Sri Lanka fighting over, but much work remains, says Ban

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The Sri Lankan Government last month declared that its military operation against Tamil rebels has ended, but there remain a number of outstanding issues that if left unaddressed could lead more violence, stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In his remarks at last night's awards gala at the Foreign Policy Association in New York, Mr. Ban said that he has made it clear to President Mahinda Rajapaksa that though the fighting might be over, “there is much more to do.”

Mr. Ban, who was honoured with an award in recognition of his efforts in tackling global humanitarian issues, expressed his deep concern over the situation in Sri Lanka's refugee camps.

He got a first-hand look at the situation in the camps, which are housing over 280,000 people displaced by the recently-concluded conflict between the Government and Tamil rebels, when he visited the country from 22 to 23 May.

In recent days, he has said that the Government has addressed some concerns he raised over humanitarian access to the camps, and that he was encouraged by its commitment to return 80 per cent of those displaced in the fighting to their homes by the end of this year. Nevertheless, he has noted that the conditions in the camps remain difficult.

“People must be allowed to return to their homes. There must be reconciliation. The Government of Sri Lanka must hold out their hands to the minority,” he told last night's gathering.

“If this is not addressed, there might be more violence,” he warned.

The Secretary-General also called for accountability for those who may have committed human rights abuses, as was agreed in the joint statement issued with the Government at the end of his recent visit.

Mr. Ban reiterated his commitment to continue his work for the people of Sri Lanka, and for all people suffering from breaches of humanitarian law and human rights, in a wide-ranging speech that also touched on the violence plaguing various parts of the world, the economic crisis, and climate change.