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
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
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
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
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.”