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Last updated: 13 November, 2009 - Published 13:48 GMT
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UN 'perplexed' by Lanka reluctance

Frank La Rue (photo: IFEX)
Mr. La Rue said he is still waiting for the official response to his letter
A top UN envoy says he is "perplexed" by Sri Lankan government's reluctant to allow him for a fact finding mission despite unofficially agreeing for the visit months ago.

Frank La Rue, the UN Human Rights Council's special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression told the BBC that he has been making the request unofficially since March this year and sent an official letter seeking permission to visit Sri Lanka in August or September.

"I have no official response yet but unofficially the Sri Lankan mission in Geneva told me that yes, I would be welcome but that the government would have to find the appropriate time for that to happen," he told BBC Sandeshaya.

"And yes, I find it a bit perplexing for the government to take this long to respond."

Reconciliation after conflict

Speaking with the BBC from Guatemala Mr. La Rue said he understands that Sri Lanka has just gone through a serious armed conflict between the government forces and the Tamil Tigers.

The special rappoteur says the freedom of opinion and freedom of expression are key components of a process of reconciliation after decades of civil war.

Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene
Minister says there are no issues related to Freedom of Expression in Sri Lanka

"I think this should be definitely one of the crucial issues for that reconciliation. It is precisely at that moment that is the best effect for my visit," Frank La Rue said.

The government, as well as the LTTE, are accused of curtailing press freedom during the decades of conflict. The government earlier admitted that at least nine journalists had been killed since January 2006.

Sri Lanka media minister told the BBC that he was not aware of such a request from the special rapporteur.

"There are no special issues regarding the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka," media minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told BBC Sinhala service.

If certain groups and individuals need to investigate "internal affairs" in a country, the minister said, the country has the right to allow or refuse such a request.

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