05 May 2011 01:42
By Shakuntala Perera
Robert O. Blake, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, said yesterday that the UN report on Sri Lanka ‘underscored the importance of a durable political solution’ and the necessity for a dialogue between the UN and the government of Sri Lanka.
Dismissing allegations of US support for a regime change in Sri Lanka, he said he hoped that External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris would communicate soon with the UN Secretary General on the report.
US wants dialogue between SL and UN
Explaining the position of US with regard to accountability on the matters referred to in the UN report, he noted that the US had ‘continually expressed to the govt. of Sri Lanka the importance of implementing a credible and independent process to ensure accountability.’
“Domestic authorities have a responsibility to ensure that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law are held accountable. International mechanisms can become appropriate in cases where states are unable or unwilling to meet their obligations,” he said.
“We look first to host governments to take the responsibility for these issues and we hope that they will do so,” he added, when asked whether the US would look at its own mechanism to address the issues raised in the report.
Responding to the controversies relating to the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces, Mr. Blake stressed that he was an armed terrorist engaged in armed conflict against the US.
“He was therefore a lawful target under the laws of conflict and we stand by our actions and we believe that his death represents an important step in our fight — and the international fight — against terrorism,” he said.
Asked if the death of Osama bin Laden was treated differently to that of Prabhakaran by the US government, he stressed that both Prabhakaran and bin Laden would ‘go down in history’ as most ruthless terrorist leaders.
‘Certainly Osama has more directly targeted the US. So his capture has been a particular priority for us. His death marks one of the most significant accomplishments in our decades-long fight against al Qaeda.
“Prabhakaran was also responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Sri Lankans; and the US was one of the first countries to stand with Sri Lanka to designate the LTTE as a terror organization — and we consistently supported all efforts against the LTTE.
“With regard to Prabhakaran’s end, I don’t really know. Nobody really knows, and that underscores the importance of the domestic authorities here taking responsibility for these issues. Certainly my government won’t mourn the passing of Prabhakaran as he was one of the worst terrorist leaders in the world,” he said.
Asserting that ‘much more’ remained to be done with regard to reconstruction in the North, Mr. Blake however noted that the government ‘had made some positive progress.
“It is very important that this progress be sustained,” he said. Referring to the role of the LLRC in the reconciliation process, he said, “We hope that the LLRC will also address accountability issues and will offer recommendations on how to redress wrongs committed by both sides during the conflict.”
“There is much more to be done on the political side. We hope that the government will give importance to the dialogue that is ongoing now with the TNA. We hope there will be a comprehensive report on all issues of importance to the Tamil people,” he added.
He mentioned matters such as devolution, information about those who are still in detention, a full accounting of those who had died and land tenure. “We hope there can be a fair arbitration about who really owns these lands. There are a great many issues still to be addressed. The government is committed to a sincere dialogue with the TNA, but the proof will be in the results and not promises,’ he added.
He stressed that these issues would remain a high priority for the US government and expressed the hope that concrete progress would be made on them.
Mr. Blake noted the nearly all of the 300,000 IDPs had been resettled from the camps with the remaining few scheduled to be resettled by the end of 2011, and that de-mining and the reduction of high security zones were some of the areas where significant progress had been made.
Mr. Blake met Defence Secretary Rajapaksa and External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, members of the Opposition, and representatives of civil society. He visited Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu yesterday.
Meanwhile, the External Affairs Ministry, in a communiqué issued yesterday, noted that a clear distinction had to be made between the Advisory Panel and the United Nations, and that the Report had no status as a UN document.