Aug 30, Colombo: The visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanetham (Navi) Pillay has acknowledged the post-war progress Sri Lanka has made when the much anticipated meeting between the UN official and the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa took place this evening at the Temple Trees.
"This is a visit long overdue, but I felt that it's much better that I come so that I'll be in a position to report on the very many achievements that have been made," Ms. Pillay said. "Firstly, it was very visible to me in the North how much you have invested in reconstruction," she noted.
Discussing the implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations, the High Commissioner said she was very pleased about the establishment of a commission to look into war-time disappearances.
The President and the High Commissioner also spoke about reports that depicted Sri Lanka as a country of religious intolerance, with Ms. Pillay saying that she was surprised since Sri Lanka is generally known to have a culture of tolerance. President Rajapaksa described that these have been isolated incidents and that the majority of Sri Lankans continue to coexist peacefully in all parts of the island.
Ms. Pillay also said there has been "good cooperation" between her office and the Sri Lankan government in facilitating her visit and that she had received comprehensive briefings at all her meetings.
President Rajapaksa told Ms. Pillay that there is a belief among many Sri Lankans that the United Nations is biased in the way it deals with countries, and he said he urged those who voiced these concerns to him not to prejudge the report Ms. Pillay is due to issue.
The UN official also got an opportunity to engage with a group of school students visiting the Temple Trees.
Students of Weera Walagamba Vidyalaya at Maduragoda, Dodangaslanda apprised the High Commissioner on the development in their village and the opportunity they have now to freely carry out their studies.
Earlier today Ms. Pillay, who is on a week-long fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka, met the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe.
The UN official, who arrived in Sri Lanka on Sunday (August 25), also visited the North and the East and held discussions with the members of the major Tamil party Tamil National Alliance and civil society leaders during her visit.
External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the External Affairs Ministry Karunaratne Amunugama and Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinha also participated in the discussion.
(Photos by Sudath Silva)