A senior Sri Lanka’s minister has said the government will not allow an international probe into alleged war crimes during its 27-year ethnic conflict, despite mounting pressure from abroad.
The comments of Basil Rajapakse, the economic development minister and brother of the president, Mahinda, came on Saturday after David Cameron, the British prime minister, pledged to push for a UN-led investigation into alleged crimes committed in the country’s civil war, unless Sri Lanka credibly addressed human rights concerns by March.
“Why should we have an international inquiry? We will object to it … Definitely, we are not going to allow it,” Basil Rajapakse told AFP news agency.
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Asked about the March deadline for the Sri Lankans to complete their own inquiry, the minister rejected any talk of a timetable being imposed from outside.
“They can’t give dates. It is not fair. Even Cameron has said we need time. Even in Northern Ireland it took a lot of time,” he said.
Denials of civilian onslaught
The Rajapakse regime has consistently denied any civilians were killed in the last stages of the war
when government troops routed Tamil Tiger rebels in their last stronghold.
However, the UN and rights groups have said as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the onslaught.
Cameron said he was moved by the “harrowing” testimony of survivors, who he met during his trip to the war-torn northern Jaffna region on Friday to meet local Tamils, only hours after a Commonwealth summit began in Colombo.
“We understand some of the things he said were aimed at his home constituency. He was addressing the journalists who travelled with him,” said Rajapakse, thanking Cameron for attending the summit.
The prime ministers of Canada, India and Mauritius all stayed away from Colombo over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.