UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa that the UN will positively support Sri Lanka in moving forward while promoting unity among nations, the President’s Media Division said in statement.
The President and the Secretary-General of the United Nations met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York yesterday (19).
Guterres, who welcomed the President at the United Nations Headquarters, reminisced his visits to Sri Lanka in 1978 for the Inter-Parliamentary Union and his visits to Kandy, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee.
Guterres recalled his work on Sri Lanka as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and his meeting with then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2006.
The Secretary-General noted that Sri Lanka, which has played a major social and economic role in the Indian Ocean region, is expected to continue to do so, despite the conflict that battered the nation for nearly 30 years.
President Rajapaksa said he was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and congratulated him on leading the United Nations during a difficult period facing the world and for his second term as Secretary-General.
President Rajapaksa briefed the UN Secretary-General on the challenges faced by a country like Sri Lanka with a small economy in the face of the pandemic.
President Rajapaksa spoke at length on the impact the pandemic had on education and the economy of Sri Lanka and commended the World Health Organization (WHO) for its support in combating COVID-19.
The President pointed out that more than half of the total population has been fully vaccinated and that all arrangements have been made to fully vaccinate all those over the age of 15 before the end of November.
The Secretary-General commended the progress made by Sri Lanka in vaccination.
The President pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic was a major obstacle to fulfilling the promises he made to the people when he became President in 2019.
Despite this, the President elaborated on the steps taken to address the aftermath of the defeat of terrorism that had prevailed for more than 30 years.
The President explained the compensation paid to the victims, the transfer of lands and the massive development carried out in the North and East in 2009 under the guidance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the opportunity to democratically elect representatives to the Northern Provincial Council.
The President told the Secretary-General that the government would take immediate action on missing persons and expedite the issuance of death certificates.
The President pointed out that many youths arrested as suspects in terrorist activities were released after he came to power. He told the Secretary-General that he would not hesitate to grant a presidential pardon to those who have been held for a prolonged period, as soon as their cases over.
The President said that the internal problems of Sri Lanka should be resolved through an internal mechanism of the country and invited the Tamil Diaspora for discussions.
President Rajapaksa said he was always ready to work closely with the United Nations, adding that although he could assure that separatism would not re-emerge in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka as a government as well as other states should be vigilant about religious extremism.