate in demining efforts, work with the Sri Lankan government to develop and rebuild infrastructure, and ensure that those who have been displaced are able to reclaim the land that is rightfully theirs," the Democratic Senator said.

Feingold said the fundamental grievances of the Tamil minority have been overshadowed, distorted, and in some cases silenced by the severe tactics of the LTTE, who since 1997 have been designated by the United States as a terrorist organisation.

The LTTE claimed to be the voice of the Tamil people, and yet their commitment to both indiscriminate and targeted violence, as well as reports from the last days of fighting that they used Tamil civilians as human shields, would indicate otherwise, he said.

"If we are to see legitimate reconciliation in Sri Lanka, the grievances of the Tamil minority must be seen as distinct from the violence of the LTTE and addressed thoroughly and justly," the Senator said.

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