Sri Lanka’s new leader discusses agenda with UN chief
EconomyNext – Sri Lanka’s new president Maithripala Sirisena has been congratulated on his election by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations whose Human Rights Council is set to take up an inquiry into alleged war crimes in March.
A UN statement said the Secretary-General had spoken on the phone with Sirisena, who ousted Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 8 presidential poll.
"The Secretary-General congratulated President Sirisena’s election and the successful conclusion of the presidential election," it said.
"The Secretary-General and President Sirisena discussed the President’s 100-day plan and Sri Lanka’s post-war agenda. The Secretary-General affirmed continuous support by the UN to Sri Lanka."
Sirisena has pledged to initiate a series of reforms in his first 100 days in office aimed at pruning the powers of the powerful executive president and restoring the independence of institutions like the public service, judiciary and police.
Widespread allegations of abuse of power and corruption are believed to have led to the defeat of Rajapaksa, who has been accused of war crimes in his military campaign that defeated Tamil Tiger separatists in May 2009.
The allegations prompted a UN inquiry that had been resisted by Rajapaksa who maintained the UN investigation is biased.
The UN-mandated investigation into the alleged human rights violations by both government troops and Tamil Tigers during the final phase of the war is to present its findings at the UN Human Rights Council in March 2015.
Sirisena also has not accepted the UN inquiry but instead promised a more robust domestic inquiry into the allegations.
The Amnesty International rights group, soon after Sirisena’s win last week, urged him to address human rights issues and cooperate fully with the UN-mandated investigation into the alleged war crimes.
"Sri Lanka has for years resisted all international efforts to investigate the conflict years, and instead relied on domestic investigation bodies that toed the government line. This has to end, the new government should cooperate fully with the UN investigation," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
The UN says 30,000 people were killed towards the end of the ethnic conflict in 2009.
"The new government now has an opportunity to usher in a new era of genuine respect for human rights – it is one that must not be missed," Griffiths said.
"Tens of thousands of victims and family members are still waiting for the justice they deserve and the new administration must work to deliver it," Griffiths said.