Sri Lanka today denied allegations that it had intimidated UN humanitarian workers during the final stages of the country’s war against Tamil separatists, as an UN report admitted there was “a grave failure” by the world body in handling the bloody crisis.
“The report has not been officially released yet. It is a leaked report. So I do not think we should respond to a leaked report. May be it is a fabrication altogether so let’s wait for the official report,” the government’s human rights envoy and the minister of Plantations Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters in Colombo.
A leaked UN report yesterday said that UN staff in Sri Lanka during the last stages of the government’s successful military campaign against the LTTE in 2009 had been intimidated by it and that under the government pressure the world body had not done enough to ensure the safety of the Tamil civilians.
“No nonsense, there was no such intimidation. How can we intimidate Ambassadors. No such thing. They don’t get intimidated by anyone,” Mr Samarasinghe said.
Mr Samarasinghe, who was the minister of Human Rights at the time, said that the government had a good rapport with humanitarian agencies including the UN.
“I chaired monthly meetings with humanitarian agencies. We addressed many issues and found answers to them,” the minister said.
Responding to the charge that UN was forced to withdraw from the island’s conflict zones in 2008 when the military campaign escalated, Mr Samarasinghe said it was not true.
“I have not heard anyone say that we (the government) asked them to leave,” he said.
Sri Lanka has come under increasing scrutiny of its rights record at the final stages of the military battle with the LTTE.
It resulted in the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s appointment of a special panel. Its report called for an international investigation into accountability.
In March this year, the UN Human Rights Council with India’s backing and US sponsorship adopted a resolution urging Colombo for expeditious implementation of an accountability process.