Sri Lanka’s state-run media yesterday accused UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay of being “prejudiced,” a day after she warned that the island was becoming “increasingly authoritarian.”
Pillay ended a fact-finding mission to the country to investigate allegations of war crimes Saturday by saying Sri Lanka was a place where the rule of law had eroded and the independence of the judiciary was undermined.
“She came with a prejudiced mind and she is leaving with a prejudiced mind,” the Sunday Observer said in a front-page article headlined: “She hasn’t changed a bit.”
“She probably thought of the visit in some way as an opportunity to give credence to her preconceived judgments, and nothing else,” the newspaper added.
The commissioner accused military officials of harassing and intimidating priests, journalists and other civilians as punishment for meeting her during her visit.
“This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced,” Pillay said.
The government did not immediately respond.
Pillay’s visit was marred by personal attacks against her by government activists, including three government ministers.
She told reporters on Saturday that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse had personally “apologized” to her for the abuse.
The Sunday Island, a privately run, pro-government newspaper, said Pillay’s claim that people were being punished for talking to her could not be accepted as “absolute fact,” but that the government must investigate it.
“The people have a right to know whether there had been any kind of intimidation as alleged and, if so, those responsible must be brought to account,” the Sunday Island said.
The Ceylon Today, a privately run paper, agreed that the government had made little headway in improving its rights record four years after crushing Tamil rebels and ending a drawn-out separatist war in 2009.
Sri Lanka has resisted demands from the UN and Western nations for a “credible” investigation into allegations that up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the separatist war.