May 22, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s government has downplayed the loss of its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council and said it needed more “space” to address human rights concerns. Foreign affairs minister Rohitha Bogollagama said Sri Lanka won 101 votes in its bid for a seat on the Geneva-based body, more than the minimum required to be eligible, but lost to Pakistan which got 13 more votes.
“We’d have liked to be seated there but lost by 13 votes,” he told a news conference Thursday, a day after the closely-watched contest in the UN General Assembly. “Others had more preferential votes.”
He said Sri Lanka won 101 votes despite a hostile campaign by non-governmental organisations highlighting allegations of human right abuses.
The UN vote came at a time the government was under fire from human rights groups and western governments for human rights abuses by its security forces in the campaign against the Tamil Tiger rebels in the north and east.
Rights groups have said the government was inactive despite numerous cases of disappearances and killings allegedly by government forces.
Bogollagama rejected the allegations saying the government had the legal mec