Sri Lankan President and UN Secretary General discuss remaining challenges in reconciliation

Friday, 27 September 2013 04:16 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

President Mahinda Rajapaksa met the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York recently. The Secretary General received President Rajapaksa cordially in his office. The Sri Lankan delegation accompanying the President consisted of Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris, Monitoring MP of the Ministry of External Affairs Sajin de Vass Gunawardena, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs Kshenuka Senevirathe. The Secretary General observed that the Provincial Council elections went well, in particular, in the Northern Province. He said that this was a good basis for working towards the goal of national reconciliation. The President responded by saying that the elections were held consistent with the undertaking that he had given to conduct the elections in the Northern Province by September 2013. A democratic process was on course which would enable the Government to deal with elected representatives. He also noted that 80% of the electorate voted. He hoped that the new Chief Minister will attend the monthly Cabinet meetings to which all Chief Ministers are invited where common issues are discussed. The Secretary General welcomed the extensive reconstruction, rehabilitation and restoration work carried out by the Government in the Northern Province. He suggested that this work should be undertaken in a holistic manner. The Secretary General also commended the measures taken to implement the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). In response to a question with regard to allegations of religious tensions in Sri Lanka, the President explained that some incidents highlighted by the media as motivated by religious concerns actually had their origins in common criminal activity. Sri Lanka would not tolerate hatred based on religion. Prof. Peiris stated that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which up to now enjoyed the luxury of criticising without taking responsibility, will now be required to take responsibility and deliver on the promises made to the electorate. Sri Lanka also made a firm offer to provide equipment required by the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations, including helicopters, armoured vehicles and other relevant equipment. An offer to provide a women’s battalion was also made as the UN was looking for more women for peace keeping operations.