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UN official condemns attacks on Sri Lankan Muslims

Jeffrey Feltman

United Nations, March 12 (UITV/IANS) - Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman has condemned the violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka and urged the government to bring those behind the attacks and hate speech to justice.

During the three-day visit, "he met Muslim political and civil society leaders to express concern and show solidarity", according to a UN statement issued on Sunday.

While in the island nation, Feltman, who is in charge of political affairs for the UN, also met President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya and Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana.

He "appreciated the reassurances from government leaders of their intention to move forward" with initiatives for reconciliation and sustainable peace although Feltman expressed concern that many elements of the government's "visionary" plan anounced in 2015 for national unity seemed to have stalled, the statement said.

He lauded the recent appointment of commissioners to the Office of Missing Persons to probe the disappearances of people during civil conflicts and "expressed hope" that the panel "will soon be fully operational to help answer questions that haunt too many families from all across Sri Lanka about their missing loved ones".

Senior lawyer Saliya Peiris is to head the seven-member panel that includes two Tamils and a retired major general. In 2016, the government said that about 65,000 people were reported missing since 1994.

Feltman praised the adoption of the Bill for the Protection Against Enforced Disappearances by Parliament and called it "an important element of the Sri Lankan government's commitment to its citizens".

Three people were killed, 11 mosques damaged and scores of Muslim-owned businesses destroyed in the riots in Kandy district earlier this month.

A curfew was imposed and the military and police were deployed to quell the riots.

On Saturday, Sirisena announced that a panel of three retired judges will investigate the riots.

Meanwhile, the Association of Sri Lankan Muslims in North America has announced a protest outside the UN on Wednesday to protest last week's anti-Muslim riots.