UN and Sri Lanka president give conflicting accounts of a phone conversation

Vastly conflicting accounts have emerged of a conversation between the Sri Lankan president and the UN secretary general on a conversation regarding the political uncertainty in the country.

Sri Lanka was thrown into a political turmoil after the president suspended the parliament and replaced the sitting prime minister with his former rival, Mahinda Rajapaksa, accused of war crimes.

UNSG António Guterres had spoken by telephone with President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, on 1 November.

The UNSG has urged the president to reconvene the parliament at the earliest. He has also stressed the importance of implementing the country’s commitments to the UN rights body more than three years ago.

“The Secretary-General urged the President to revert to Parliamentary procedures and allow the Parliament to vote as soon as possible,” said the UNSG’s office.

“He encouraged the Government to uphold its earlier commitments to human rights, justice and reconciliation, in line with Human Rights Council resolutions.”

UN happy, says president

An earlier account of the conversation made public by President Sirisena in Sinhala, tried to show that his controversial actions were well received by the UN.

“The UNSG was delighted for taking action without resorting to violence and praised Sri Lanka's ongoing commitment to democracy and reconciliation,” said the president’s office.

“Furthermore, the UNSG said that the UN led by him would come to the assistance of the Sri Lankan president whenever required."

However, the UNSG’s office says that the assistance offered was to facilitate a dialogue “with all the parties to resolve the situation”.

“The Secretary-General informed the President that he was following the latest developments in Sri Lanka with concern and offered assistance in facilitating a dialogue with all the parties to resolve the situation. He emphasized the Government’s responsibility to ensure peace, security and respect for the rule of law.”

On Friday, over 100 cross party parliamentarians apart from the president’s UPFA showed up at the parliament, and submitted a motion with 118 signatures, urging the Speaker to overrule the suspension and convene the House immediately.

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya told legislators that the president made a verbal commitment the previous day to summon parliament on November 7.

However, there was no official confirmation from President Sirisena who had prorogued parliament until November 16.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.