The United Nations is encouraged by the new government of Sri Lanka's commitment to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights and it is committed to assisting in the process of accountability and reconciliation in the island nation UN Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman said.
Issuing a press statement during an official visit to Sri Lanka, Mr. Feltman said that the recent election of a new government has given Sri Lanka an historic opportunity to seize to address the accountability and bring the reconciliation to the island.
The UN official, who arrived in Sri Lanka on February 28 for a four-day official visit, said he had a series of positive, constructive discussions with the President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Acting Foreign Minister Ajith Perera, the leadership of the JHU, SLMC, TNA, and the diplomatic community in Colombo.
Mr. Feltman has also visited Jaffna and met with the Governor and the Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council.
The official said he was able to listen to, and compare notes with, a divergent group of civil society representatives both in Colombo and in Jaffna.
"Those I met over the past four days inspired me with their visions for a prosperous, democratic country, at peace internally and with positive, close, mutually beneficial relations regionally and internationally," Mr. Feltman said.
Addressing the issues faced by the communities in conflict-affected areas, the official underscored that despite the work of many commissions, the list of grievances and unresolved issues remains long.
He said the UN is encouraged by this government's commitment to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights.
"In our view, credible, tangible progress in these areas is a prerequisite to the achievement of sustainable peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka," he noted.
The UN official has urged government leaders to take steps in the short term to address issues regarding land, detentions, disappearances, and the military posture in civilian areas.
Over the longer term, he has underscored the expectation by the UN and by the international community that the government will - as it has promised - develop in the coming months a strong framework for accountability that meets international standards and norms and that is seen as credible across Sri Lanka.
"These are not easy tasks, but we believe that they are essential tasks, expected by the international community and also - more importantly - by the citizens of this country themselves," Mr. Feltman said.
Noting that there is still a wide trust deficit between communities in Sri Lanka, especially between the Tamil and the Sinhalese, the official said the UN encouraged the national leaders and political stakeholders to work on all of these issues in the spirit of inclusion and consultation.
As requested by Sri Lanka, the United Nations is committed to assisting in the process of accountability and reconciliation, through the Peace building Fund and other facilities, as appropriate, he assured.
"But it is first and foremost for Sri Lankans themselves to shape how to address issues of the past in order to find a common future," the official emphasized.
"With regional allies and the world focused in a positive way on Sri Lanka, and with the citizens of Sri Lanka having drawn from Sri Lanka's strong democratic history and traditions to promote a peaceful transition, this is a historic moment to seize," the Under Secretary-General said.
He assured that the "Secretary-General himself and the UN system more broadly will stand with the people and leaders of Sri Lanka, as they address credibly and thoroughly the accountability and reconciliation issues that, once resolved, will contribute to Sri Lanka's long-term peace and prosperity."