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Lanka to say no to UN rights monitoring office

The Sri Lankan Govt is expected to say "no" to a suggestion to have UN rights monitoring office in Sri Lanka, reports PK Balachandran.
Hindustan Times | By PK Balachandran, Colombo
UPDATED ON OCT 11, 2007 04:49 PM IST

The Sri Lankan government is expected to say "no" to a suggestion from the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Louise Arbour, to have a UN rights monitoring office in Sri Lanka, informed sources told Hindustan Times on Thursday.

Tamil leaders who met Arbour in Colombo on Wednesday, said that she was very unhappy with the rights situation in the country. She regretted that the government had not permitted her to go to the LTTE's headquarters in Kilinochchi even though one of the key objectives of her visit was to tell the rebels about the need to observe human rights in areas under their control.

Arbour said that in her view, there was a good case for setting up a UN monitoring mission in the island.

But she was not hopeful about setting it up, because she knew that the Sinhala-Buddhist political forces close to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, like the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), were dead against it.

The leaders of the JVP, who had met Arbour, had raised the issue with her and she had assured them that no such office would be set up without the Sri Lankan government's express consent.

And such consent is highly unlikely, given the political colour of the Rajapaksa government and its close relations with radical Sinhala-Buddhist organisations.

Case for UN mission

International rights organisations, especially the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), have been vigorously promoting the idea of setting up a UN monitoring mission in Sri Lanka in view of the continued rights violations, especially in the rebellious Tamil-speaking North and East of the island, where the armed forces, the Tamil paramilitaries, and the LTTE, are all accused of violating rights.

Tamil parties like the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Western Province Peoples' Front (WPPF) led by Mano Ganesan, have been demanding regular monitoring by a UN office. According to Tamil sources, the opposition United National Party (UNP) led by Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana) led by Mangala Samaraweera, also favour the setting up of a mission here and they had conveyed this to Arbour.

Giving the Tamil perspective on the rights situation in the North-East, TNA MP R Sampanthan said that in 2006 alone, 3,900 civilians were killed. In 2007, so far, 700 had been killed. About 1,200 had disappeared. Over 300,000 were rendered homeless during the fighting in 2006. Re-settlement of the displaced was proving to be problematical in the East because large areas had become special security zones or special economic zones, Sampanthan said.

Suresh Premachandran, another TNA MP, said that the Colombo regime, with the aid of the armed forces, was "Sinhalising" the East after the LTTE was driven out. In the North, the killings and abductions by shadowy groups had created such a scare that 196 persons had sought shelter with the government. These persons are now prisoners, virtually.

Government denies

However, government denies that violation of human rights is a major problem, though a fact finding mission has been sent to the Northern Tamil heartland of Jaffna to time with Arbour's visit.

Government also points out that it has set up a commission to go into the reported killings and abductions. It is stated that the mechanisms set up by the government have put the problem in the correct perspective and helped bring down cases.

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