Ban pitches for unity, reconciliation on Lanka visit

Colombo, Sep 2: UN chief Ban Ki-moon today called on Sri Lanka's youth to lead the way in achieving reconciliation and appreciation of diversity to emerge from the impacts of the decades-long civil war which ended in 2009.

"Please continue to prove that Sri Lanka is emerging from decades of adversity, suspicion and divisiveness. Please lead the way towards rebuilding, reconciliation and an appreciation of diversity in unity," the UN Secretary General told a gathering of young Sri Lankans in Galle.

Ban pitches for unity

Speaking at the youth event on "Reconciliation and Coexistence: the Role of Youth", Ban, who arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday on a three-day visit, said around the world, the UN is working to ensure that every young person has the education, health, employment and rights they deserve.

"And the United Nations is building more and stronger partnerships with youth-led and youth-focused organisations to promote peace and development," he was quoted as saying by the Colombo Page.

He said, in recent years, Sri Lanka has emerged as one of the biggest contributors to the youth agenda. Noting that most of Sri Lanka's youth were born and lived their early lives during conflict, terror and displacement and many of them suffered deprivations and injustice, the UN Chief emphasised that involvement in peacebuilding, reconciliation and post-conflict transformation provide an opportunity to emerge from this trauma to play a part in creating a better future.

"You are your country's biggest asset. Sri Lanka's future success depends on you," he told the gathering. Earlier in the day, Ban faced a protest by around 50 people at the UN office here who questioned where was the world body during the LTTE insurgency. At least two opposition groups handed over petitions to the UN Resident Coordinators office here protesting against the Secretary-General.

Read More: UN Secretary-General faces protests in Sri Lanka

This is Ban's second visit to the country since 2009, when the Lankan troops defeated Tamil Tigers, following which the country has come under close UN scrutiny for its warcrimes accountability. Protesters held placards with messages like "Where were you, UN?" and accused the world body of interfering in the country.

A handful of Buddhist monks representing the nationalist group 'Ravana Force' gathered opposite the UN compound defying a police order to protest while the Joint Opposition, the backers of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, handed over a petition. "We urged the UNSG to stop interfering in Sri Lanka," Sisira Jayakodi, an opposition legislator and a Rajapaksa supporter, said.

Ban was in the compound at the time which was tightly guarded by the police to prevent demonstrators entering the premises. Tomorrow, he is set to visit Jaffna, the Tamil-dominated northern district and a former LTTE bastion, and inspect camps of persons displaced by the nearly three decade-long conflict.


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