Sri Lanka on Saturday opposed the demand for a probe into the alleged war crimes committed in 2009, even though British prime minister David Cameron has stressed the need for such an investigation and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh skipped the ongoing Commonwealth summit over Tamil rights violations.
“Why should we have an inquiry? We will object to it,” Sri Lanka’s economic development minister Basil Rajapaksa, who is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, said.
British prime minister David Cameron, who is in Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth summit (November 15-17), paid a visit to the Indian Ocean island’s war-torn Jaffna region on Friday and later said he would push for an international investigation through the UN human rights council unless the Sri Lanka government acts by March 2014.
“Let me be very clear: if the investigation is not completed by March, I will use our position on the UN Human Rights Council to ... call for a full credible independent international inquiry,” Cameron, who gave the summit a miss on Friday, said.
A UN report has suggested Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese-dominated forces may have killed as many as 40,000 Tamils — a minority group in the island nation — towards the end of the war in 2009. Ethnic Tamil rebels who were fighting for a homeland have been accused of killing civilians and forcibly recruiting child soldiers.
However, Sri Lankan government ministers said Cameron’s comments interfered with Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.
“We will resist an international inquiry. That is the policy of the government,” water minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said, dismissing the possibility of a UN probe as “nothing new”.
Rajapaksa says that the army committed no abuses, and that the country's courts and other institutions can handle any complaints.
He has denied allegations that civilians were killed, but has blocked all calls for an independent probe into war crimes claims.
The Tamil issue had recently triggered a political storm in India as well. Parties in Tamil Nadu and a section of the Congress had opposed India’s participation in the Commonwealth meet, saying that the Sri Lankan government had committed gross violation of human rights and had no plans to devolve powers to the ethnic Tamils.
Faced with stiff opposition, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to decide against attending the summit. External affairs minister Salman Khurshid is heading the Indian delegation in Sri Lanka.