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Sri Lanka assurance on devolution of powers

Three days after winning a decisive victory against the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and decimating its entire leadership, Sri Lanka today assured India that it would speed up action on devolution of powers to Tamil-majority areas of the island nation, including implementation of the 13th Amendment.

The assurance was given by Sri Lankan leaders and officials who met National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who arrived here yesterday on a two-day visit to convey India's concerns on the evolving situation in the country.

Mr Narayanan and Mr Menon called on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and met with other senior officials, including Mr Basil Rajapakse, MP, Mr Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to President and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. They also interacted with a number of political parties in Sri Lanka.

A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs at the end of the visit said both sides agreed that, with the end of military operations in Sri Lanka, the time was opportune to focus attention on issues of relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and re-conciliation, including a permanent political solution in Sri Lanka.

It said that, following their agreement of October 26, 2008, both sides have been co-operating in providing humanitarian relief and assistance to IDPs in Sri Lanka. This includes medical assistance in the form of a field hospital, urgently needed medicines and medical supplies as well as food, clothing and shelter material.

According to the statement, both sides emphasized the urgent need to resettle the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their villages and towns of habitation and to provide to them necessary basic and civic infrastructure as well means of livelihood to resume their normal lives at the earliest possible.

To this end, the Government of Sri Lanka indicated that it was their intention to dismantle the relief camps at the earliest and outlined a 180-day plan to resettle the bulk of IDPs to their original places of habitation. India committed to provide all possible assistance in the implementation of such a plan in areas such as de-mining, provision of civil infrastructure and re-construction of houses.

Both sides also emphasized the urgent necessity of arriving at a lasting political settlement in Sri Lanka. Towards this end, the Sri Lankan government indicated that it will proceed with implementation of the 13th Amendment.

"Further, the Government of Sri Lanka also intends to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties, in the new circumstances, for further enhancement of political arrangements to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka," the statement added.

NNN

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