President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is currently in New York to attend the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly has held discussions with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the President's Media Division said.
President Rajapaksa said that he was pleased to have the opportunity to hold a bilateral discussion with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and congratulated him on leading the United Nations during a difficult period facing the world as well as on his re-election as the Secretary-General.
President Rajapaksa briefed the UN Secretary- General on the challenges facing a country like Sri Lanka with a small economy in the face of the COVID epidemic. He highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education and the economy of Sri Lanka and thanked the World Health Organization for its support to overcome the pandemic.
The President also pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic was a major obstacle to fulfilling the pledges made to the people when he became the President in 2019. Even amidst this situation, the President elaborated on the steps taken to address the issues arose in the aftermath of defeating terrorism that lasted for over 30 years.
The United Nations Secretary-General has told President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the UN will provide its full support to Sri Lanka in moving forward to promote unity among different communities.
The UN Secretary-General made these remarks during the meeting he held with the President at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, yesterday (19).
The President explained the compensation paid to the victims, the transfer of lands back to the owners and the massive development carried out in the North and East Provinces since 2009 under the guidance of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the opportunity given to democratically elect the representatives to the Northern Provincial Council.
The President informed the Secretary-General that the government would take immediate action with regard to missing persons and expedite the efforts such as issuance of death certificates.
Presidential pardons for political prisoners
The President pointed out that many youths who were arrested as suspects over terrorist activities were released after he came to power. The President informed the Secretary-General that legal action would be expedited with regard to rest of the personnel who could not be released, and that he would not hesitate to grant a presidential pardon to the Tamil youths who have been in custody for a long time, taking into account their long-term detention and after the legal process was completed.
The President stated that his objective is to strengthen the democracy in Sri Lanka and accordingly, there are no baton attacks or use of water cannons on protesters under his government, and that a separate area has been set aside for protesters near his office.
President Rajapaksa said that he was always ready to work closely with the United Nations and added that though he could assure that there is no room for separatism to re-emerge in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka as a government as well as other states should be vigilant about religious extremism.
The Secretary-General offered the UN’s support in this regard and reiterated the UN’s view on the importance of ensuring protection of minority rights and civic engagement.
President Rajapaksa is scheduled to hold bilateral discussions with other leaders during his stay in New York.