Following elections, a historic opportunity has now presented itself for Sri Lanka to set up a domestic process that is credible, accountable and up to par with international norms and standards for the benefit of the country’s people, with the help of the wider international community, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman said.
Back from his visit to Sri Lanka, the UN political chief spoke to reporters at a Headquarters press briefing yesterday and expressed confidence over efforts towards reconciliation and cooperation.
He said that the 8 January national elections demonstrated the people’s resolve to share in the future of their country.
“The meetings and talks with the Government of Sri Lanka are so different than they used to be, so that leads us to greater expectations…There was suffering across all Sri Lanka, every community suffered and accountability must address the grievances in the North, but also allow that all [people] in Sri Lanka feel like all their concerns are being addressed,” he said.
During those meetings, Feltman said he expressed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s support to the country and pledged continuous UN cooperation in mending relations and building trust between the Government and the people in line with the 2009 Joint Communiqué of the UN and Sri Lanka.
“I encourage the Government to take some immediate steps that are feasible – things like the release of army-held land in the North to demonstrate the commitment of governments to follow through,” the Under-Secretary General emphasized.
He also noted that “Sri Lankans have suffered a great deal” and despite the efforts of commissions of inquiry, “the list of suffering remains long.”
The Government was vocal with Feltman about its plans to conform this process to international norms but has also pledged its commitment to reconciliation before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
By doing so, the Government has “put itself under a spotlight” but clearly more will be needed than just words. In terms of accountability, Sri Lanka’s Government will report back to [the Council] on steps taken to establish this domestic process.
Feltman said “without question” there still is distrust between groups, but all stakeholders must work together. He noted that he had heard scepticism, especially in the North of the country, on whether the Government will live up to its commitment.
But nevertheless, he said, “I left with the confidence that the intention to do this is real. The UN stands ready to provide technical assistance, if it is needed. “This is important for the people of Sri Lanka,” Feltman added.