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Rajapaksa, Fonseka responsible for war crimes: US envoy

world Updated: Dec 02, 2010 19:21 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Responsibility for the alleged war committed crimes in Sri Lanka lies with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former army chief Sarath Fonseka, whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has quoted the top US envoy in Colombo as saying in a confidential cable to Washington.

The leaked cables revealed diplomatic secrets detailing US’s view that an internal and impartial probe into the alleged war crimes was unlikely.

Human rights groups allege that a large number of civilians were killed as the civil war between government troops and separatist Tamil rebels ended in May, 2009. The government, however, has said that not a single civilian was killed.

"There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remained in power," US ambassador in Colombo Patricia Butenis said in a cable sent in January this year.

Butenis added: "In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country's senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka."

Butenis added: "accountability is clearly an issue of importance for the ultimate political and moral health of Sri Lankan society."

"Such an approach, however, would seem to play into the super-heated campaign rhetoric of Rajapaksa and his allies that there is an international conspiracy against Sri Lanka and its "war heroes," Butenis argued.

The leaked cable carried the names of Tamil politicians Butenis and other American diplomats met, which political commentators here feel could compromise their position with the Lankan government.

Butenis herself wrote: "While they wanted to keep the issue alive for possible future action, Tamil leaders with whom we spoke in Colombo, Jaffna and elsewhere said now was not time and that pushing hard on the issue would make them 'vulnerable'. Sensing that the cables could impact US-Lanka diplomatic relation, the American Embassy had issued a statement on Tuesday, saying that “these cables are often preliminary and incomplete expressions of foreign policy, and they should not be seen as having standing on their own or as representing US policy.”

The Lankan Ministry of External Affairs has said that if the leaked contents reveal any material relevant to Sri Lanka’s interests, they would be taken up through diplomatic channels.