By Siva Sivapragasam
US Secretary of State John Kerry who was on a visit to Sri Lanka has pledged support of his government to Tamils in Sri Lanka to solve outstanding political issues.
Kerry met heads of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the main political party from the ethnic minority, a day after holding talks with Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena.Kerry had reiterated that the U.S. will do its best to support Sri Lanka to achieve true reconciliation and a long standing political solution to the national question. Kerry praised the country’s democratic reforms and said Washington is looking to broaden bilateral ties with the country.
Among the issues taken up for discussion were resettlement of the war displaced and releasing Security Forces’ occupied lands to their original owners, pruning Security Forces’ presence in the north, missing persons, political prisoners and alleged war crimes and a comprehensive political settlement for the national issue.
“He (Kerry) said he will do his best to support us to resolve outstanding issues,” TNA lawmaker Suresh Premachandran told AFP after their 30-minute meeting at Kerry’s hotel in the capital Colombo.
Kerry also met with C.V. Wigneswaran, the Chief Minister of the northern province, Tamil National Alliance leader R Sampanthan and several other senior party officials. “He met us to discuss issues concerning the Tamils,” Wigneswaran said.
Kerry praised President Maithripala Sirisena’s new government for reaching out to the Tamil minority after the end of the nearly three-decade of ethnic conflict that claimed more than 100,000 lives.
“Peace has come but true reconciliation will take time,” Kerry told reporters following a bilateral meeting with his Lankan counterpart Mangala Samaraweera.
Kerry, who called on President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, said both the Lankan leaders are not afraid of taking “difficult decisions”. He said the two leaders were amenable to finding solutions to problems.
“They are willing to make difficult decisions and they are committed to keeping their promises,” said Kerry, who wrapped up his two-day visit .
Since coming to power in January polls, Sirisena has vowed to pursue reconciliation more vigorously than his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was known for his hardline Sinhalese nationalism.
Kerry said that Sri Lanka has extended an invitation to US President Barak Obama to visit the island.
He also hinted that the US expects Sri Lanka to release political prisoners, a demand of Tamil minorities.