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* US delegation reviews progress in Sri Lanka's North and East
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 01:06 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Jan 31, Colombo: The United States delegation currently in Sri Lanka on a five-day visit met with the Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa at his ministry Wednesday (30) to review the progress of the development projects in the conflict-affected Northern and Eastern provinces.

Minister Basil Rajapaksa has apprised the delegation on the measures taken by the government to improve health, education, sanitary services, access roads, and power supply, among other public requirements in the two provinces through infrastructure development.

He has told the delegation that steps have been taken to uplift the living conditions of the people of the Jaffna District by developing it as an industrial area.

The delegation comprising Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Vikram Singh, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jane Zimmerman was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador in Colombo Michele Sison during the meeting with the Minister.

The Economic Development Ministry said the visitors were impressed by the infrastructure development and economic progress in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The U.S. officials have however, stressed the need to increase employment and educational opportunities for the people in the region recovering from the war and to encourage the private sector to invest in projects to boost the development in the North.

Minister Rajapaksa has explained that a large number internally displaced people now have permanently resettled in their homes with the government assistance and have found employment opportunities.

According to the Minister the government expects the increased tourism to the area to bring in more direct and indirect employment opportunities for the resettled people.

The Minister has further explained to the visiting delegation that the government has launched a number of programs targeting widows and female heads of households and consequently a large number is now self-employed supplying products and services in small scale under the Divi Neguma program.

He has pointed out to the delegation that the Northern Province has achieved 22 percent economic growth and has contributed to the island's overall economic growth.

During their visit, the U.S. delegation met with opposition party leaders, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and military commanders, and Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris and reviewed the progress in implementing the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations and National Action Plan. They were also expected to meet Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, and other government officials.

The delegation has also visited Jaffna to observe the progress in the region.

"We went to Jaffna. We saw a lot of progress. We see the dividends of peace - increased investment, development, the building of roads, freedom of movement, the ability to travel all around the country. So you can see the baseline growing for what will be a sustainable peace," Deputy Assistant Secretary Singh said at a media briefing on Monday.

However, the U.S. officials have stressed that while there has been some progress on implementation of LLRC recommendations, there is still a great more to be done.

In this regard, the U.S. will bring another resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in March, the delegation said, adding that the U.S. and the other 23 members of the Human Rights Council who voted for the resolution in 2012 believe the Sri Lankan government needs to fulfill the commitment that it has already made through the LLRC to its people.



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