The visiting Japanese envoy, Yashushi Akashi, on Wednesday said the possibility of U.N. playing a role in the process of reconciliation figured in his discussions with his interlocutors in Colombo but insisted that it was for Colombo to define the process.
Mr. Akashi was addressing a joint press conference along with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris. On his 20th visit to the island, Mr. Akashi announced that Tokyo would provide further assistance of 39 billion Yen to help re-settle the war displaced. He also noted that Sri Lanka had made great strides towards peace and praised the creation of a Commission of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
His remarks on the possible role for U.N. coincided with the visit of U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe.
For several weeks now, Sri Lanka and the U.N. have been engaged in war of words over the decision of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to appoint a committee of experts to advice him on matters related to the island nation.
Sri Lanka has opposed the idea on the plea that there are mechanisms within the country to take care of issues such accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
Earlier in the month, during his visit to New York, Mr. Peiris had conveyed the displeasure of the Rajapaksa government over the panel of experts.
On Wednesday, Mr. Pascoe visited the north for a firsthand assessment of the situation of the re-settled Tamil civilians. A statement by the U.N. said its envoy would assist the Sri Lankan authorities tackle key challenges in the post-war situation.
“The visit will focus on political reconciliation, human rights and the resettlement of internally displaced persons in line with a joint statement made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Rajapaksa when the U.N. chief visited Sri Lanka in May last year,” the U.N. said.
Separately, two senior foreign policy advisors to U.S. President Barack Obama — here on a five-day visit — met Mr. Rajapaksa on Tuesday.
Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President on Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights and David Pressman, National Security Council Director for War Crimes and Atrocities, are also scheduled to meet senior government officials and members of civil society in Colombo, Jaffna, and Batticaloa.