Allow humanitarian access to IDP camps in Lanka: US lawmakers

Washington: US lawmakers have urged the Rajapaksa government to allow robust humanitarian access to the displaced persons camp in Sri Lanka.

Introducing a resolution to this effect in the House of Representative, Congressman Howard Berman, said in a speech on the floor of the House yesterday that the Sri Lankan Government must provide the international community with a transparent and implementable road map for the release of the remaining IDPs.

This resolution calls upon the Sri Lanka to expeditiously release its internally displaced Tamil population from military-guarded camps and begin the process of political reconciliation.

"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 for the government to accelerate the process of releasing the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamils from the squalor camps where they have been confined," Berman said.

For the safety of its own citizens who seek a return to normalcy, Sri Lanka should turn the camps over to proper civilian authorities and allow frequent, unconditional, and uninhibited access to the United Nations, the International Committee on the Red Cross, and other aid groups.

Berman is Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Congressman Ed Royce, said the Sri Lankan government should be working to release internally displaced persons in an expeditious manner and dismantle LTTE infrastructure.

"The Tamil Tiger infrastructure must be rooted out even as we support the effort to release the civilian displaced persons in this expeditious manner," Royce said.

Congressman Ted Peo said the US is ready to help the government in its efforts.

"We urge the government to allow robust humanitarian access to the displaced person camps and to work hand-in-hand with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the nongovernment organisations to ensure that civilian IDPs are accorded the rights and care meeting the highest international standards," Poe said.

The Congressman noted that during the civil war, the US was a steadfast supporter of Sri Lanka's efforts to stop the flow of arms and financing to the LTTE by providing law enforcement assistance and providing training and equipment to help the Sri Lankan military defend itself against the terrorist actions of the LTTE.

The US remains deeply concerned for the welfare of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons uprooted by the current fighting, the Congressman said.

Noting that LTTE's defeat offers a chance for Sri Lanka to forge a new beginning and to ensure a lasting end of terrorism, Poe said to seize this opportunity, bold actions are needed to share power and assure all of Sri Lanka's communities a future of hope, respect, and dignity.

Bureau Report