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Blake turns up pressure on Sri Lanka

US Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Blake, speaking at a news conference to mark the end of his three day visit to Sri Lanka, urged the Sri Lankan government to ensure accountability, stop paramilitary activity in the North-East and pursue devolution through talks with the TNA.

“We are not in the business of making threats to our friends.

There is a need for a credible process of accountability for those who have violated international humanitarian law and there will be pressure for some mechanism to ensure that this takes place.

However we hope that (such pressure) is not necessary.”

"The solution to achieving a just and lasting peace in Sri Lanka is not just about accountability," he added, however.

Highlighting the recent mock protest orchestrated by Douglas Devananda's EPDP, Blake condemned the use of paramilitaries in the North to maintain law and order, insisting the government must make progress on disarming such groups.

I am concerned about human rights.

I discussed with relevant officials the importance of disarming paramilitary groups, on which progress is being made.

It is important to deploy Tamil policeman in the north so the military no longer needs to perform these functions.”

 “Paramilitary groups are not allowed to carry weapons in public.

While I was in Jaffna I myself, experienced the power of the EPDP who was able to prevent me from meeting with some university students.

Blake urged the government to curtail on going use of the Public Securities Ordinance and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, highlighting the minimal impact felt by the repealing of emergency regulations given the ongoing military rule.

Devananda, lashing back on hearing Blake's comments, has warned a letter will be sent to the US diplomat prior to departure. It remains unknown if such a letter was sent.

Encouraging the government and the TNA to 'resume their important dialogue on devolution and other matters, Blake stated he was 'very pleased to hear' both sides had resumed discussions.

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