Sept 20, New York: The United Nations extends its fullest support to Sri Lanka to move forward promoting unity among the communities, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has assured Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Sri Lankan President was given this assurance when he met with the Secretary General at the United Nations Headquarters in New York yesterday (19), the President’s Media Unit said.
Mr. Guterres, who warmly welcomed the President at the United Nations Headquarters, reminisced about his visit to Sri Lanka in 1978 on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and his visits to Kandy, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee.
Mr. Guterres recalled his work regarding Sri Lanka as High Commissioner for Refugees to the United Nations and his meeting with the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2006.
The Secretary-General noted that Sri Lanka, which has played a major social and economic role in the Indian Ocean region, is expected to continue to do so, despite the crisis that has plagued it for nearly 30 years.
President Rajapaksa said he was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and congratulated him on leading the United Nations during a difficult period the world is facing and for his second term as Secretary-General.
President Rajapaksa briefed the UN Secretary General on the challenges a country like Sri Lanka with a small economy is facing a in the face of the Covid epidemic.
President Rajapaksa spoke at length on the impact of the Covid epidemic on education and the economy of Sri Lanka and commended the World Health Organization (WHO) for its support in tackling the epidemic.
The President pointed out that more than half of the total population has been fully vaccinated and that all arrangements have been made to fully vaccinate all those over the age of 15 before the end of November.
The Secretary General commended the progress made by Sri Lanka in vaccination.
The President pointed out that the Covid epidemic was a major obstacle to fulfilling the promises he made to the people when he became President in 2019. The President elaborated on the steps taken even in the face of that situation to address the aftermath of the defeat of over 30 years of terrorism.
The President explained the compensation paid to the victims, the transfer of lands and the massive development carried out in the North and East in 2009 under the guidance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the opportunity to democratically elect representatives to the Northern Provincial Council.
The President told the Secretary-General that the government would take immediate action on missing persons and expedite the issuance of death certificates.
The President pointed out that many youths arrested as suspects in terrorist activities were released after he came to power. He told the Secretary General that he would not hesitate to grant a presidential pardon to the group.
He told the Secretary-General that legal action would be taken against those who could not be released and that he would not hesitate to grant a presidential pardon to the Tamil youth who have been in custody for a long time, taking into account their long-term detention after the end of the legal process.
President Rajapaksa has stated that his aim is to strengthen democracy in Sri Lanka and accordingly, batons and water cannons will not be used for protesters under his government as previously governments did. The President noted that a separate place had been set aside for the protesters near his office.
President Rajapaksa also explained how the government works with civil society organizations to bring about development and reconciliation in the country.
The President emphasized that the internal problems of Sri Lanka should be resolved through an internal mechanism of the country and invited the Tamil Diaspora for discussions.
President Rajapaksa said he was always ready to work closely with the United Nations, adding that although he could assure that separatism would not re-emerge in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka as a government as well as other states should be vigilant about religious extremism.