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Last updated: 30 November, 2007 - Published 18:32 GMT
 
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Sri Lanka protests UN statement
 
Minister Samarasinghe with Louise Arbour in Geneva (Government photo)
Sri Lanka protested Arbour's statement in a meeting on Thursday
The Sri Lankan government has strongly protested a recent statement made by the UN high commissioner for human rights.

In a letter to Louise Arbour, Sri Lanka's minister in charge of the subject Mahinda Samarasinghe says he is 'puzzled' as his government is 'taking definite steps' to address the issues raised by Arbour.

In an exclusive interview with BBC Sandeshaya from Afghanistan, Louise Arbour, said Sri Lanka lacked a 'credible voice' on rights violations as the national Human Rights Commission (SLHRC) was appointed unconstitutionally.

Appointed by President

"The SLHRC was appointed directly by the President. I think the vitality (in the mechanism) in Sri Lanka has considerably diminished in recent years," she told BBC journalist Alix Kroeger.

 The incapacity of the CC to function was not attributable to the Government but was due to a lack of consensus amongst numerically small parties in parliament
 
Minister Samarasinghe

President Rajapaksa appointed the SLHRC as the parliament failed to appoint the Constitutional Council (CC).

"The incapacity of the CC to function was not attributable to the Government but was due to a lack of consensus amongst numerically small parties in parliament, " the statement issued in Geneva by Minister Samarasinghe said.

Colombo office

The high commissioner re-iterated the call by the UN and the rights activist to establish her office in Sri Lanka to investigate and report rights violations.

"(The office) would allow us to observe rights violations first hand, analyse and report publicly," she said.

Louise Arbour
Arbour 'did not make a request' to open UN rights office in the island

However, the government says that the High commissioner did not mention opening up her office in the island during her recent visit to Colombo.

Sri Lanka's permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Dayan Jayathilake told BBC Sandeshaya that Louise Arbour did not make any such official request from the Sri Lankan government.

A Sri Lankan delegation led by minister Samarasinghe has met Louise Arbour in Geneva on Thursday.

Louise Arbour's 'judgement'

"We questioned whether it was responsible for her to make comments about Sri Lanka while in Kabul," Ambassador Jayathilake said.

 We questioned whether it was responsible for her to make comments about Sri Lanka while in Kabul
 
Ambassador Dayan Jayathilake

The Sri Lankan government also questioned her judgement to make comments on SLHRC's credibility while international review is underway on SLHRC.

Louise Arbour told BBC Sinhala.com that the international review might result in donors changing their strategy in supporting the SLHRC.

Minister Samarasinghe's statement added that her comments 'may possibly have an effect on the objectivity' of the international review on Sri Lanka's human rights commission.

 
 
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Sri Lanka 'lacks credible HR voice'
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