|FM expects visit of Canadian Minister to strengthen bilateral ties|
|Monday, 04 May 2009 12:03|
Sri Lanka and Canada enjoy a longstanding and multi-faceted relationship, which has been strengthened through their common membership of the Colombo Plan, the Commonwealth and the United Nations System. Sri Lanka greatly appreciates Canada’s support in its counter-terrorism efforts, notably by its proscription of the LTTE in 2006, as well as the subsequent listing of front organizations of the LTTE. The people of Sri Lanka also recall with gratitude and affection, the spontaneous and generous assistance provided by the Canadian Government and people in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster which struck Sri Lanka in December 2004. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama made these remarks while welcoming the Minister of International Co-operation of Canada, Beverley J. Oda, who is on a brief official visit to Sri Lanka, at the Foreign Ministry today (04 May 2009). He also thanked the Canadian Minister for the large scale development assistance provided to Sri Lanka, over the years.
Minister Bogollagama gave a detailed account of the developments that led to the escape of more than 200,000 civilians from the clutches of the LTTE into the cleared areas in recent days. He reiterated the Government’s commitment to protect the civilians inside the no-fire zone (NFZ). Responding to a call by the Canadian Minister for a ceasefire, the Foreign Minister noted that the last unilateral humanitarian pause in military action declared by the Government on 12th April 2009, in the expectation that the LTTE will release the civilians, which it was holding hostage, was a failure.
In fact, the LTTE had used the pause to strengthen its fortifications in the NFZ and actively prevented civilians from leaving. It was only after the Sri Lankan security forces breached the embankments and bunds constructed by the LTTE on 19th April, that civilians were able to flee from LTTE captivity in their thousands.
The Minister described the process of registration of the IDPs in the presence of UNHCR officials and also explained the facilities that the Government has provided in the transit camps and welfare villages, with the support of UN and international humanitarian agencies, which had full access to these sites. The Minister said that the Government is trying to expand access taking into account improvements to the security situation. He reiterated the Government’s commitment to resettle 80% of the displaced civilians in their original homes by the end of this year. Minister Bogollagama invited the Canadian Government to assist Sri Lanka in this humanitarian endeavour, by contributing to the rebuilding of the war damaged infrastructure and amenities in the North. In particular, he sought Canadian help in de-mining areas previously controlled by the LTTE, which it had deliberately mined, making such areas hazardous for human habitation.
The Canadian Minister of International Co-operation, Beverley Oda, reciprocating Minister Bogollagama’s comments, stated that Canada also values its relationship with Sri Lanka and pointed out that her Government had proscribed the LTTE as soon as they took office in 2006. She expressed her satisfaction over the humanitarian measures taken by the Sri Lankan Government, including moves to reunify families and resettlement of civilians in their original villages. The Canadian Minister agreed to consider Minister Bogollagama’s request for infrastructure development support and assistance for mine clearance.
The Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare, K.N. Douglas Devananda who was present at the discussion briefed the Canadian Minister on the political process underway, in terms of implementing the provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and devolution of powers to the Provinces.
The Secretary to the Ministry of Justice & Law Reforms and the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, Suhada Gamlath explained to Minister Oda, the steps taken by the Government to rehabilitate and provide vocational training to the LTTE cadres who have surrendered to the security forces recently, including a large number of children who had been forcibly conscripted into its fighting ranks. The Secretary to the Ministry of Healthcare & Nutrition, Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage outlined the range of facilities that the Government has made available for the IDPs in the North, including emergency treatment and medical care for those who had been caught up in the fighting, as well as sick persons, who have been brought to cleared areas under auspices of the ICRC.
Foreign Minister Bogollagama while thanking Minister Oda for undertaking her visit to Sri Lanka, expressed the hope that Sri Lanka and Canada could enter into a positive and structured engagement in their relationship. Foreign Secretary, Dr. Palitha Kohona, senior Foreign Ministry officials, as well as the Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo and officials of the accompanying delegation and the Canadian High Commission were present at the meeting.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs