Statement by Sri Lanka at the 57th session of the UNHCR Executive Committee – 3 October 2006

Statement by Sri Lanka at the 57th session of the

UNHCR Executive Committee – 3 October 2006

Mr Chairman, dear Asian Colleague,

The delegation of Sri Lanka congratulates you on your well deserved election to chair this 57thsession of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme and our good wishes also to the Bureau. We wish Deputy High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin all the best for future success and thank her for her endeavours at UNHCR.

We thank High Commissioner Guterres for the comprehensive opening statement. The partnership between Sri Lanka and UNHCR has continued for nearly 20 years first in addressing conflict related displacements and since 2005 with tsunami affected displacements. The High Commissioner made a visit to Sri Lanka in July this year, the first such visit by a High Commissioner, at a time of some uncertainty due to fears of resumption of hostilities by the LTTE. However, the High Commissioner was determined to see how the UNHCR was operating in the field and his commitment led the way to the visit where he was able to assess the political complexities of the situation, meet with political leaders across the spectrum and offer useful advice to the Government in dealing with an intractable armed group. We thank the High Commissioner for his generous letters of appreciation of the arrangements made by the Government for his visit. The visit was in fact the start of a high level dialogue which was continued recently with the meeting between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and High Commissioner Guterres in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA.

I must also acknowledge the excellent relations between the UNHCR country office ably headed by Mr Amin Awad with the newly created Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights under the leadership of Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe which has a mandate to coordinate all humanitarian assistance and iron out operational problems thus working together to ensure that everyone who is in need has been reached.  Equity considerations have governed the Government’s response in facing the twin challenges of conflict related and tsunami related IDPs, and our objective has been to seek permanent durable solutions. We appreciate a recent UNHCR project to find permanent homes for some 600 persons on land donated by the Government at Vavuniya. This type of project is surely deserving of replication and we hope will find additional donor support.   A seminar is also being organised with all stakeholders to take forward the Confidence Building Measures proposed by UNHCR.

In conclusion Mr Chairman, my delegation wishes to express our gratitude to High Commissioner and his staff for their invaluable efforts as well as the donors to the UNHCR Sri Lanka programme for the unstinting generosity extended to my country.

Thank you

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