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Government Gazette

Govt rejects Holmes’ allegations

Intemperate comments could question UN’s impartiality, says PM:

COLOMBO: The Government regrets very much the implication of the statement attributed to the UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Sir John Holmes in an interview given to Reuters, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said yesterday.

Making a special statement in Parliament, Prime Minister Wickremanayake declared that the Government in no uncertain terms, rejects Sir John’s assertion that Sri Lanka is not safe for humanitarian workers.

He said President Mahinda Rajapaksa has categorically emphasised the Government’s total commitment to the safety of humanitarian workers during his talks with Sir Holmes and the latter acknowledged and expressed appreciation on such steps taken by the authorities.

The Premier said: “The Government of Sri Lanka is surprised by the unexpected comments attributed to Sir Holmes in an interview given to Reuters before attending a joint press conference with Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.

Though the interview published under the title ‘Sri Lanka a top danger spot for aid workers’ was evidently given earlier, it had been embargoed for release after the press conference.

The Government which had facilitated the visit of Sir Holmes to develop an effective relationship with the UN regrets very much the implication of the statement attributed to him.

In this interview Holmes has stated- I quote ‘there is a concern about the safety of humanitarian workers themselves and the record here is one of the worst in the world from that point of view’ unquote. The entire weight of his assertions is now being placed on Sri Lanka.

The United Nation’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its release yesterday on the visit of Sir Holmes did not describe Sri Lanka as a ‘dangerous place for humanitarian workers’.

The Government is deeply concerned with his statement to Reuters, which was in marked contradiction to the UN statement as well as his comments made at the joint press conference. The Government in no uncertain terms, rejects Sir Holmes’ assertion that Sri Lanka is not safe for humanitarian workers.

The Defence Secretary, in his meeting with Sir Holmes welcomed genuine humanitarian workers to the East.

Furthermore, he visited the North and the East and saw for himself the prevailing conditions and the steps taken for the safety of the people.

The Government has also explained him the current position with regard to the investigations on the killings of the 17 aid workers of the French NGO ACF.

The Government is confident of the progress with the investigations and some of the facts correctly emerging may come as an uncomfortable surprise to those who are using this dastardly incident to discredit Sri Lanka.

Under these circumstances the Government cannot but feel that Sir John has contributed to those who seek to discredit the Government and tarnish its international image.

While the Government wishes to take cognisance of the UNOCHA statement and the comments made by Sir Holmes at the press conference, it cannot but utterly reject the remarks made by him in his interview with the Reuters.

It is precisely because of past experience with journalists who seeks sensationalism at the expense of the truth that Sir John was advised by the Government authorities to be cautious with the media during his visit - unfortunately a visit that was designed to build up confidence has been seriously affected by his interview with a media outlet that traditionally sacrifices the truth in pursuit of sensational headline news.

While reiterating the Government’s sincere desire to work with the UN and its institutions with absolute co-operation, it is, though with greatest reluctance wishes to point out that intemperate comments and suggestions could question the impartiality of this institution.”

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