Priority given to post-conflict reconciliation, says G. L. Peiris

Sri Lanka has given priority to post-conflict reconciliation and the process of negotiating a solution to the outstanding political issues, External Affairs Minister Prof G. L. Peiris said. Referring to reconciliation, he explained the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which was established to heal the wounds created in the minds of the people due to the conflict, and to bring about unity among the people of Sri Lanka.

"The government is already implementing the interim recommendations of the Commission through the Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC)", the Minister told a press conference at the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, where a cross–section of the British and international media was present.

With regard to political talks, Prof. Peiris said that three rounds of talks have already taken place, and the process is ongoing. The next round of talks is scheduled at the end of this month.

In responding to issues raised by journalists, he said the Government had placed high emphasis on the quality of resettlement, and the assistance provided to IDP’s included loans for productive livelihood, housing assistance, irrigation for farming, upgrading of farm products, and overall infrastructure development.

The private sector had actively participated with the Government in creating employment opportunities for civilians in the North and East. On tourism development, the Minister explained that all parts of the country were now open to tourism, and the long-neglected tourist sites in the North and the East were being upgraded, and experiencing an upsurge in tourist arrivals.

The number of IDP’s has been reduced from the original over 290,000 to around 10,000. These remaining persons will be resettled as soon as demining is completed, he assured.

"More than 50% of the areas mined by the LTTE have now been cleared".

Of the over 11,500 ex-LTTE combatants who surrendered at the end of the conflict, other than the hardcore against whom there is legally admissible evidence, the rest will be released following rehabilitation, the Minister explained.

As a positive outcome of the ongoing process of transforming ex-combatants into productive citizens, 170 ex-combatants, including ex-child-soldiers sat the GCE O’level exams, 40 sat the GCE A’Level exams, and two entered Medical College., Prof. Peiris noted.

More than 500 Tamil-speaking police officers have been recruited in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in the last five months, in recognition of the language-related challenges faced by the people in these areas, said.

"All the High Security Zones in Jaffna have been dismantled following the recent opening up of Victoria Road in Jaffna".

On the economic front, the second highest post-independence economic growth in the country was recorded in 2010, when the economy grew by 8%. As a result of the post-conflict boom, banks in the North and the East recorded the best all-island performance in the issuance and recovery of loans granted last year for livestock and agriculture development, he said.

Minister Peiris recalled the long-standing relations between Sri Lanka and the West and the United Kingdom in particular, and invited British businesses to explore opportunities in Sri Lanka against the background of stability security and the favourable development and economic climate.

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