Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said on Saturday his government was “determined” to achieve national reconciliation, even as hundreds of Tamils held a protest in Jaffna demanding an international probe into alleged war crimes during the civil war in the country.
Addressing the 69th anniversary of independence celebrations in Colombo, Sirisena said the country must strive to achieve economic independence.
“We are determined and dedicated in our commitment despite the work of some opportunists. The government would work towards a knowledge and innovation based economy,” Sirisena said blaming them for their aiming of narrow political gains.
Succeeding former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sirisena unity government had set in a series of reconciliation measures.
The government has promised a new constitution to address the Tamil political aspirations. Tamils say the progress had been painfully slow and questions the government’s commitment despite making some symbolic gestures to win over them.
Sirisena’s work to hand back Tamils the land held for military purposes and release some of the former terrorist suspects have raised criticism from Rajapaksa’s joint opposition who claim that Sirisena was appeasing the Tamils and putting the country’s national security at risk.
While the national ceremony was happening here, a section of the hardline Tamils held a demonstration in the northern capital of Jaffna.
“The independence day is our black day. The Tamil community is in grief,” said MK Shivajilingam a northern provincial councilor who led a protest of several hundreds.
“Our land issues, detention of our people and disappearances have not been addressed. We want an international investigations on crimes against Tamils,” Shivajilingam said.
According to the UN figures, up to 40,000 civilians were killed by the security forces during Rajapaksa’s regime that brought an end to nearly three-decades long civil war in Sri Lanka with the defeat of LTTE in 2009.