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Lanka must speed up rehabilitation of Tamil IDPs: US Cong

November 05, 2009 14:52 IST

The US Congress has urged the Sri Lankan government to expedite rehabilitation of internally displaced Tamil civilians from military-guarded camps and begin the process of political reconciliation.

Co-sponsored by 32 lawmakers, the House of Representatives' resolution No 711, passed late on Wednesday, urged Sri Lanka to guarantee the safety and release of internally displaced persons in camps and to ensure their re-establishment in their homes.

The resolution asked the government to turn over the operation of the camps to civilian authorities and allow international agencies and independent non governmental organisations to assist in the rehabilitation process.

It also urges the Tamil people to "continue to be patient", while the government re-establishes normalcy, while asking the Lankan government to create political reforms that will resolve the concerns of Tamil people.

A day earlier, in a speech on the floor of the House, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Howard Berman had said the Sri Lankan government must provide the international community with a transparent and implementable road map for the release of the remaining IDPs.

"While the US and the international community welcome the end to this bloody war and congratulate the Government of Sri Lanka on its military victory, it is now time to accelerate the process of releasing the hundreds of ethnic Tamils from the squalor camps where they have been confined," Berman said.

For the safety of its own citizens, Sri Lanka should turn over the camps to civilian authorities and allow frequent, unconditional and uninhibited access to the UN, the Red Cross, and other aid groups, he said.

"It is long past time for the Sinhalese and the Tamil populations of Sri Lanka to turn the page and, hand in hand, begin a new life together as citizens of a whole, peaceful Sri Lanka," he said.

Meanwhile, Congressman Ed Royce said terrorists in Sri Lanka might be 10,000 strong and hiding in those camps. "These are the same terrorists who used civilians as human shields and employed lethal force to prevent them from fleeing the previous fighting.

The Tamil Tiger infrastructure must be rooted out even as we support the effort to release the civilians," Royce said.

Congressman Ted Peo said the US was ready to help the Sri Lankan government in its efforts.

"We urge the government to allow robust humanitarian access to camps and to work hand-in-hand with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross and NGOs to ensure that civilian IDPs are accorded the rights and care, meeting the highest international standards," he said.

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