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TNA claim of French support for US resolution against Sri Lanka: Embassy won't comment

2014 Mar 18

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The French Embassy in Colombo yesterday declined to comment on a recent claim by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that France would throw its weight behind the US-led resolution against Sri Lanka at the ongoing session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

 European Union member, France, represents the group categorised as the Western Europe and other states in the 47-member UN body.

 External Affairs Ministry sources told The Island that the EU members in the UNHCR would vote as a group as they had done previously.

 Chairman of the Northern Provincial Council, C. V. K. Sivagnanam (TNA) quoted the French ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Jean-Paul Monchau as having said France would vote for the resolution. The claim was made following a meeting Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member, Sivagnanam had with ambassador Monchau in Jaffna last week.Responding to a query by The Island, a French embassy spokesperson yesterday said that it wouldn’t say anything in addition to the statement issued by the mission following the ambassador’s visit to the Northern Province.

 The French ambassador wasn’t available for comment. Jaffna based sources told The Island that Sivagnanam had told the French envoy that the Sri Lankan Army was a major obstacle to post-war national reconciliation. The army was also accused of taking over land belonging to civilians.

 The French Embassy said that during the ambassador’s visit to Jaffna from March 9 to 11, he had the opportunity to meet Northern Province Governor,  G. A. Chandrasiri as well as representatives of Jaffna’s civil society including the Centre for Women and Development, the Social Organisation for Networking Development, the Red Cross, Caritas and Sarvodaya North. On the occasion of a visit to the newspaper, Uthayan, the Ambassador congratulated the editor-in-chief, Kanamailnathan, on winning the International Press Freedom award given by the French organisation, Reporters without Borders, and discussed press freedom.

The ambassador also visited Kilinochchi, where he met Government Agent R. Ketheeswaran.

During talks with the province’s elected officials, the Minister of Health of the Northern Provincial Council, Sathiyalingam, complained of a dearth of doctors and other qualified staff in the 100 hospitals of the Northern Province and specifically mentioned the situation of the disabled and special needs category of the population. He also brought up the issue of malnutrition which continued to affect large numbers of children. The issue was also taken up by the Minister of Education Gurukularajah who expressed his concern that malnutrition affected the schooling of children from marginalised households. The Minister informed the Ambassador of a shortage of Mathematics and English teachers in schools.

The Ambassador said reconciliation could, in the end, only be carried out through the will of all Sri Lankans themselves, in the setting of a united country and with the help of cooperating partner countries.

 The French envoy completed his programme in Jaffna with a visit to the "Alliance Française de Jaffna", where he met the Director of the committee of the Alliance Française, teachers and students. "The Alliance Française de Jaffna" has over 200 hundred students. The Ambassador also visited the University of Jaffna, where he had the opportunity to hold discussions about France with a group of 40 students. The visit to the Northern Province ended with a guided tour of the Jaffna Public Library.

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