Aug 29, Colombo: Reiterating its firm commitment to work with the United Nations system Sri Lanka today told a visiting top UN official that the country expects an objective approach and equal treatment from the global body.
Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris told the visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanetham Pillay that there is a perception in the country about the lack of objectivity and fairness in the treatment meted out to Sri Lanka, when he welcomed the UN official at the Ministry Thursday.
The Minister added that Sri Lanka accepts constructive and justified criticism but resents vicious and baseless positions which are incessantly repeated.
Pillay is on a weeklong visit to Sri Lanka on an invitation extended by the Sri Lankan government in April 2011.
Briefing the visiting UN official on matters relating to post-conflict development, Prof. Peiris apprised Pillay of the measures taken by the government and law enforcement authorities to address the accountability issue.
He informed the UN Rights Chief that action has been taken to indict some members of the Special Task Force in relation to the killing of five students in Trincomalee and apprised her on the status of investigations with regard to the Muttur incident involving the killing of 17 local workers of a French NGO ACF.
Drawing parallel with the case of the assassination of the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, where conviction has not been possible due to the lack of evidence, the Minister explained the difficulties encountered in identifying the perpetrators due to the conditions prevailing at the time of incidence, with regard to the ACF case.
He told Ms. Pillay that there is no culture of impunity in the country and when evidence is available action to conduct legal proceedings have been instituted irrespective of the status of those accused.
Addressing allegations of disappearances, Prof Peiris highlighted that over 3,000 members of the armed forces have also gone missing and explained the difficulties in identifying the missing due to possible migration to other countries.
The Minister addressing the issue of reconciliation, asked the UN official to consider the challenges Sri Lanka faces and the brief period of time since the end of the conflict.
He noted that economic contentment of the people is equally important in order for the reconciliation process to be viable and sustainable and explained that the government has channeled enormous resources to the North resulting in a 27% growth rate in that region compared to the national average of 7%.
Minister Peiris expressed regret that the major Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) continues to seek support from overseas rather than participating in local processes including the Parliamentary Select Committee where they can derive more benefit for the people in their own constituencies.
Regarding de-militarization of high-security zones in the North, the Minister said while serving the national security interests of the country, plans are underway to relocate troops to other identified government lands.
Referring to Pillay's concerns over taking the Police under the new Ministry of Law and Order instead of the Ministry of Justice, the Minister stressed that her stated position is fundamentally unacceptable and does not move in accordance with the established procedures of Sri Lanka.
The Minister also inter alia discussed the implementation of the LLRC Recommendations, the UN official's concerns on religious minorities and the Prevention of terrorism Act (PTA).
Stressing that many allegations made against Sri Lanka were without basis, the Minister regretted the legitimization of the UN Secretary-General's Panel of Experts report and the Petrie report by including them in the recent report by the High Commissioner submitted to the Human Rights Council.
He noted that many countries have been taken aback by the disproportionate focus on Sri Lanka. "There has been prejudgment and we are disappointed," the Minister said.
Minister Peiris also informed Pillay that following her visit, the visits of UN Special Procedure mandate holders will be scheduled and invitations have already been extended to the Special Rapporteurs on the human rights of IDPs and on the right to education for country visits in December 2013 and January 2014, respectively.
The Minister, while recalling the already established framework for cooperation between Sri Lanka and the UN, assured that the Government of Sri Lanka will continue to work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).