Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ruled out greater political autonomy for Tamils, saying ethnicity-based division was “not practical” for the country, appearing to back away from his promise made as part of the country’s reconciliation process.
“When the people live together in unity, there are no racial or religious differences. Therefore, it is not practical for this country to be divided based on ethnicity,” Rajapaksa said during his address at the 65th Independence day celebrations on Monday.
“The solution is to live together in this country with equal rights for all,” he said.
Speaking in Tamil, too, President Rajapaksa gave the example of people of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities living together in harmony in Colombo and the South with Trincomalee being a very good example for this.
Rajapaksa has long promised India and other countries that he would offer power sharing to the Tamils.
Ahead of the UN Human Rights Council sessions beginning later this month in Geneva, Rajapaksa said that nothing contained in the present UN charter has authorised it to intervene in domestic issues.
“The UN charter gives no powers to interfere in internal affairs of countries”, Rajapaksa said, quoting Article 2 of the UN charter.
The US has already indicated of moving a resolution against Sri Lanka. At the corresponding session last year, the India-backed, US-sponsored resolution urged the Sri Lankan government to show progress on reconciliation.
Sri Lankan forces had crushed Tamil rebels in May 2009 after nearly three decades of brutal fighting. The conflict claimed up to 1,00,000 lives, according to UN estimates, and both sides are accused of war crimes.
Sri Lanka, while formulating an action plan for implementation, maintained that most of the recommendations were already put in to effect.
Dismissing criticism against his government as baseless misinformation, Rajapaksa invited critics to “come over and see for yourselves”.
Reconciliation and development would be the best answers to false propaganda, the President said.
He said Sri Lanka would continue to pursue a non-aligned foreign policy and would always uphold the UN charter.
“Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is that of non-alignment. It is necessary for us to build a new era in foreign affairs based on this policy”, Rajapaksa said.