UN report due tomorrow despite Lanka’s plea

By Leon Berenger

Sri Lanka and the United Nations are locked in a bitter row over the release of the UN Panel report on alleged crimes in Sri Lanka. External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris told government leaders including President Mahinda Rajapaksa that he had obtained an assurance from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the report would not be released publicly. Hence he was of the view that the UN had reneged on that assurance.

People at Pettah private bus stand signing the petition against the UN report. Pic by Mangala Weerasekera

UN officials both in New York and Colombo confirmed to the Sunday Times that Dr. Peiris did make the request but the Secretary-General did not offer him any response. “There was no such commitment made,” said an official at the UN in New York. In Colombo, UN spokesperson Tom Hockley said, “This report is of a sensitive nature and I do not have the mandate to comment on it”.

Dr. Peiris last week requested Lynn Pascoe, the UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, to urge UN Chief Ban not to publish the report. The reasons, according to Dr. Peiris, were two fold -- that the report could be used as a resource by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and that publicly releasing the report could hamper the reconciliation process with the Tamil community. However, UN acting spokesperson Farhan Haq rejected the request and announced that the report would be released without any alteration or addition. The official release is expected to take place tomorrow, hours after Ban returns to New York from a visit to Moscow.

The UN Panel’s 196-page report was handed over to Mr. Ban on April 12. The Panel comprised Marzuki Darusman (Chairman), Jasmin Sooka and Steven Ratner. Soon after the report is made public, the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter Terrorism is expected to issue a statement.

The UN Panel said, “There is no authoritative figure for civilian deaths or injuries in the Vanni in the final phase of the war”. However, it has said, “a number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths”. The Government is insisting that it maintained a zero civilian casualty policy.

Top envoys summoned for reponse

The government has summoned at least three ambassadors to help in formulating a response to the UN Panel report.

They are Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative at the UN, Ravinatha Ariyasinha Ambassador in Brussels and Kshenuka Senviratne, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva

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