The United States yesterday urged the government to control para-military activity in the North and for Tamil police personnel to be deployed to the North.
The US Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake told journalists he was concerned about Human Rights in Sri Lanka.
“I am concerned about human rights. I discussed with relevant officials the importance of disarming paramilitary groups, on which progress is being made. It is important to deploy Tamil policemen in the north so the military no longer needs to perform these functions,” he said.
Mr. Blake specifically named the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) as having a strong Para-military presence in the north.
“Para-military groups are not allowed to carry weapons in public. When I was in Jaffna I, experienced the power wielded by the EPDP, which attempted to prevent me from meeting some university students,” he said adding that it had been conveyed to him that although the emergency regulations have been lifted it was of little practical value, because the Public Securities Ordinance and the Prevention of Terrorism Act were still in place.
Mr. Blake said the resumption of talks between the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the government was encouraging and that he felt both sides were taking these discussions very seriously.
“I was very pleased to hear from both the government and the TNA that they will resume their important dialogue on devolution and other matters,” he said.
When asked about the TNA’s negative outlook towards the discussions, Mr. Blake rejected such aspersions.
“I think there is a far more optimistic picture with both sides taking the talks very seriously,” he said and added that the 13th Amendment was being expanded by both sides and was not a redundant mechanism.
“I think they are working towards expanding the amendment to deploy more powers to the provinces,” he said.
Speaking on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) he explained that it was premature to make any judgments on the commission before its report was released. “We have to wait and see what’s in the report and the issues raised and thereafter make a judgment,” he said.
However Mr. Blake did not dispel the possibility of international pressure if the report by the commission was found to be inadequate.
“We are not in the business of making threats to our friends. There is a need for a credible process of accountability for those who have violated international humanitarian law and there will be pressure for some mechanism to ensure that this takes place. However we hope that (such pressure) is not necessary,” he said.
Mr. Blake said it was premature to call for the LLRC report to be presented at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in March next year. “This is dependent also on what the Sri Lankan government wants to do with the report,” he said.
He also expressed the need for Sri Lanka to engage with the international community. “There is a need for Sri Lanka to engage positively with the United Nations. I know that there is a delegation in Geneva at the moment and I hope they are able to brief the UNHRC on the work of the LLRC,” he said. Mr. Blake also addressed the need to put an end to the grease devil incidents which had “given rise to new levels of insecurity” and expressed that the “US remains deeply concerned about attacks on journalists”, he said .
Blake has ulterior motives says Devananda
By Kelum Bandara
EPDP leader and Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister Douglas Devananda said yesterday that Robert O. Blake, the US Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs had made allegations against his party with ulterior motives.
Mr. Devananda said that there was no paramilitary group operating in the North and that only the security forces and the police bore arms.
“Mr. Blake must have ulterior motives. Wikileaks recently revealed who funded whom in Sri Lanka. I think Mr. Blake is pumping money to some elements here that provide him with such false information. He has to find such information to please the vested interests of his country,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Resettlement Minister Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan (alias Karuna), said in response to Mr. Blake’s request to deploy Tamil police personnel to the North, that there was only one police force in Sri Lanka, and that was the Sri Lanka Police. Mr. Muralitharan said that this police force could not be categorised into Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim as requested by Mr. Blake.