The U.N.’s top political affairs official travelled to Vavuniya on Thursday for a firsthand assessment of the situation of the war-displaced housed in government-run camps.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe, who is on a two-day visit, will meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa on matters relating to resettlement, political reconciliation and accountability for alleged human rights violations.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Rajapaksa agreed on Mr. Pascoe’s mission during a telephone conversation on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Pascoe said: “We are very concerned about the pace of progress.”
Mr. Pascoe recalled Mr. Ban’s visit to Sri Lanka in May, shortly after the end of the conflict. “The Secretary-General was there, and a series of commitments was made… including on the movement of people out of camps and including an eventual political process and some kind of accountability mechanism.”
He added that he also intended to discuss the continued detention of two U.N. staff members.
Mr. Pascoe said Mr. Ban and Mr. Rajapaksa had spoken “quite openly and straightforwardly about what should or should not be done” and he would “work from where we are on what are critical issues out there.”
Separately, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes referred to what he termed as the most severe humanitarian crisis in “hot spots” including Sri Lanka and appealed to donors to fill the $5-billion funding gap the world body and its partner agencies faced in providing emergency aid to people.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Minister Anura Yapa told the media there was no truth in speculation that the government had a political motive in keeping civilians in the transitional centres in Vavuniya for an extended period of time.
“We have rescued these people from the decade-long terrorist grip and we should be able to ascertain now that they are returning to their villages which have all the necessary facilities including infrastructure facilities to start their life. The security of these persons is a prime concern of the government,” he said.
The de-mining process cannot be completed overnight, the Minister said adding that the whole process had to be carried out delicately and conforming with international standards.
Mr. Yapa said there had to be a clear screening process to identify LTTE cadres living in these camps as they had to be enrolled in rehabilitation programmes.