Press Statement On
The Official Visit of the High Representative for UNAOC to Sri Lanka
and his Meetings with the Political leadership, Religious leaders and CSOs in Colombo
Colombo, Sri Lanka – April 30, 2019
On behalf of the UN Secretary-General and in his capacity as the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Mr. Miguel Moratinos, visited today April 30, 2019 Colombo, Sri Lanka to pay his respects to the people and government of Sri Lanka and express the support of the United Nations for the government’s efforts in its fight against terrorism and violent extremism. This is the first visit by any high-level official to Sri Lanka since the heinous terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday that targeted three Catholic Churches and three hotels.
During his one-day visit, the High Representative met with the political leadership, religious leaders, representatives of the civil society and the UN Resident Coordinator as well as the UN Country Team.
In his meeting with H.E. President of Sri Lanka Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, the High Representative conveyed to the President the condolences and solidarity of the UN Secretary-General and his personal deepest sympathies. Mr. Moratinos expressed to President Sirisena his support, stressing “You are not alone”, he told the President. On his part, President Sirisena expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the visit and support of the High-Representative. He noted that his country is going through a very tragic and difficult time but that he is “determined to move forward and restore security and safety” to his country. The High-Representative re-iterated that the UN stands ready to support those efforts to help in restoring harmony, unity and social cohesion. In this context, the High-Representative stressed that there is an urgent need to find an agreeable long-term solution to the problem of the asylum seekers and refugees in Sri Lanka to ensure their safety and well-being. Some 1600 refugees and asylum seekers mainly Ahmadi Muslims had been under attack in the wake of the Easter bombings.
The High Representative also met with H.E. Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe with whom he exchanged views on the current efforts undertaken to restore the unity and peaceful co-existence within the society.
The High Representative was keen on meeting with His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Congress of Religions which included representatives of the different faith-denominations such as Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Catholics. Mr. Moratinos commended the religious leaders for their exemplary approach noting that “ during those difficult times they came across as a unifying power demonstrating communal harmony and peace”. He emphasized that he stands behind their efforts and encouraged them to continue doing the good work they started that aim at healing the community and preventing attempts to drive a wedge between the different faith communities.
During his visit, Mr. Moratinos had the opportunity to meet briefly with the leader of the opposition Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa and exchange views on the overall situation after the terrorist attacks.
The High Representative also met earlier in the morning with the UN Country Team and representatives of the civil society.
During his meetings in Colombo, the High Representative discussed aspects of his Plan of Action for Safeguarding Religious Sites seeking the input and guidance of the different stakeholders he met with today.