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US must play guiding role in bringing true peace and stability – Wigneswaran

Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran warned that Tamils in the North-East remain disempowered and urged the US to play a supporting and guiding role in bringing true peace and stability to the island.

Writing in The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper, Mr Wigneswaran said the political will shown by the US to support justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, make the next few months “crucial” to pursue “true reform”.

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The chief minister highlighted the grievances of the Tamil people in the North-East, criticising the Sirisena-led government for its lack of progress.

He said despite the armed conflict ending over 6 years ago, “the Sri Lankan military continues to dominate the landscape in the North and East.”

“Land belonging to Tamil citizens remains in military hands, used for farming, tourism and business activities benefitting the military. Despite government calls for the military to return to its barracks, the army is still very visible, intimidating men, women and children and denying their right to return to their normal lives.”

“Meanwhile, families are desperate to learn the whereabouts of the estimated 146,000 people who remain unaccounted for years after the war’s end. But the current government has inexplicably delayed in releasing the full list of political prisoners who have been held for years without charge.”

The chief minister said the government only returned 1,000 acres of private land occupied by the military and said it was holding 64,000 acres of land in the Northern Province alone, contrary to the government’s claim it is “only” holding 10,000 acres.

Mr Wigneswaran said reforms “can and must” be undertaken now, and that the US and the international community can “a large role in supporting the country’s economic development and accountability and reconciliation processes”, while expressing “gratitude” for the leading role the US has taken at the UN Human Rights Council.

He stressed that Washignton can help the the government make meaningful reforms by providing legal and technical assistance, including demilitarisation, returning all Tamil lands and establishing a credible, independent and victim-centered accountability mechanism.

The chief minister further called for a devolved state structure “where all regions are able to make decisions on behalf of their local communities, as well as demilitarization and allowing Tamils to return to their lands and homes, freely and without fear”.

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