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Sri Lanka assures unrestricted access during UN human rights official visit

2013 Aug 22

The pending visit of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will not be restricted by the Sri Lankan government, a top official assured Wednesday, even though she is set to meet the island's main Tamil party and relatives of former Tamil Tiger carders.

Pillay who is expected to arrive in the country on Aug. 25 will meet with a range of government officials including President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

She is also scheduled to visit the former war-torn regions of the north and east before concluding her visit with a press conference on Aug. 31.

During her stay, she will meet with members of Sri Lanka's main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), to discuss the human rights situation in the country and the forthcoming Northern Provincial Council elections.

TNA will also make representations to Pillay regarding release of political prisoners.

Relatives of former Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) have also requested for the opportunity to meet Pillay.

Monitoring Minister for the External Affairs Ministry Sajin Vaas Gunewardane told the media that no attempt will be made by officials to intervene in these meetings even through critical opinions of the government will likely be shared.

"The agenda of her (Pillay's) visit has been coordinated with the government and will happen under its preview. But we see no reason to restrict access to her and nor will we," emphasized Gunewardena when questioned by media.

Pillay and the Sri Lankan government have often bumped heads over the island's lackluster human rights record since the end of a brutal three decade war in 2009.

The island has also been repeatedly faulted at the United Nations Human Rights Council for failing to credibly investigate allegations into war crimes, abductions and adequately promote reconciliation during the past three years.

Analysts say that the Sri Lankan government is making strong efforts to brush up its reputation ahead of Pillay's visit and hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November.

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