Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Robert Blake at the National Peace Council Symposium
I want to congratulate National Peace Council for holding this timely symposium and for posing the question: after two decades of war and 5 years of the CFA, what next? I also want to commend NPC for inviting such a range of important religious, political, civil society and other leaders to share their thoughts because all of you collectively represent a powerful constituency for peace. It is also an honor for me to speak after my friend Norwegian Ambassador Brattskar, who together with his country has done so much to promote peace in Sri Lanka.
Ladies and gentlemen, much ink has been spilled about the recent changes in President Rajapakse’s cabinet and the situation in the North and East, but one central fact remains.
Sri Lanka now has an important opportunity finally to achieve peace and that opportunity must be seized. President Rajapakse has a strong majority in Parliament. His party, the SLFP, is in the final stages of crafting a power-sharing proposal that will then be shared with the All Party Representative Committee, under the capable leadership of Professor Vitharana.
[Ambassador Robert Blake, File Photo]
The APRC then will bear a solemn responsibility to develop a proposal of its own that meets the aspirations of the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese communities. If the proposal is a credible one, there is strong reason to believe that it will attract the support of sufficient UNP members of Parliament to give the President the votes he needs to amend Sri Lanka’s constitution.
The United States calls on the SLFP and the APRC to proceed as quickly as possible with their important work. If a credible power-sharing proposal emerges from the APRC, Sri Lanka has in President Rajapakse a strong leader who can use his very considerable political skills and the trust that his supporters repose in him to help fashion the southern consensus that has eluded previous governments. Such a consensus can then form the basis for renewed peace talks and an end to the conflict.
A national peace will not only bring an end to the fighting that has left more than 30,000 dead, and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes, it will help improve the human rights situation, propel the Sri Lankan economy to new heights, and create a virtuous cycle of prosperity and peace.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sri Lanka must not let this chance pass. The United States, together with its Co-Chair partners and friends such as India, stand ready to do everything we can to encourage and help Sri Lanka seize this historic opportunity.
[Press Release, US Embassy, Colombo]