Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday said he held a fruitful discussion with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on ways to jointly promote "reconciliation" in the country as the only way to move towards a prosperous future. Rajapaksa, who is in the US for the high-level United Nations General Assembly session, called on Secretary General Guterres at the UN headquarters in New York on Sunday and discussed with him the reconciliation process with the minority Tamil community in Sri Lanka.
During the meeting, Guterres told Rajapaksa about the need to protect minority rights in Sri Lanka, the Colombo Gazette newspaper reported. The two leaders also discussed economic recovery in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic besides ensuring uninterrupted education in the island country.
In a tweet, the Sri Lankan president said: Had a fruitful discussion w/@UNSG @antonioguterres, on ways to jointly promote reconciliation in #SriLanka, as the only way to move twds a prosperous future. Also discussed economic recovery in the face of the #Covid19 pandemic, and ensuring uninterrupted education process. The Secretary-General, who expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka for the ongoing challenges related to the coronavirus, was briefed by Rajapaksa on the country's domestic issues, including the reconciliation process.
Guterres offered the UN's support over the issue and reiterated the global organisation's view on the importance of ensuring protection of minority rights and civic engagement, the report said. In March, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution against Sri Lanka's rights record, giving the UN body a mandate to collect evidence of crimes committed during the country's brutal three decade-long civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Reacting to the UNHRC resolution — Promotion of Reconciliation Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka' — Rajapaksa had said it was the doing of "foreign and local forces" which cannot see his government making progress. The resolution calls upon the Sri Lankan government to ensure prompt thorough and impartial investigation, if warranted, prosecution of all alleged crimes relating to human rights violations and serious violations of international human rights law during the country's three decade-long civil war. The Tamil minority has welcomed the resolution.
According to the Lankan government figures, over 20,000 people are missing due to various conflicts including the three-decade brutal war with Lankan Tamils in the north and east which claimed at least 100,000 lives. The Tamils alleged that thousands were massacred during the final stages of the war that ended in 2009 when the government forces killed LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran.
The Sri Lankan Army denies the charge, claiming it as a humanitarian operation to rid the Tamils of LTTE's control. At the end of the civil war, the United Nations accused both sides of atrocities, especially during the conflict's final stages.
International rights groups claim at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, but the Sri Lankan government has disputed the figures.