The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has denied the claims attributed to Secretary of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa regarding the statue of Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister from Independence Square.
Her office said that in the High Commissioner’s statement at the end of her mission to Sri Lanka on 31 August, she mentioned the unfortunate fact that at least three Government Ministers had joined in an extraordinary array of distortion and abuse during her visit.
“Unfortunately this practice has continued,” Pillay;s office said.
Her office said that a week ago, on 12 September, her office sent a formal complaint to the Government of Sri Lanka concerning the widely reported comments attributed to the Secretary of Defence that, during her meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the High Commissioner requested the removal of the statue of Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister from Colombo’s Independence Square.
The letter from Pillay’s office to the Sri Lankan Government requested an immediate retraction and public correction of the misinformation which has aroused much disquiet in Sri Lanka.
“Firstly, we categorically deny that the High Commissioner ever uttered a single word about the statue of Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake at any point during her visit to Sri Lanka, let alone asked the President to remove it.
This claim is without a shred of truth. Secondly, there has been a further distortion concerning comments the High Commissioner made to the President concerning a flag in Independence Square.
The High Commissioner discussed with the President her concerns with rising inter-communal tensions and incitement to violence on the basis of religion in Sri Lanka. In this context, she asked why the only flag flying, other than the national flag, in such a symbolic location was that of one religious community, and suggested it might be more inclusive to fly only the national flag which is a symbol that unites the nation, no matter who they are or what religion they adhere to. At no time did she request any flag to be removed,” Pillay’s office said.
Her office said that it is deeply regrettable that government officials and other commentators continue what appears to be a coordinated campaign of disinformation in an attempt to discredit the High Commissioner or to distract from the core messages of her visit.
The High Commissioner will be updating the Human Rights Council on her visit and progress on accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka on 25 September.