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Foreign Minister rejects concerns over Special Rapporteur visit

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tilak Marapana released a statement today (25) with the intention of clearing all confusion surrounding the visit of Special Rapporteur (SR) on the freedom of assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé.

‘The visit of the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of assembly and of association which is currently underway is part of similar visits undertaken by UN Special Procedures Mandate Holders at the invitation of the Government of Sri Lanka’ the statement read.

The Minister expressed that the idea of welcoming such visits is to have a transparent process in place whereby the Government of Sri Lanka hopes to engage with the international community, including the UN, in a spirit of openness and dialogue.

The Minister further mentioned that this was not the first time that Sri Lanka has had a visit of a Special Rapporteur.

‘There have been 08 such visits which have taken place since 8 January 2015. In all such occasions, it has been the regular practice for the Foreign Ministry to coordinate the activities of the SR in Sri Lanka and to arrange meetings with the Government sector. Before each such visit is undertaken, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs routinely receives from the UN, a list of persons that the visiting Special Rapporteur wishes to meet,’ the statement included.

Minister Marapana clarified that it was customary for the Foreign Ministry to convene a preparatory meeting before the arrival of the SR to discuss arrangements with the relevant stakeholders.

Marapana said that it was at this meeting that representatives from the Department of Police and Attorney General’s Department highlighted the possibility of the visiting Special Rapporteur with the intention of bringing up issues mentioned in the Foreign Ministry letter addressed to Secretary/ Ministry of Justice.

He claims that the Foreign Ministry has followed the proper procedure by communicating the requests for meetings by the Special Rapporteur through the Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Services Commission.

Minister Marapana expressed that he was saddened to note that some Members of Parliament had sought to show that the Actg. Secretary/ Foreign Affair’s letter was an interference with the judiciary and also was in contempt of Court to which he iterates that the assertions were untrue.