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News


Lankan ambassador reaffirms citizens safety commitment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 25, 2009) – In response to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on Near East and South and Central Asian Affairs hearing Tuesday on recent developments in Sri Lanka, the Ambassador for Sri Lanka to the United States, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, recognised the interest of the U.S. Congress and reaffirmed the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to supporting all Sri Lankans.

“It is the utmost priority of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Sri Lankan Government,” said the Ambassador, “to ensure the safety and security of all our civilians and to look after their welfare. We are grateful to the U.S. Senate for holding the hearing today, and we appreciate the government’s continued understanding of our mutual fight against global terrorism. Although there are challenges remaining in Sri Lanka, we are strongly committed to democracy and promoting peace in our country.”

The official hearing record included a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rohitha Bogollagama, which stated that in order to protect the remaining civilians, the Government of Sri Lanka has declared a ‘zero civilian casualty’ policy for the military. The letter also mentions that the government has already declared a ‘safe area’ for the protection of civilians but that the LTTE has infiltrated the area and resorted to firing shots into the ‘safe area’ while taking cover behind innocent civilians.

The letter also states that the “[International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)] and the UN are also helping in evacuating the injured and attending to their medical needs.
The government continues to send food and other essential items even to the uncleared areas, with the assistance of the ICRC.”

After a three-day visit to Sri Lanka, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) John Holmes issued a statement on Feb. 21 where he “welcomed the increasingly good cooperation between Government officials, UN agencies and NGOs in providing urgent food, shelter and medical help, and noted the key challenges ahead, including rapid and transparent registration procedures, reinforcing the civilian nature of the camps, facilitating family reunification and greater freedom of movement, and ensuring the earliest possible return of IDPs to their homes. He welcomed government assurances on all these issues, and the increasingly full access for agencies and NGOs to the transit [centers] and camps.”
For more information, log onto www.slembassyusa.org.