Friday, July 10, 2009

Krishna: Sri Lanka has new opportunity

NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said on Thursday Sri Lanka assured India that it would soon start an inclusive political process of dialogue and devolution with Tamils in the island nation. He said India would continue to help Sri Lanka in the rehabilitation of people displaced by war.

In a suo motu statement in Parliament, Mr. Krishna said, “We have been assured by the Sri Lankan government of its intention to pursue a political process that envisages a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties, the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and to go beyond, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers.”

Mr. Krishna said the cessation of hostilities gave Sri Lanka an opportunity to make a new beginning and build a better future for all her peoples and, therefore, for the region as a whole.

“We are convinced that a closure to the cycle of violence and terrorism that has plagued Sri Lanka required an inclusive political process of dialogue and devolution. Such a process must address the legitimate aspirations of the minorities, including the Tamil community, within the democratic framework of a united Sri Lanka,” he said.

Referring to the aid and assistance being provided to Sri Lanka, he said, “India will provide every possible assistance in the task of rehabilitation, resettlement and reconstruction. The government has earmarked Rs. 500 crore for this purpose and was willing to do more.”

Mr. Krishna informed the House that India was engaged in a de-mining process — a prerequisite for displaced people to return to their homes — reconstruction of houses, supply of shelter material, medical assistance, and repair of civil infrastructure.


He said the Sri Lankan government had committed itself to resettling most of the internally displaced persons in 180 days. “The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has visited some of the camps and has been informing us about the developments there,” he said.

Referring to members’ objections to the alleged harassment of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan authorities near the Katchatheevu islands, Mr. Krishna said India was committed to safeguarding the rights of Indian fishermen.

“India continues to closely monitor incidents affecting the safety of our fishermen in the waters between India and Sri Lanka. We have reiterated to Sri Lanka that there is a need to ensure strict compliance with the understanding on fishing arrangements reached between the two countries in October 2008,” he said.

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