( September 3, 2013, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris made a measured and point-by-point rebuttal of the major assertions and conjectures in UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navy Pillay's departing report on Sri Lanka, at a news briefing at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London yesterday ( 02 September 2013).
Prof. Peiris who was briefly in London to deliver the keynote address at a Cambridge symposium on economic crime, convincingly debunked the assertions including the claim that Sri Lanka was moving towards authoritarianism.
The minister said that the UN High Commissioner was invited by the Sri Lanka Government 2 1/2 years ago to come and see for herself the developments in Sri Lanka. This was because Sri Lanka had nothing to hide.
Yet the report she has just produced is indicative of a prejudiced mind and in no way shows the fairness and open-mindedness of an official undertaking such a mission, the longest she has spent in any one country.
Prof. Peiris said that even where Navi Pillay acknowledges progress and positive developments it is given so grudgingly and belatedly.
"What we find disturbing is the tone and substance of her report, the lack of fairness and balance."
The government and people of Sri Lanka has had just four years since the end of the war to meet the challenges posed by nearly three decades of conflict.
Enumerating the steps taken by the government to settle 296,000 persons, provide them with infrastructure on which the government has spent a record $ 3billion, provide them with new lives in such a short time is an achievement that few countries have emulated.
But to dismiss these achievement as just physical reconstruction as Navi Pillay has done, is simply not the case.
"No discerning observer could say this," the minister said adding that her continuous assertions were prejudicial judged by any fair standard.
Prof. Peiris was particularly hard on the Human Rights Commissioner for claiming that Sri Lanka was moving towards authoritarianism.
He said that was no empirical evidence to support this claim. On the contrary after 25 years the people of the north who lived under the LTTE had no suffrage. But now President's Rajapaksa's government has provided them with the opportunity of expressing themselves later this month.
During those 25 years the people of the rest of the country had elected four governments and had four presidents. Almost every six months some election is being held in the country allowing the people to express themselves.
Moreover at every election in recent years President Rajapaksa's government has been increasingly endorsed by the public showing their confidence in the government.
He said it was the essence of democracy to allow the people to freely express their views.
But strangely enough the Human Rights Commissioner has ignored all this evidence before her and touted the claim that Sri Lanka was moving towards authoritarianism.
This rejection of empirical evidence was further proof of her bias and prejudice.
The prejudice and lack of fair-minded is further shown by her talk of numerous war crimes committed by the government. Previously Pillay mentioned allegations of war crimes. But now it is no longer allegations, but proven fact, according to her.
Navi Pillay refers to the intimidating presence of the military in
the north and the fear of the people and women there.
Rejecting this out of hand, he said it is pity that the High Commissioner had not read the reports produced by UN officials in Colombo who belie this claim having themselves interviewed nearly 200 people, chosen by the UN itself, 90% of who said they were comfortable with living there.
"Why does she ignore this evidence produced by the UN itself. What is the justification for ignoring this? This is again a classic example of pre-judgment." he said.
Answering other media questions, the minister said that he expected countries to be objective when viewing Sri Lanka and was critical of the voting patterns in the UN Human Rights Council which did not seem to be based on the merits of the case.
The minister said that he was not criticising the Human Rights Commissioner out of rancour but of deep sadness as he found that her report lacked the fairness, open-mindedness and balance that was expected of her.