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Sri Lanka should reach out to the Tamil community: US

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | August 01, 2008 09:51 IST

The Bush administration's point man for South Asia, Richard Boucher, has said that while Washington fully recognises the terrorist threat Sri Lanka [Images] continues to face from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, it should continue acting like a democracy and protect all of its citizens.

Boucher is leading the United States observer mission to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Colombo.
 
In an exclusive interview with rediff.com, Boucher, who is the assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, said, "We recognise the threat, we recognise that we have to fight against terrorism, but we also think very strongly as we always have that Sri Lanka is fundamentally a democracy and that a democracy needs to be extended to all its citizens."

                                        LTTE declares ceasefire ahead of SAARC Summit
 
Thus, he argued, "The people in Sri Lanka need to enjoy the respect for their human rights, and enjoy the benefits of government."
 
Boucher noted, "We are working with the government of Sri Lanka, with the people of Sri Lanka, to try to ensure that human rights are respected, that abuses are investigated thoroughly, that people who are involved in abuses aren't given any favour or position or support, that children who've been taken as soldiers are let out and allowed to go to school."
 
During the SAARC summit, US will "talk about democracy and economic growth, but we'll also talk about some of the problems facing Sri Lanka and hopefully see some progress towards solving these."

                                             LTTE's ceasefire: Public relations or more?
 
Asked if the US was disappointed as the peace process between the government and the Tigers now seemed to have hit a roadblock, Boucher said, "We've had these periods before. It has not always been positive and with great momentum. We've had periods when it looked frozen, we've had periods when they were fighting and killing--I hate to see it, I mean these bus bombings are horrible and the things that are happening to ordinary Sri Lankans and what they have to put up with."
 
However, he added,  "Whatever is going on in the peace talks, the democratic government has a responsibility to all of its citizens. As military gains are made, as the areas are opened up and come under government control, all the citizens there need to benefit from democratic government and respect for their human rights--Tamil community, Muslim community."

                                     'Prabhakaran shoots people who disagree with him'
 
"The government needs to reach out to them," Boucher said, and argued, "It is pushing forward in military areas. It needs to push forward in political areas as well and in the end the political arrangements in the island need to have a place for all citizens."
 
The senior diplomat feels that there is a need for a political solution "alongside whatever is going on militarily and we hope the Tamil Tigers will see that as well."
 
But, Boucher reiterated, "It doesn't take any of the responsibility away from the government. In fact, the Tamil Tigers are not actively promoting a peace agreement now, but it doesn't take any of the responsibility away from the democratic government to reach out to all its citizens and provide them with the benefits of democracy."

                                        Prabhakaran keeps the LTTE fire on






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