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Ban Voices Concern about Lack of Progress on Key Issues in Sri Lanka

UN News Centre, March 8, 2010

I am concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement which both I and President Rajapaksa had agreed during my visit last year. I raised this issue and discussed [it]. I made clear to President Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a Group of Experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka. For that purpose, we have agreed that I dispatch [Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs] Lynn Pascoe in the very near future.

UN SC Ban Ki-moon at Menik Manik Farm Sri Lanka Vavuniya May 23 2009
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) visiting Menik Farm in Sri Lanka on 23 May 2009

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed concerns about the lack of progress on political reconciliation, the treatment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the setting up of an accountability process in Sri Lanka since the United Nations signed a joint statement with the Government last year in the wake of the end of its civil war with separatist Tamil rebels.

Mr. Ban told reporters that he had “a frank and honest exchange of views” last Thursday about these subjects during a telephone conversation with President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, where the runner-up candidate in January’s presidential elections, General Sarath Fonseka, was subsequently arrested for alleged “military offences” and the parliament was dissolved.

The Secretary-General and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have both voiced concern about the situation in the island nation, and Mr. Ban said last month that the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe will soon head to the island nation for talks with senior Government officials.

Speaking at UN Headquarters, Mr. Ban said today that he was “concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement,” particularly political reconciliation, the condition of IDPs and the need for an accountability process.

Government forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May last year, ending a civil war that had flared on and off for more than two decades. The conflict left hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced.

“I made clear to President Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a group of experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka,” Mr. Ban said.

That accountability concerns possible breaches of international humanitarian law or abuses of human rights carried out during the conflict.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Ban voices concern to Sri Lankan leader over recent developments

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New York, 8 March 2010 - Secretary-General's press encounter upon return from Chile [unofficial transcript] ...

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, late last week you spoke with the President of Sri Lanka, and said that you are going to name a panel, to advise yourself, on accountability. Over the weekend, the President said that you had no right to do it and had a very different read-out of the call than we received, at least the way I hear it. Can you explain what the purpose of the Panel is and when you think you're going to name it? And also the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, also over the weekend, confirmed that he sought a job for his son with the UN. I wonder if you think that is appropriate, and is such a job going to be given?

SG: As you said, I had a frank and honest exchange of views with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, Thursday night, last week, over issues that were of concern to both of us. This included moving forward on political reconciliation, further movement on the condition of internally displaced persons, and the establishment of an accountability process. I am concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement which both I and President Rajapaksa had agreed during my visit last year. I raised this issue and discussed [it]. I made clear to President Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a Group of Experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka. For that purpose, we have agreed that I dispatch [Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs] Lynn Pascoe in the very near future.

Q: Do you think that it's appropriate for the Foreign Minister of a country with which you are dealing with on possible war crimes to be seeking a job for his son with the UN?

SG: First of all, I am not aware of that particular case of job application of the Foreign Minister's son. As a matter of fact, any recruitment process will have to be dealt with in a most transparent and objective manner by the selection committee members. That is what the United Nations has been [using] as a principle.