Secretary General of Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma said the Commonwealth is encouraging the Sri Lankan government to accelerate its efforts towards sustainable reconciliation and consolidation of its "successful and hard won peace" through continued implementation of the recommendations of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
Recognizing the significant effort the Sri Lankan government has been made to redevelop infrastructure and basic services in the Northern Province, the Secretary General said these are important developments in peace-building and in creating the conditions for enduring harmony.
He hoped that these "public goods" will increasingly add economic value, advance the welfare of the citizens of Northern Province, and nurture development and prosperity.
Addressing the media at the conclusion of his five-day visit to Sri Lanka Wednesday, the Secretary General said his successful visit marks the half-way point in the two-year tenure of the Sri Lankan President as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office.
Mr. Sharma said he discussed with the President Mahinda Rajapaksa a range of Commonwealth issues, including the implementation of mandates set by Commonwealth leaders at their Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November 2013.
He said he briefed President Rajapaksa on progress with these, many of which have benefited from his personal leadership and the guidance of the Sri Lankan Government.
The visiting Commonwealth Chief also met with Minister of External Affairs, Professor G L Peiris, Speaker of Parliament, Chamal Rajapaksa, together with other leading Members of Parliament, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Karu Jayasuriya.
Mr. Sharma met the Chair of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Justice Priyantha R P Perera, and other Commissioners and discussed the Commonwealth's work with the Commission He said Commonwealth's technical assistance to the Commission has included strengthening its capacity to work with international human rights mechanisms in Geneva and its deepened engagement is aimed at enhancing the functional independence, authority and effectiveness of the Commission.
Another notable area of the Commonwealth with the Commission is its contribution to national reconciliation efforts premised on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commissionís recommendations.
He said the Commissionís Reconciliation Action Plan, which has been developed with the Commission is to be implemented with Commonwealth expertise and technical assistance from 2015. The Action Plan includes nine focus areas: addressing complaints related to disappearances; analyzing current protection issues of vulnerable communities; welfare of detainees; promoting culture and heritage; restitution and compensation; memorialization; promotion and protection of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities; human rights education and peace education; and, public information.
Mr. Sharma also met Commissioner of Elections Mahinda Deshapriya and discussed previous Commonwealth observation exercises and continuing challenges that need to be addressed by all concerned, including pre-electoral violence and the misuse of State resources for electioneering.
Speaking of his one-day visit to Northern Province, the Secretary General said steps that empower the people of the Province and those whom they elect as their leaders are equally important as the government's development effort.
Addressing legitimate concerns about restricted and monitored movement of both the citizens of the Province in their daily lives and those visiting them for lawful purposes, and a continued reduction in the military security role in civilian life in the Province are important needs, Mr. Sharma noted.
"I encourage all political leaders to take advantage of the peace dividend that has been established, including enabling full use of the financial resources now available for further development and growth in the Province," he said.
Highlighting that here cannot be durable reconciliation without knowledge of the whereabouts of missing persons and accounting for their disappearance or loss, the Secretary General wished success to the presidential commission set up for this purpose in its work.
The Commonwealth Chief also met the Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), Mr Jean Paul Laborde who is currently on a three-day official visit to assess Sri Lanka's implementation of counterterrorism measures.
He said the Commonwealth is working in an active partnership with the CTED to prevent and combat terrorism, to build the capacity of member states, and to foster international and regional cooperation and coordination.
Mr. Sharma said the Commonwealth Secretariat looks forward to its continuing partnership with the Government and people of Sri Lanka.