Interview with Sun TV

Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
New Delhi, India
September 15, 2011

Sun TV: Sir, you were in Sri Lanka the past two days. What is the present situation in Sri Lanka?

Assistant Secretary Blake: The present situation is that Sri Lanka is making slow progress towards reconciliation. I think there’s been important progress in terms of resettling many of the internally displaced persons on the island. I think there’s been progress in releasing many of the ex-combatants. But there’s still a great deal of work to be done.

We’re encouraged that the government has restarted its dialogue with the Tamil National Alliance, and most importantly, we think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done now to continue to pursue reconciliation and accountability.

Sun TV: So what kind of work is pending? What are you expecting to do in Sri Lanka?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Sorry. Start again.

Sun TV: You said a lot of developments are happening in Sri Lanka. And there is a lot to be done. So what are you expecting the government, the Sri Lankan government to do?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I don’t want to use the word expect. I think it’s up to them to decide what to do. But certainly we’ve been encouraging dialogue with the TNA to culminate in an agreement on what powers can be devolved to a provincial council. We very much hope that provincial council elections can be held for the very first time in the north since the LTTE took over northern Sri Lanka. And we hope that a whole range of other issues can be addressed such as a land claims process, such as continuing to disarm the paramilitaries that are operating in northern Sri Lanka. And we hope perhaps deploying Tamil police in the north and gradually replacing some of the military that are up there. So these are some of the kinds of things that we discussed during my trip to Sri Lanka.

Sun TV: During your visit did you meet President Rajapaksa? And what are the issues you discussed?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I did meet the President. I met with the Foreign Minister, of course with the Tamil National Alliance, and we discussed all the issues that I just mentioned.

Sun TV: There are some allegations that during the conflict with the LTTE want war crimes happened. Do you think something like that happened?

Assistant Secretary Blake: I can’t really comment on that. That’s the reason that it’s important for there to be an investigation. The Sri Lankans have initiated their own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission that is taking a lot of testimony from a wide range of people. And we have encouraged the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission to look at the conclusions of the Panel of Experts report that was done at the request of the UN Secretary General, and we hope that they will do that and then make recommendations including recommendations for referring individuals who may be guilty of war crimes for prosecution by the Attorney General of Sri Lanka.

Sun TV: So in this regard, what you are expecting the international and the Indian government should do?

Assistant Secretary Blake: Well, I think we’ve been consulting closely with India and with other concerned countries. I think we have a very similar perspective on this. Again, I think India also is working very closely with the government of Sri Lanka to encourage the kind of progress that I’ve just mentioned.

Sun TV: Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you so much.