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It is crucial for Lanka to live up to its promises, UN chief

[New Kerala, Friday, 12 June 2009 07:47 No Comment]

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon restated how important it is for the Sri Lankan government to follow up on the commitments it made last month after ending its military operation against Tamil rebels.

In a joint statement issued at the end of his May 22-23 visit to the country, Mr Ban and President Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed that the country had now entered a new post-conflict phase and faces many obstacles relating to relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation.

”Today, I will be sending a letter to President (Mahinda) Rajapaksa following up on those commitments, particularly those concerning a transparent and fully accountable inquiry into potential violations of international law during the final stages of the conflict,” Mr Ban told a news conference here yesterday.

The Secretary-General visited the South Asian nation just days after the government announced that its operations against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was over, ending over two decades of fighting.

He has repeatedly stated his strong concerns over ”unacceptably high” civilian casualties in the conflict, while ”categorically” rejecting any suggestions that the UN has deliberately under-estimated any figures.

Mr Ban also stressed the need for reconciliation efforts to begin immediately.

”If history is not to repeat itself, the Sri Lankan Government must reach out to its Tamil minority, as well as to others. The first steps toward reconciliation must, I repeat, must begin now,” he said.

He noted that the government has addressed some concerns he raised over humanitarian access to the camps housing those displaced by the conflict.

”I am also encouraged by the Government’s commitment to return 80 per cent of those displaced in the fighting to their homes by the end of this year,” he said.

”That said, conditions in the camps remain difficult, and I will continue to press for improvement, not least in vital areas such as freedom of movement and family reunification,” he added.

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