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Secretary-General, Arriving in Sri Lanka, Spells Out Humanitarian Action, Refugee Processing, Reconciliation as Goals for Strife-Torn Country

Secretary-General, arriving in Sri Lanka, spells out humanitarian action,


refugee processing, reconciliation as goals for strife-torn country

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement on arrival in Sri Lanka today, 22 May:

We are here at a defining moment in Sri Lanka’s history.  A long and terrible conflict has come to an end.  Now is the time for the nation to unite to build a just and lasting peace.  No one can do this but the Sri Lankans themselves, working together without regard to religion or ethnic identity.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am here to offer help and partnership.  Civilian casualties have been heavy.  Too many lives have been lost and too many communities destroyed during the long decades of conflict.

I remain deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of at least 300,000 displaced persons.  I hope my visit today can help begin a process of national recovery, renewal and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans.  That is why I am here.

Tomorrow, I will meet with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and senior advisers.  If possible, I will travel to the zone of conflict in the north-east and visit the Manik Farms IDP [internally displaced persons] camp near Vavuniya.

My goals are three.  First and foremost, to meet urgent humanitarian needs.  Together with the Government, we must ensure that the IDP camps meet minimum standards and adequate supplies of food, medicine, water and other essential assistance are available.  I will, therefore, ask that UN agencies and international humanitarian organizations be given immediate and unhindered access to all areas where there are displaced people.

Second, I will urge the Government to expedite the screening and processing of refugees as quickly as possible.  Families must be reunited and people must be able to begin rebuilding their lives and reintegrate into society.  This will require a major commitment to reconstruction and rehabilitation.  The United Nations is ready to help in any way it can, under proper conditions.  Full transparency and full respect for human rights are essential.

Third, I will urge the Government and all elements of society to take powerful and immediate steps to initiate a political process of dialogue, accommodation and reconciliation.  Old enmities must be overcome.  Sri Lankans of every ethnic and religious identity must enjoy equal justice, rights and guarantees of security under the law, as President Rajapaksa declared in his recent address to Parliament.  The world will be watching.

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For information media. Not an official record.