Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Sri Lanka's tsunami-battered northeast on Tuesday, praising reconstruction efforts after last year's killer waves and urging the government to seek peace with Tamil Tiger rebels. Clinton, making his third trip to the island nation since the Dec. 26 tsunami, arrived in the coastal town of Kinniya by helicopter after an overnight stay in the capital of Colombo, where he met separately with President Mahinda Rajapakse and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. The Dec. 26 tsunami killed more than 31,000 people and affected 1 million others in this small tropical island of 19 million people off India's southern coast. Clinton talked with residents and also visited a partly destroyed hospital before departing for Colombo.
Before arriving in Trincomalee district, one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami, Clinton met with Rajapakse over lunch in Colombo where he was showered with praise for his efforts to raise funds for the victims of the tsunami.
Clinton returned the praise, noting Sri Lanka's efforts to rebuild the coastal regions, and saying that 90 percent of children are back in school, and nearly every displaced person has at least temporary shelter. "There is still more to be done and efforts must focus on maintaining the shelters as the monsoon season approaches, providing jobs to the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their source of livelihood as a result of the tsunami, and the construction of permanent homes," Clinton said, according to a statement by his office.
Clinton also urged the government to keep up efforts to promote peace with Tamil Tiger rebels who have been battling the government for decades for an independent homeland. "Any recovery progress achieved this year will be quickly reversed if Sri Lanka returns to civil conflict," he said. Clinton is scheduled to head to Indonesia on Wednesday, another country battered by the killer waves, reports the AP. N.U.