Back from his visit to Sri Lanka, UN Undersecretary- General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman said here that the January 8 national elections demonstrated the people's resolve to share in the future of their country.
    
He expressed confidence over efforts for reconciliation and cooperation.
    
"A historic opportunity has now presented itself for Sri Lanka to set up a domestic process that is credible, accountable and up to par with international norms and standards for the benefit of the country s people, with the help of the wider international community," he said.
    
"The meetings and talks with the government of Sri Lanka are so different than they used to be, so that leads us to greater expectations. There was suffering across Sri Lanka, every community suffered and accountability must address the grievances in the north, but also allow that all (people) in Sri Lanka feel like all their concerns are being addressed".
    
During his meetings, Feltman said he expressed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's support to the country and pledged continuous UN cooperation in mending relations and building trust between the government and the people in line with the 2009 Joint Communique between the UN and Sri Lanka.
    
"I encourage the government to take some immediate steps that are feasible – things like the release of army-held land in the north to demonstrate the commitment of governments to follow through," the Undersecretary General emphasised.
    
The government was vocal with Feltman about its plans to conform the process to international norms but has also pledged its commitment to reconciliation before the UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.
    
By doing so, the government has "put itself under the spotlight" but clearly more will be needed than just words. In terms of accountability, Sri Lanka's government will report back to the UNHRC on steps taken to establish this domestic process, Feltman said.
    
He said "without question" there still is distrust between groups, but all stakeholders must work together.
    
He noted that he had heard scepticism, especially in the north of the country, on whether the government will live up to its commitment.
    
But nevertheless, he said, "I left with the confidence that the intention to do this is real. The UN stands ready to provide technical assistance, if it is needed. This is important for the people of Sri Lanka".
    
The previous government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa had refused to cooperate with the UN-mandated international investigation on alleged human rights abuses during the final phase of Sri Lanka's civil war with the LTTE. Rajapaksa had called it an attack on the island's sovereignty.
    
Rajapaksa's successor Maithripala Sirisena has expressed willingness for greater engagement with the UN in order to proceed with a domestic inquiry for accountability.

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