Sri Lanka President Rejects Calls for War Crimes Investigation

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Eranga Jayawardena / AP

Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, right, listens to Army Commander Lt. Gen. Daya Ratnayake during celebrations of Sri Lanka's 66th Independence Day northeast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb. 4, 2014.

Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa remained defiant in the face of intensifying calls for an independent war crimes investigation this week. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay recommended in a Feb. 24 report that an independent, international inquiry be launched into alleged human rights violations in 2009, during the final phase of Sri Lanka’s long and bloody civil war against ethnic Tamil separatists.

Speaking to TIME and a handful of other news outlets in Colombo on Friday, Rajapaksa insisted “no one knows why” the West is pushing for the investigation. “We are convinced there are various hidden agendas,” said Rajapaksa, who has been if office since 2005. He has long insisted his administration is being bullied by western powers over how it has handled its post-war reconstruction and reconciliation efforts.

“It is like Cassius Clay fighting a school boy,” the president said. But, he added, “they can’t knock us down.”

Pillay’s report says that Rajapaksa’s government has “failed to ensure independent and credible investigations” into human rights violations and possible war crimes, despite the fact that new evidence continues to emerge about the last stages of the war. She also raised concerns over “the continuing trend of attacks on freedom of expression [in Sri Lanka], peaceful assembly and association… and continued militarization.”

The scathing report comes a few months after Colombo hosted the biennial meeting of Commonwealth nations, an event that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper boycotted and that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declined to attend. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron did attend the summit, but used the occasion to visit the island’s war-ravaged north in what many considered a rebuke to his host. On Feb. 28, British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire released a statement welcoming Pillay’s report. Swire said his office shares “her concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and the lack of progress on accountability” and “strongly support[s] her call for an international investigation.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed two U.S.-backed resolutions calling for the government to investigate war crimes allegedly committed by both the military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the last phase of the nation’s decades-long civil war. Washington is expected to support a third, tougher resolution next month at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council that would back Pillay’s recommendation.

On Friday, Gamini Lakshman Peiris, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, reiterated Colombo’s rejection of any such kind of “international investigation,” and said there is no justification for the “disproportionate” attention that the global human rights community is putting on Sri Lanka.

33 comments
Srivan
Srivan

Of course, he would reject the call for independent UN led investigation, wouldn't he based on the incredible theory of "zero civilian" casualties! If that be so what irks him so much about the investigation so he and those affected can clear their names for good. On the other hand if that is NOT so there may be a heavy price to pay under the UN Charter ratified by the country long ago. Why is he tailing the Indian PM to Myanmar seemingly in a last ditch stand? Actions speak louder than words!    

Savithra Rajapaksha
Savithra Rajapaksha

I wonder what UN thinks about the war crimes committed by US and other western countries for oil and power in the mask of " stopping terrorism " and invasions masked as " protecting human rights of the invading country :D "

Devon Dale
Devon Dale

This President is a genius & a saviour after 66 years of the establishment of the young, but turbulent, Sri Lanka he has brought peace & stability for all to progress beyond British Sri Lanka. A UN war crimes investigation will find him innocent and he will be even more victorious.

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Military service members, police, firemen and other public employees deserve free medical care for life.

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Which are the genes or mechanisms that influence the amount of differentiation when comparing one culture of cells to another?

Rudolph Melvin Mathias
Rudolph Melvin Mathias

Thank your stars that, India is in control of Tamil Nadu. If Tamil Nadu was an independent state, Sri Lanka would had been taken over by Tamils a long time ago. So just shut up and comply with the request for investigation, because one day you will need these Europeans to provide you security.

SirRichard Gunn
SirRichard Gunn

If the US wants him investigated for war crimes then they should indict Bush and Cheney as well

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

"The collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century." -Vladimir Putin

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Russia's incursion into Ukraine is perhaps the most important geopolitical event since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Kumar Avinash
Kumar Avinash

Made friendship with CHINA,now pay the price for it . (West).

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

I am always open to any questions or investigations, and completely and fully willing to take all responsibility for my actions.

SamLank
SamLank

While agreeing Sri Lanka must act on accountability, we also must realize LTTE terrorists had benefited from funds collected mainly from Canada and England, while India trained and armed the terror outfit in 1970-1980's until their Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandhi was murdered. England had entertained terrorist leaders such as Anton Balasingham’s in her soil. Hapless Sri Lankans were dying while powerful nations abated the worst terror gang at the time. Terrorists wiped out every moderate Tamil politician, innocent civilians of their own if not agreed to the terror philosophy. They have built world's youngest baby brigade, kids as young as 8 years to fight against the SL Army. At the end of the war, LTTE used civilians as human shields, and shot them if they were escaping from the war. During the 30 year blood bath, so called human rights organizations such as ICG/Amnesty had never even attempted to help Sri Lanka to end the bloody conflict. It is a shame, that people at these organizations work for “blood money” and only use situations opportunistically. Organizations such as ICG, Amnesty, and even UNHCR  DO NOT do anything to avoid human catastrophes proactively. I recently visited Sri Lanka and observed the immense progress in both north and south. More must be done, no argument about that. All countries and organizations should engage Sri Lanka constructively. They can fund beneficial projects to uplift the quality of the life and help in meaningful political dialogue.


Watch an eye opening documentary by TAG - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heFhTh1PxQE

Kalyan
Kalyan

It's a shame that Indian PM didn't stand by SL government while western agencies including their backers in the governments are harassing SL. India should have publicly stood by SL government and used their influence to improve the humanity situation there. And talking about these UN agencies.. where were they when the terrorists were killing innocent people for last 25 years. Indians would be grateful to SL that they 'terminated' Prabhakaran

StelEn
StelEn

As an impartial observer I think tamil person Pillai should not have prepared the report.  

It is like Yaser Arafat preparing a report against Israel.

Pillais husband was a terrorist tamil

KPillai
KPillai

Heard this before – establish justice in the rest of the world first before thinking of justice in Sri Lanka! Quite boring argument but thanks - not many accept that there is injustice in Lanka.


KPillai
KPillai

You accept that a UN investigation is inevitable.Your hope that “The President” will be declared innocent is being overly optimistic. The “problem” of Lankan minorities is 66 years old.It will not go away.For a dignified solution, “Statesmanship” is required but scarcity of this commodity is getting critical by the day. The culture of impunity is on the increase.

KPillai
KPillai

You obviously have lot spare time.Not all TIME readers are as lucky as you are!

dingiribanda78
dingiribanda78

@SamLank  

Any amount of propaganda videos won't make any difference to the Tamils. They want to know what happened to their loved ones in the"War Without Witness" in Vanni. There can be no reconciliation without justice and accountability. If the Sinhala regime did not commit any crimes against humanity, why they don't want an independent international investigate. Isn't it the best way to exonerate the mono ethnic Sinhala armed forces. Tamils are not asking for an investigation to investigate the crimes committed by the Sinhala regime alone. They want the international independent investigation into crimes committed by the both parties, Sinhala armed forces and the LTTE. 

KPillai
KPillai

@SamLank

SamLank’s statement “It is a shame, that people at these organizations (AI, ICG) work for “blood money” and only use situations opportunistically” says it all. AI and ICG are internationally recognized for humanitarian work. SamLank casts aspersions on UNHCR too. AI was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 and UNHCR in 1981. The thread is an unabashed pro-Sri Lankan government propaganda. The documentary attached was NOT produced by TAG.

dingiribanda78
dingiribanda78

@Kalyan  The world  helped the Sinhalese to annihilate the LTTE. They did not realize that the Sinhalese cannot be trusted and the Sinhalese cannot keep their promises. The Sinhalese promised the world that they will find an amicable solution to the Tamil ethnic problem, if the international community help them to get rid of the LTTE. Now the Sinhaese  not just did not keep thei promises, instead of devolution of power to the Tamils Sinalese are colonizing the Tamil's historic habitat with the Sinhala settlers and the Sinhala military families. The international community is against this type of ethnic cleansing. That's why they want to teach a lesson to the Sinhala human rights violators. The Tamils around the globe and the people who respect human rights are supporting the countries who bring the UNHCR resolution against the Sinhala war criminals. 

dingiribanda78
dingiribanda78

@StelEn  Exactly, that is the reason the Tamils are also asking for an international independent investigation instead of internal investigation.  The accused cannot be a judge in any country. The Sri Lankan government cannot and should not be allowed to conduct any investigation because the war crime allegations are against the Sinhala regime and the Sinhala military. 

KPillai
KPillai

@StelEn

The Pillai StelEn refers to is probably UNHRC Navi Pillay. Navi is South African born. Evidently she has Tamil Nadu roots. Her impartiality has never been questioned. Navi’s husband is several generation South African. It is totally unwarranted to drag him into the debate. Calling him a terrorist is most unbecoming.