U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay’s remarks — made here at a press conference on Saturday — do not seem to have gone down well with the Sri Lankan government.

A statement put out by the government late on Sunday said that Ms. Pillay’s observation on Sri Lanka heading in an “increasingly authoritarian direction is a political statement on her part which clearly transgresses her mandate and the basic norms which should be observed by a discerning international civil servant”. 

The statement added, “It also runs contrary to the many assertions the High Commissioner made about the unfettered access she was provided; the freedom people presently enjoy in contrast to the last time she visited Sri Lanka in 2000; and the vibrant political debates and election campaigns of which evidence was seen by her and acknowledged reflecting the political pluralism enjoyed by the people of Sri Lanka.”

“The judgment on the leadership of the country is better left for the people of Sri Lanka to decide, than being caricatured by external entities influenced by vested interests,” the statement said.

It highlights reports of Ms. Pillay’s delegation planning to pay floral tribute at Mullivaikkal. According to the statement, the government had told the delegation that if such a gesture needed to be “made, it should be done at a venue common to all victims of the 30-year terrorist conflict and not on the grounds where the LTTE leader met his death.

“It is significant that at no point of time during the discussion in formulating the High Commissioner’s programme, that the holding of such an event was indicated. This was brought to the attention of the Government side, only a few hours before the unilaterally scheduled event,” the statement went.

However, when the question was raised at Saturday’s press conference, Ms. Pillay said she would pay tributes to victims anywhere, and she did that during her visit to Guatemala. Ms. Pillay had stressed that to her “victims meant all victims”, when one of the journalists asked if she had met victims of the LTTE that Ms. Pillay herself referred to as a “murderous organisation” in her statement that preceded the question and answer session.