THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Saturday 21 September 2013
Last update 22 September 2013 3:23 am
GENEVA: The United Nations’ top human rights official lashed back Friday at the Sri Lankan government, accusing some of its most senior officials of waging a disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting her and her office.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in a statement that’s unusual for a top UN official to direct at a UN-member country, took aim at Sri Lanka’s powerful Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and other government officials, on the heels of her visit to the South Asian island nation last month.
During the visit at least three government ministers “joined in an extraordinary array of distortion and abuse” which is continuing now, Pillay’s spokesman, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva. “We consider it deeply regrettable that government officials and other commentators continue what appears to be a coordinated campaign of disinformation in an attempt to discredit the high commissioner or to distract from the core messages of her visit.”
At the end of her visit, Pillay issued a hard-hitting statement that democracy was being undermined and the rule of law eroded in Sri Lanka, with the country increasingly becoming an authoritarian state, despite the end of its civil war four years ago.
The government responded that she had violated her mandate by making political statements. The defense secretary said her visit was influenced by propaganda from remnants of the Tamil Tiger rebels who lost the war.
The Tigers were fighting to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils, saying they faced discrimination from the Sinhalese majority.
A UN report says that as many as 40,000 people may have been killed in the final phase of the civil war.