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UN official visits Colombo to discuss rehabilitation of refugees

Lynn Pascoe, the political affairs head of the UN, was slated to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday to discuss the situation of the 2.8 lakh Tamil refugees and their early rehabilitation, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.

world Updated: Sep 16, 2009 23:16 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

A senior UN official arrived in Colombo on Wednesday evening to discuss the situation of the 2.8 lakh Tamil refugees and their early rehabilitation.

Lynn Pascoe, the political affairs head of the UN, was slated to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday to discuss ``urgent matters.’’ On Thursday, he was expected to visit the refugee camps in Vavuniya in north Sri Lanka.

A foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed his arrival and said Pascoe was also slated to meet foreign minister Rohitha Bogollagama before meeting Rajapaksa.

The relation between the Sri Lankan government and the UN has been tense since the war against the LTTE ended in May. Earlier this month, the UNICEF spokesperson was ordered to leave the country over alleged pro-rebel bias. Earlier, the Rajapaksa government had launched strong protest when a UN official in Colombo had termed the end of the war as a ``bloodbath.’’

It was followed by the controversy of death toll of civilians in the last phase of the war, which was attributed to an UN document to be around 7000. The government had denied the figure.

But Lynn’s discussions in the next two days were likely to revolve around the displaced. ``We are very concerned about the pace of progress,’’ Pascoe said in New York before leaving for Sri Lanka. "We're particularly concerned about the (refugees) in the camps, and getting them out, getting them home,’’ he added.

Pascoe said UN secretary general Ban KI-moon 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.

Pascoe is also likely to raise the issue of the continuing detention of two Sri Lankan UN staff. Last week a UN spokeswoman said they had initially been "disappeared" by the government in June and there were allegations that the authorities had mistreated them.