US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake spoke to the Sri Lankan press today. He reiterated America’s friendship with Sri Lanka and avoided elaborating on the controversial UN panel currently investigating the end of Sri Lanka’s war. Blake, the former Ambassador to Sri Lanka, said that he discussed reconciliation and governance with President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier today but did not discuss the UN Panel. He stated the US position that the panel could serve a valuable advisory role but that it had no investigative or judicial function. He responded to further questions by repeating that this was a UN affair.
Blake spoke of the America’s commitment to Sri Lanka and the over $140 million USD it has contributed in the past two years. He said the US welcomed the defeat of the LTTE and hoped for reconciliation. He said three pillars of reconciliation were resettlement, accountability and democracy and human rights.
“One part of achieving reconciliation will be to finish resettling all IDPs as soon as possible. The United States continues to be a leading donor providing aid for all IDPs. We are also supporting demining, we are initiating programs to provide jobs for returning IDPs and we are catalyzing new private sector initiatives in the north to provide economic opportunities for those IDPs that are returning. We have provided a total of $140 million dollars assistance over the past two years.”
“Secretary Clinton told FM Peiris in May that Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learned and Reconciliation holds promise and we hope and expect that it will fulfill that promise.”
Democracy and Human Rights
“Minister Peiris affirmed during his visit to Washington that Sri Lanka wants to revive and strengthen its institutions of democracy. Progress in implementing greater power sharing with the provinces, implementing the 17th amendment to empower independent commissions, such as the human rights, police and bribery commissions and efforts to safeguard media freedom will all be important steps in ensuring a future of hope, peace and prosperity for all Sri Lankans. The United States will continue to be Sri Lanka’s partner in all of these endeavors.”
After his prepared remarks Blake answered questions from the press.
Blake said that the US was prepared to help develop the north of the country as it had assisted in the East earlier. Specifically, through public-private partnerships and USAID.
Blake said did not see any competition with China for influence in the region but rather cooperation, saying that he had met with his Chinese counterparts amicably.
Blake said that he had met members of the Tamil diaspora in America and encouraged them to invest and support the development of Sri Lanka.