President tells AFP, Sri Lanka rejects UN rights probe

Sri Lanka flag  Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse rejected Thursday’s UN Human Rights Council resolution ordering a war crimes probe, telling AFP that he would instead press ahead with his own reconciliation plan.

“We reject this,” Rajapakse said. “This resolution only hurts our reconciliation efforts. It does not help. “But I am not discouraged. We will continue with the reconciliation process I have started,” he added in a phone call.

In a 23-12 vote, the council backed a Western-sponsored resolution which said it was time for a “comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka”.

Thursday’s resolution is the most serious censure demanding an international investigation into allegations that thousands of civilians were killed in the final months of Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist war in 2009.

Rights groups have said that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan forces while defeating separatist rebels, a charge Colombo has denied.

Despite the overall vote, Rajapakse said he had drawn comfort from India’s abstention in Geneva which followed widespread expectations that New Delhi would support the US-led censure move.

“I think it is encouraging that India did not vote against us,” Rajapakse said.

A senior government official who declined to be named said Sri Lanka considered India’s abstention as a diplomatic triumph. Sri Lanka had maintained that the resolution was an unacceptable intrusion and a violation of the island’s sovereignty.

Rajapakse said his home-grown process known as the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) had made sweeping recommendations to ensure ethnic unity and he was implementing them.

“We need time to implement the recommendations of the LLRC,” Rajapakse said. “I want to repeat again that we are going ahead with this process.”

The president, who has tightened his grip on power after crushing Tamil separatists and declaring an end to 37 years of ethnic bloodshed in May 2009, feels he is being unfairly targeted by Western nations.

He said the US had mounted a major campaign to drum up support for the censure motion and he was at a disadvantage from the start. “The EU (European Union) votes as a block and the US had more than a dozen votes already in the bag while we started with none,” he said. (AFP)

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