Sri Lanka irks rights chief on election eve

Sept. 20, 2013 at 1:18 PM

GENEVA, Switzerland, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Sri Lanka appears to be engaged in a campaign to discredit the top human rights official at the United Nations, her office said Friday.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, said Friday her office was frustrated with reports regarding her August visit to Sri Lanka.

Colville said Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was quoted as saying Pillay asked the government to remove a statue of first Prime Minister Don Stephen Senanayake from Independence Square in the capital city. Colville said PIllay's office sent a letter to the government last week requesting a retraction.

The spokesman said in a statement Friday there was not "a shred of truth" to the allegations. Statements that Pillay called for the removal of flags from the square were taken out of context, he added.

The statement comes ahead of elections in the country. Keerthi Tenakoon, director of the elections watchdog Center for Free Elections told the United Nations' Integrated Regional Information Networks preparations for provincial elections Saturday were moving ahead with few reports of violence.

Elections in Sri Lanka's Northern province will be the first since civil war ended in 2009.

A statement from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office said the elections are an opportunity to foster peaceful reconciliation after years of violence.

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