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* Sri Lanka needs to listen to the international community, the Japanese peace envoy says
Sat, Dec 14, 2013, 01:40 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Dec 14, Colombo: Willingness of Sri Lanka to listen to the voices in the international community is a prerequisite for other countries to work with Sri Lanka, Japans special envoy on Peace and Rebuilding in Sri Lanka Yasushi Akashi said Friday.

Speaking at a media briefing held at the Japanese Embassy in Colombo on Friday at the conclusion of his six-day visit to Sri Lanka, Akashi said Sri Lanka should not disregard the international community, but listen to the concerns expressed by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and pursue mutual cooperation.

"A pre requisite is the willingness of the Sri Lankan Government to listen to the concerns of the International Community and the Human Rights Council which represent the International Community," Akashi said.

He said the international community is mounting pressure on Sri Lanka since the perception is that Sri Lanka is delaying the implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations.

"There is a certain amount of impatience and frustration on these matters and there is a notion that the Sri Lankan Government has taken too much time appointing commissions and then shelving their reports without taking any action," Akashi told the media.

While acknowledging that Sri Lanka has made significant progress in resettlement, rehabilitation and demining within a short period of four years and Sri Lanka needs more time, the special envoy said Sri Lanka however needs to eliminate the gap between what the government views as achieved and what the stakeholders think still need to be done.

"I wish to urge the government to exert further effort for additional achievements to reduce the gap," he said.

Speaking of the accountability concerns, the Japanese envoy said the killing of 17 aid workers in Muttur and the killing of five students in Trincomalee are both important cases and the government needs to bring the culprits to justice.

"Japan has been urging Sri Lanka on these matters and the people involved in this should be brought to justice," he said.

He commended the government's measure to conduct a census on missing and disappeared and preparing the necessary grounds for investigation and judgment.

Akashi expressed hope that the government would expedite the passage of the Witness Protection Bill in parliament which will be a prerequisite to resolve the high profiled cases.

Assuring Japan's continued support to Sri Lanka, the envoy said Japan is assessing Sri Lanka's report at the next UNHRC session in March 2014 and Japan will be able to engage in a comprehensive in-depth and fair discussion in the interest of the people of Sri Lanka and the international community.

During his visit, Akashi held discussions with the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, senior government officials, the Tamil party leaders and the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council.

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