The UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said there are now greater expectations of Sri Lanka and encouraged the government to take immediate, feasible steps.
Speaking on his return from the island, Mr Feltman told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York that accountability must addres grievances in the North.
“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.
“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 said, noting that “Sri Lankans have suffered a great deal” and despite the efforts of commissions of inquiry, “the list of suffering remains long.”
He said Sri Lanka was vocal about its plans to conform its domestic processes to international norms but 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, Mr Feltman said.
Mr. Feltman pointed out distrust between groups “without question” still existed but stressed that all stakeholders must work together. He noted that he had heard scepticism, especially in the North of the country, on whether the new 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,” Mr. Feltman added.