09/02/2013, 00.00
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For UN high commissioner, Sri Lanka is moving towards authoritarianism

by Melani Manel Perera
United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay expressed this concern at the end of an official visit to the country. Although the government allowed her to move freely, priests and activists have reported threats against them. The UN official also met with relatives of people who disappeared.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Visiting United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navanetham Pillay said at the end of her official visit that there were signs of Sri Lanka becoming an authoritarian state.

At a press conference last Saturday, the Sri Lankan-born official said that the Sri Lankan Government stuck to its commitment of allowing her to visit any part of the country she wanted, which she did. However, "I am deeply concerned," she said, "that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new, vibrant, all-embracing state is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction."

In fact, "With self-censorship fuelled by fear, journalists report that there are articles they dare not write, and others their editors dare not print." In addition, she said that she was disturbed by reports of intimidation and surveillance on rights activists and priests who met her.

Speaking about the reconstruction in some northeastern areas of the country, the most affected by the civil war, Pillay said that "physical reconstruction alone will not bring reconciliation, dignity, or lasting peace."

Last Saturday evening, the high commissioner also took part in a memorial service for missing persons, which was attended by more than 500 people (pictured)whose loved ones are still not accounted for.

Speaking about them, Pillay said, "the pain and despair experienced by their families and loved ones is like no other. [...]for you, waiting all these years to be reunited with or learn the true fate of a loved one means, the agony continues day after day after day. "

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