Sept 01, Colombo: Sri Lanka said today that it was ready to probe the allegations raised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that some people she met during her visit to the North on a fact-finding mission had been questioned by the security personnel.
Responding to Pillay's allegations, Sri Lanka's Mass Media and Information Minister and government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella has said that the government is ready to probe her allegations but she has to provide evidence.
The Minister told the Colombo Gazette that that some groups may attempt to discredit the government by either threatening those who spoke to her or making false claims to that effect.
Addressing a press conference Saturday at the end of her week-long visit to Sri Lanka, UN human rights chief drew attention to the "disturbing aspect" of her visit, namely the harassment and intimidation of a number of human rights defenders.
She said at least two priests, journalists, and many ordinary citizens who met with me, or planned to meet with her had been harassed or threatened and she received reports that people in villages and settlements in the Mullaitivu area were visited by police or military officers both before and after she arrived there.
In Trincomalee several people she met were subsequently questioned about the content of her conversation with them, Pillay alleged.
Rambukwella has however, noted that some groups with vested interests may even try to pass false information to Pillay with an ulterior motive.
Pillay stressed that this type of treatment is "utterly unacceptable" at any time, particularly during a visit by a UN official.
"This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced. Utterly unacceptable at any time, it is particularly extraordinary for such treatment to be meted out during a visit by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights," she said.
The UN official stressed that the UN takes the issue of reprisals against people because they have talked to UN officials as an extremely serious matter and warned that she will be reporting those that take place in connection with this visit to the Human Rights Council.
Responding to the UN official's claims, Rambukwella said it was clear from the start there were those who had an agenda to achieve during her visit and so she should not be misled by false allegations.
The Minister has pointed out that Pillay was given the freedom to travel and meet anyone she wanted and that opportunity may have been used by those who wanted to meet her and pass false information.
However, the Minister has assured that the government, as a responsible party, will investigate Pillay's claims if she formally complains with evidence.