B. Muralidhar Reddy

U.N. chief warns against “risk of triumphalism”

Yala Devi train service beyond Vavuniya resumes

COLOMBO: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reiterated his appeal to Sri Lanka to heed international calls for accountability and transparency and for an inquiry into alleged abuses committed during the recent war even as the government resumed the Yala Devi train service beyond Vavuniya town in the war ravaged north after a gap of 20 years.

“It is crucially important that the Sri Lankan government follow up on all the promises that they have made,” a report posted on the U.N. News Centre website quoted Mr. Ban as telling reporters following an informal discussion with Security Council members on Sri Lanka.

In the national capital, commenting on the restoration of the Yal Devi train service President Mahinda Rajapaksa said: “It signifies an important step in the restoration of dignity and self respect to Tamil people who had been denied many freedoms for twenty years thanks to the activities of the LTTE”.

MP and Special Advisor to the President Basil Rajapaksa said just as the government had successfully eradicated the terrorist menace in accordance with the pledges of Mahinda Chinthana, it would complete the first phase of the resettlement programme of the war displaced within 180 days.

He dismissed reports in certain sections of the media that IDPs were living in cardboard sheds. “This is a blatant falsehood and that everyone is being provided with the basic amenities and the best possible assistance under the circumstances”.

The report on the U.N. website said in the joint statement issued at the end of his May 22-23 visit to the country, Mr. Ban and Mr. Rajapaksa agreed the country had now entered a post-conflict phase and faced many obstacles relating to relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation.

“Whenever and wherever there are credible allegations of violations of humanitarian law, there should be a proper investigation. Any inquiry, to be meaningful, should be supported by the members of the United Nations, and also should be very impartial and objective,” it quoted Mr. Ban as saying.

“Time to unite”

Mr. Ban also stressed that it was time to unite, and warned against “the risk of triumphalism in the wake of victory,” as this will hinder ongoing efforts by the Sri Lankan government and people, and the international community, to help heal the wounds inflicted during the long-running conflict.

The Sri Lankan government, in a report, quoted India’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. in Geneva A. Gopinathan responding to the remarks on Sri Lanka included in the statement of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay as saying: “...it will be prudent to adhere to the outcome of the special session and be sensitive to the concerns expressed already, rather than take a position on contested proposals or controversial issues and ideas, which did not find eventual acceptance in the outcome of the special session.”

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan President told a group of local editors here that the media should not be used to disturb communal harmony. “The media should act with a sense of responsibility in this situation, and not encourage old attitudes that led to disharmony and mistrust to prevail,” said Mr. Rajapaksa.

Meanwhile, The Australian, an English daily, in a report said three Australian nationals caught in Sri Lanka’s overcrowded refugee camps could face more than a year in detention after the government in Colombo ruled out any special treatment or early release. So far Sri Lankan authorities have found 14 foreign citizens in the camps for the war displaced.