June 10, 2009

Kerry, Lugar, Casey, Brown, Brownback, Leahy Mark The End To Sri Lanka's Civil War

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs and Senators Brown (D-OH), Brownback (R-KS) and Leahy (D-VT) joined to release the following statement today in response to Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, declaring an end to the decades long civil war:

"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."