Even as Sri Lanka outlined its vision for restoration of democracy and rights of minorities including the Tamils throughout the island nation before the Human Rights Council at Geneva on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced he was despatching his political head to Sri Lanka to step up the process of resettlement of the nearly three lakh war displaced in the north.
On the inaugural day of the council’s meet in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe reiterated the commitment of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime towards a lasting and durable solution to the long-standing conflict.
“With the defeat of terrorism, the government was doing its utmost to restore, rebuild and renew the foundations of a democratic social order throughout the territory of the Sri Lankan nation,” he told the meet. However, he added that war displaced civilians would be allowed to return to their original villages after the screening of suspects and de-mining of areas earlier held by LTTE was complete.
A statement by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry here said that United Nations Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe will be visiting Sri Lanka from September 16 to 18, on an invitation extended by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, to engage his interlocutors on a number of post-conflict issues discussed during the visit of the U.N. Secretary-General to Sri Lanka in May this year. Mr. Pascoe was a member of the Mr. Ban’s delegation on that occasion.
The Foreign Ministry said the invitation to Mr. Pascoe was preceded by a telephone conversation between Mr. Rajapaksa and the Mr. Ban on September 14.
“During his visit Mr. Pascoe will hold discussions with a number of Ministers and senior representatives of the Sri Lankan government dealing with matters related to ongoing progress on post-conflict issues such as humanitarian assistance, resettlement of IDPs and the political process. Mr. Pascoe is also expected to visit the IDP sites in the North. Mr. Pascoe, during his visit, will also call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa”.
The visit of the U.N. envoy coincides with the Foreign Minister’s scheduled visit to New York in September to attend the U.N. General Assembly session.
The U.N. political chief has stressed the importance of political reconciliation and the need for accountability, which he said would be best done internally rather than externally.
The U.N. knows that accountability “will take some time ... but it’s something absolutely critical for the people of Sri Lanka, I think, and it’s a critical part of the political reconciliation process,” he told the media in New York.
In another development, Mr. Bogollagama requested the Indian government for assistance in the early release of 51 Sri Lankan fishermen who are under the custody of the Andaman and Nicobar authorities along with nine fishing vessels, during a meeting held with the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Alok Prasad, here on Monday.
“The Foreign Minister pointed out that the system adapted by the State government of Tamil Nadu in dealing with arrested Sri Lankan fishermen is convenient and requested to explore possibilities of adopting a similar approach towards Sri Lankan fishermen arrested elsewhere in India, especially in the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands,” said a statement by the Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, acting British High Commissioner Mark Gooding commenting on the U.K. government’s further relaxation of its travel advice to Sri Lanka said it reflected the latest assessment of the security situation.
“We have relaxed our advice such that we are now informing travellers that there is now a general [as opposed to high] threat from terrorism, which means that there is some level of known terrorist activity in-country. This latest change is a sensible precautionary measure that reflects the latest available information and is intended to help U.K. nationals make informed decisions on whether to travel to Sri Lanka,” he said.