In the wake of Amnesty International(AI)`s highly controversial campaign to target human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, the government has turned down a request by the international rights group to visit the country and carry out an assessment.
According to informed government sources the Sri Lankan High Commission in London, on the instructions of the government, rejected applications for visas of two AI officials who had planned to visit the country.
`Given the controversy surrounding their move, we find it difficult to grant permission for AI to enter the country. We may consider the request later but not now,` a highly placed government official said yesterday. He said the decision to reject visa applications was taken after perusing several reports on what Sri Lanka saw as the biases and prejudices of Amnesty International.
`We did not see any necessity for them to visit Sri Lanka.
Their presence could create some degree of unpleasantness here at this point, given their latest campaign to demoralize the Sri Lanka Cricket Team playing at the World Cup in the Caribbean,` the official said.The official said allegations leveled against the government by the AI were being investigated by an independent body.
This latest government reaction comes days after Amnesty International`s allegations that Sri Lanka was presenting a distorted version of the AI`s `Play by the Rules` campaign as part of a strategy to distract attention from the human rights violations in the country.
AI emphasized that it was not calling for a boycott of the Sri Lankan cricket team or Sri Lankan sports overall and was not campaigning in any stadiums in the West Indies.
`We are concerned over abuses by all parties towards the conflict where civilians are killed, abducted and disappear everyday at the hands of government forces, Tamil Tigers, the Karuna faction and other armed groups,` said Purna Sen, Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International.
Explaining their choice of theme, Amnesty`s deputy Asia Pacific director, Tim Parritt said earlier: `just as all cricket teams need an independent umpire to make objective decisions, so too does Sri Lanka need independent human rights monitors to ensure the government, Tamil Tigers and other armed groups respect rules and protect civilians caught in the conflict.`
Meanwhile, responding to the Daily Mirror story that the government had decided to turn down a request by Amnesty International (AI) officials in London to visit the country Yolanda Foster, Researcher of the South Asia Team of Amnesty International said last night they were still hopeful of receiving the green light.
In an email to the Daily Mirror Ms. Foster said Amnesty International had been in discussion for several months with the Sri Lankan government to plan a research visit to Sri Lanka and given the gravity of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka they would like to visit the country as soon as possible.