Sept 20, Geneva: The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today charged at least three ministers of the Sri Lankan government of engaging in a misinformation campaign against the High Commissioner.
Rupert Colville, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay issuing a press statement recalled the High Commissioner's statement at the end of her mission to Sri Lanka on 31 August in which she mentioned that at least three Government Ministers had joined in an "extraordinary array of distortion and abuse" during her visit to the country.
He said unfortunately the practice has continued with a report that, during her meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the High Commissioner has requested the removal of the statue of Sri Lanka's first Prime Minister from Colombo's Independence Square.
The OHCHR on 12 September has sent a formal complaint to the Sri Lankan Government regarding the widely reported comments attributed to the Secretary of Defence and requested an immediate retraction and public correction of the misinformation.
Since neither a retraction nor a correction have been forthcoming, the OHCHR said today it is making public what was said, and not said, about Independence Square during her visit.
The Spokesman categorically denied that Pillay ever uttered a single word about the statue of Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake at any point during her visit to Sri Lanka, let alone asked the President to remove it.
"This claim is without a shred of truth," Colville said.
There has been a further distortion concerning comments the High Commissioner made to the President concerning a flag in Independence Square, the Spokesman said.
The High Commissioner has discussed with the President her concerns with rising inter-communal tensions and incitement to violence on the basis of religion in Sri Lanka.
In this context, she has asked why the only flag flying, other than the national flag, in such a symbolic location was that of one religious community, and suggested it might be more inclusive to fly only the national flag which is a symbol that unites the nation, no matter who they are or what religion they adhere to.
"At no time did she request any flag to be removed," the Spokesman said.
"We consider it deeply regrettable that government officials and other commentators continue what appears to be a coordinated campaign of disinformation in an attempt to discredit the High Commissioner or to distract from the core messages of her visit," Colville said.
The High Commissioner will be updating the Human Rights Council on her visit and progress on accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka on 25 September.