Sri Lanka snubs UN as it bids for more trade links with the UK

Criticism by Human Right Commissioner was ‘jaundiced’, says Foreign Minister

The Sri Lankan government today snubbed the United Nations and made a direct appeal to British business to help rebuild the country in the face of damning criticisms of its human rights record as it emerges from 26 years of civil war.

Stung by a report by the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay that accused it of increasing authoritarianism, the Sri Lankan government said it was looking to build business links with Britain as David Cameron prepares to visit the country later this year for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

Canada has criticised Sri Lanka’s hosting of the summit because of the regime’s conduct of the war and continuing rights’ violations, but Mr Cameron has decided that travelling to the country will focus attention on the rights issue in the country. The Prince of Wales is also due to attend the meeting as the representative of the Queen.

Ms Pillay conducted a week-long visit in August last month after the government promised her access to former war zones but said that the Sri Lankans who came to meet her were harassed and intimidated by security forces.

Speaking in London on Monday, the country’s Foreign Minister, Gamini Lakshman Peiris, said that the UN envoy had failed to give them details of the harassment so they could investigate. He claimed that she had a jaundiced view of the country.

However, he criticised the “deplorable” comment by a fellow government minister who said that he would marry Ms Pillay to keep her on the island, and promote a favourable view of the island nation.

Officials highlighted the increasing roles played in Sri Lanka by companies such as British Airways and HSBC and said that the country represented a potential lucrative area of investment for UK businesses.

But rights groups said they were concerned that profits were being put above principles and expressed concern over links being forged between governments.

The Sri Lankan army defeated Tamil separatist rebels in 2009 but the authorities have come under pressure to investigate killings and disappearances in the final stage of the conflict that left at least 100,000 dead.

The authorities said they had nothing to hide. “What we find very distressing about the tone and the substance of her statements is a total lack of balance and fairness,” said Mr Peiris.

The Sri Lankan government claimed that Ms Pillay had downplayed significant infrastructure building in the Tamil areas in the north. “We need to remember that this was a conflict that went on for 30 years. The government and people of Sri Lanka had just four years to deal with those very complex and challenging problems,” he said.

“She’s looked at Sri Lanka’s situation through jaundiced eyes and we found that very strongly objectionable.”

Ms Pillay is the most senior UN official to visit the north of the country since 2009 and she warned that surveillance and harassment appeared to be getting worse in Sri Lanka. She said it was a country where “critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced”.

Polly Truscott, of Amnesty International, said the rights violations remained critically high, with the government showing no will to account for past crimes. “The reprisals against those she [Ms Pillay] met, doesn’t bode well for the Commonwealth summit set for November in Colombo. The government must stop its attacks on Sri Lankan society,” she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore