UN top official discusses civilian welfare, human rights in Jaffna

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 07 August 2007, 17:07 GMT]
United Nations, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Relief Co-ordination, John Holmes, arrived in Jaffna Tuesday morning and held a conference in Jaffna Public Library Auditorium at 10.30 a.m, led by Jaffna Government Agent, K. Ganesh. Several government officials, representatives of local and International Non-government organizations, Rights officials, Douglas Devananda, head of Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) and top officers of Sri Lanka Army (SLA) participated in the two hour long conference.

Mr. John Holmes arrived at Palaali air base Tuesday morning, and was flown to Jaffna Alfred Duraiappa Stadium in a military helicopter. From there he was taken to the Jaffna Public Library, heavily escorted, sources in Jaffna said.

Conference attendees discussed the current situation in Jaffna peninsula, issues related to easing restrictions in bringing essential food items to the peninsula, building infrastructure essential to the well-being of the peninsula residents, creating an atmosphere of normalcy, and the steps to be taken to ensure the supply of food and other essentials in the event of a war breaking in Jaffna peninsula.

However, a government official who attended the meeting said, as the conference was held in the presence of a Sri Lanka minister and top military officers, officials and representatives were reluctant to express true sentiments regarding issues related to human rights violations including extra judiciary killings, abductions, forced disappearances.

He added, however, that key issues were dealt with due discretion.

Several representatives and officials of UN organs in Jaffna, UNICHR, UNDP, UNICEF along with ICRC, and Human Rights Commission aslo participated in the conference.

All main roads in Jaffna town, including Hospital Road, were closed for public use when the conference took place.

The representatives of NGO, humanitarian organizations and government officials meeting the top UN official in person is a significant event under the present circumstances in Jaffna peninsula where a breakout of war appears imminent, civil society activists in the peninsula said.

No details are available on whether Mr. Holmes took part in any meeting with the SLA high command at Pallali military air base before the Jaffna meeting.


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