Minister shocked at UN figures
Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mahinda
Samarasinghe, expressed dismay and surprise over the highly exaggerated
and unsubstantiated figures mentioned by Ms Navaneetham Pillai, UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, in her recent media release on civilian
casualties combined with other unfounded allegations on the government
security forces, which had received wide coverage in the local and
She had put the number of civilians killed at 2800 in a seven-week
period from January 20 and number injured at 7,000 quoting ‘reliable
The approach of the UN body was unprofessional and most disappointing
in that they had failed to cross-check with the Government of Sri Lanka
or the its permanent representative Dr. Dayan Jayatillake, before
issuing the media release as customarily done, the Minister said at a
media conference yesterday at the Government Information Department.
The LTTE is keeping the civilians by force as hostages for its own
protection without allowing them to leave to safer areas and High
Commissioner Ms Navaneetham Pillai has failed miserably in her duty to
tell them to let the people go, he said.
The Minister was accompanied by Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohana,
Director of Media Centre for National Security Lakshman Hulugalla,
Consultant to the Defence Ministry and chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee
on Terrorism Rohan Perera and Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya
The figures of mentioned in the press release of the Office of the
High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) approximates the pro-LTTE
TamilNet website and LTTE front organisations operating as crisis groups
lobbying for the LTTE in Geneva.
Contrary to accusations in the OHCHR statement, the government
security forces never targeted civilians in the ‘no-war zone’ which was
declared not by the LTTE but by the government for the safety of the
civilians, the Minister stated.
The government considered this as an effort to sling mud at the
government and the security forces, he stated. The Defence Ministry has
gone on record saying we had never used heavy weapons or long range
weapons in our effort to safeguard civilians trapped in the LTTE areas.
If we had used them disregarding the safety of civilians, we could
very well have captured the whole LTTE area much earlier, he said.
The Minister said that he met Ms Navaneetham Pillai in Geneva on
March 04 during the High Level Segment of the UN Human Rights Council
and had a 20 minute discussion but she never raised the matter at that
The OHCHR was invited and facilitated by the government of Sri Lanka
and it worked through the aegis of the government and should have
contacted the government instead of relying on the so-called unnamed
Subsequent to this very damaging statement released last Friday and
picked up by the international wire services and the media, the Minister
went on the BBC explaining the true situation and the resolute position
of the government with regard to eliminating terrorism while ensuring
the safety of civilians.
Foreign Minister Dr. Palitha Kohana also expressed displeasure and
regret over the OHCHR statement and said that it was not in keeping with
the diplomatic ethics of an international body.
He said if a ceasefire was agreed upon by the government heeding to
requests from sections of the international community misguided by pro-LTTE
international crisis groups it would afford another opportunity for the
LTTE to fully re-group and strengthen them and the war will go on for
another 25 years.