High-powered UN mission due early next year

A definite turn in Sri Lanka – UN ties:

A visit by a high-powered UN mission is scheduled for early next year, the Sunday Observer learns.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and UNHRC Commissioner Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein are scheduled to visit the country in February next year.

The visit has been on the cards since August this year. It was originally scheduled to take place before the UNHCR sessions in September but was postponed at the last minute due to various reasons.

The visit marks a definite turn in the relationship between Sri Lanka and the UN which was soured during the latter stages of the Rajapaksa government.

Efforts by UNHRC team of investigators led by Al Hussein to visit Sri Lanka last year to probe war crimes were met with stiff opposition by the Rajapaksa regime.

The government’s response to the resolution adopted in March 2014 also resulted in Al Hussein issuing a strong statement against the regime in November last year. Efforts by his predecessor, Navi Pillay to conduct investigations were also met with hostility during the time.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon last visited Sri Lanka in May 2009, following the conclusion of the armed offensive in the North. A joint statement by the then government and the UN was issued following the three-day visit, highlighting the humanitarian needs and a commitment to cooperate and assist in UN relief efforts. However, since then relations between the two parties steadily deteriorated. The UN Chief was also critical of the Rajapaksa government’s lack of accountability and stressed the need for an independent inquiry.

The dates of the visit have not been confirmed yet, The Foreign Ministry said