A visiting high level EU delegation has insisted that the government allow the Co-chairs and the Norwegian facilitators to travel to the Wanni to meet the LTTE to deliver key messages -- including a request to resume the peace process, to observe humanitarian access and to respect human rights.
The Daily Mirror, however, learns the government had asserted it was not possible to provide immediate access to the Wanni to any diplomat owing to the prevailing security situation in the areas controlled by the LTTE, which is under attack by the military.
Speaking at a media conference at the European Commission (EC) office in Colombo yesterday, representatives from the EU reiterated their concern over the human rights situation in the country and also said that they were looking forward to an ambitious final peace proposal by Sri Lanka during the coming months.
The press conference itself had its share of controversies, with the television crews who came to cover the EU briefing being told not to video the event owing to an agreement reached with the government over the logistical arrangements and what should be divulged to the media.
Janez Premoze, Asia Director in the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representing the current EU Presidency, said that the EU harboured very serious concerns about continuing reports of human rights abuses and expressed regret that the Independent International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) had decided to terminate their work with the Presidential Commission of Inquiry because of concerns about its compliance with international standards and institutional lack of support for the work of the Commission.
The EU underlines the seriousness of calls by the IIGEP and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for the government to deliver concrete results through taking cases to court, he said.
Mr. Premoze also said the EU remained committed to its present role as one of the Co-Chairs of the Tokyo process and, therefore, continued to believe in the importance of guaranteeing access to Killinochichi for the Norwegian facilitator and the other Co-Chairs, and also the UN and other concerned organisations.
The EU delegation, meanwhile, also asserted their unequivocal condemnation of all terrorist activities, including those by the LTTE, adding that after the EU listed the LTTE as a terrorist organization in 2006 there had been a number of criminal prosecutions against LTTE fund raising in Europe.
Mr James Moran, Director for Asia, of the European Commission underlined that the extension of the GSP-plus concessions for Sri Lanka were yet to be considered and would only be assessed when the concerned countries reapplied for the facility by October this year and would be governed by objective criteria including linkage between trade preferences and Human Rights. The delegation of senior officials from the European Union were in Sri Lanka for two days to discuss EU concerns over the current situation in the country and met, among others, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Ministry Secretary, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Minister of Science and Technology and Chairman APRC, President s Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Leader of the Opposition and Leaders of the JVP, TNA and EPDP. It also met with representatives of civil society organisations.