Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Top U.N official to visit Sri Lanka, discuss refugees

By Patrick Worsnip - The top U.N. political official said on Monday he would travel to Sri Lanka this week to press the government to enable refugees to go home and other issues following its defeat of Tamil guerrillas.

Lynn Pascoe, head of the U.N. political affairs department, told reporters he would set off on Tuesday, at the request of. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who himself visited Sri Lanka in May, days after the separatist rebels were crushed.

Aides said Pascoe would spend several days on the island and was expected to visit camps in the north for people displaced by the fighting, and to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other officials.

The victory over the Tamil Tiger fighters ended a 25-year war. But while the Tigers were classified as a terrorist group by Western governments, Colombo is under Western and U.N. pressure to make good on its promise of returning 80 percent of the 280,000 Tamil people in camps to their homes by year-end.

Rights groups have charged that the people in the camps are treated poorly and are being kept there longer than necessary. Authorities say they need to weed out possible Tamil fighters and clear land mines before full resettlement can occur.

Pascoe said Ban had spoken to Rajapaksa by telephone on Monday to discuss the resettlement as well as promises the government gave him during his visit to investigate any rights abuses and launch a political dialogue with the Tamils.

"We have been concerned about the pace of progress since the secretary-general was out there," Pascoe said. "We're particularly concerned about the (refugees) in the camps, and getting them out, getting them home."

"The secretary-general said that he would like for me to go out fairly quickly to deal with follow-up issues and where they're going. President Rajapaksa agreed and so I'll be on the plane tomorrow with a small team," Pascoe added.

The United Nations is also concerned about two Sri Lankan U.N. employees being held by authorities and has criticized Colombo's expulsion of a spokesman for the U.N. children's agency UNICEF. The government said the spokesman, James Elder, had spread Tamil Tiger propaganda. The agency denied that.

"A whole range of human rights issues need to be discussed," said Pascoe, a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia. But he added that he did not think responsibility for rights violations lay exclusively with the government.

The United Nations has sought to maintain a high profile over Sri Lanka after Ban was criticized by some advocacy groups over the timing of his visit, which the groups said appeared to endorse the army's victory. The U.N. denied that and said Ban had negotiated toughly with the government.

© Reuters

Related Links:
UN Political Chief Heading to Sri Lanka - Fox News
UN political chief to visit Sri Lanka for talks - UN News Centre

Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment

© 2009 - 2014 Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP