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Monday, September 30, 2013 - 04.55 GMT
President rejects accusation of country heading in an authoritarian direction


President Mahinda Rajapaksa strongly rejected an accusation made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay that Sri Lanka is heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.

In an interview with the Al-Jazeera, the President said he does not understand why the UN official would make such allegations when Sri Lanka has had around 19 elections within the past 5 years.

He said that there is democracy in Sri Lanka and it's up to the people to decide on governments.

The President said people of Sri Lanka believed that the UN official had already prepared her report before she visited the country.

When asked about the allegations she made concerning the harassment of persons who spoke to her during her visit to the North, the President said she never raised the allegations when she had discussions with him but stated them to the public.

"We allowed her to go anywhere, we allowed her to meet any body, she wants," he said adding that people against the government can say anything but "we allowed it."

"When she met me she did not complain about anything," he said adding that she should back her concerns with evidence if those need to be investigated.

Responding to Pillay's charge that surveillance and harassment is getting worse in Sri Lanka, the President said Sri Lanka is a democratic country and people, especially opposition, are free to express their views.

Speaking of the Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance's victory at the elections for the Northern Provincial Council, President Rajapaksa said the party's victory was not a setback to the government as the government and he expected the result. He said the Tamil party now has the responsibility to deliver their promises.

"Anybody can criticize. Let them deliver now," he said.

When questioned about the TNA's demand to withdraw the Army from the North the President said the Tamil party cannot ask to withdraw the Army from the region and the presence of the military is required to maintain security within the country.

"If the other Provincial Councils also ask me to withdraw their army camps from all over the country, where can I have the army? Is somebody else going to give me a place to keep the army?" he asked.

President Rajapaksa further said there are only about 8,000 - 12,000 troops are currently operating in the North.

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Last modified: September 30, 2013.

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