COLOMBO: The UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez Taranco, and the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Atul Keshap, are currently in Sri Lanka talking to high officials and ministers on the political and human rights situation in the island nation ahead of a UN probe into rights violations and alleged war crimes committed by the Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during and after Eelam War IV.
Officials sources said that Taranco had sought a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa but that is yet to be granted. He has however been allowed to meet Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Minister of External Affairs G L Peiris and leaders of political parties including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Taranco is expected to pay a visit to Jaffna to meet the Northern Province Governor Maj Gen Chandrasiri and Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran.
UN sources said that Taranco has had meetings since morning on Thursday. But no details were divulged. The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Kashap, met the TNA leaders in Colombo.
Briefing Express on the meeting, TNA’s spokesman Suresh Premachandran said that the party pointed out to Keshap that it would be very difficult for civilians to give evidence before the UN probe team in the light of the fact that the government spokesman, Keheliya Rambukwella , had openly told the media that those who testified before the panel would be “dealt with”. This warning posed a severe threat given the absence of a Witness Protection Law in Sri Lanka, the TNA delegation pointed out.
The TNA delegation also said that many of the war displaced civilians are unable to get their lands back on account of the seizure of these lands by the Lankan military.
Though the communal tension in the Beruwela-Aluthgama area of Kalutara district was much less on Thursday following the deployment of the military and the arrest of more than 40 persons, the District Administration had ordered the closure of all schools in Beruwela on Friday.
Muslims in various parts of Colombo observed a hartal by closing their shops in protest against the riots in Kalutara district since June 15 in which at least two Muslims were killed.