Sri Lanka rejects Cameron call for human rights inquiry

 

David Cameron met Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan, a Tamil who works for reconciliation in his country

Sri Lanka’s government has rejected UK PM David Cameron’s call for an international probe into alleged human rights abuses following the civil war.

Mr Cameron urged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure an independent inquiry, or face a UN investigation.

But senior minister Basil Rajapaksa said such a probe would “definitely” not be allowed to take place.

The abuses are alleged to have been committed mainly against Tamils since the end of the war in 2009.

The government is carrying out its own investigation but denies civilians were killed in the last stages of the war when government troops routed Tamil Tiger rebels in their last stronghold.

President Rajapaksa has said the end of the war has brought peace, stability and the chance of greater prosperity to Sri Lanka.

Basil Rajapakse – minister of economic development and the brother of President Rajapakse, told news agency AFP: “Why should we have an international inquiry? We will object to it… Definitely, we are not going to allow it.”

Mr Cameron, speaking on Friday in the capital Colombo, ahead of the Commonwealth summit, said he had urged Sri Lanka’s president to go further and faster over human rights issues and reconciliation.

In a meeting with President Rajapaksa, he called for Sri Lanka to ensure “credible, transparent and independent investigations into alleged war crimes” and said if this did not happen by March he would press the UN Human Rights Council to hold an international inquiry.

The prime minister met Mr Rajapaksa on Friday after a visit to the northern Jaffna region to see the situation facing the country’s Tamil minority.

He said strong views had been expressed but the meeting with the president had been worthwhile.

‘Right track’

Mr Cameron said: “I accept it takes time but I think what matters is getting on the right pathway, getting on the right track, because it’s only through generosity, through reconciling people that you can make the most of this country.

“So, a frank meeting – of course not everything I said was accepted but I sense that they do want to make progress on these issues and it will help frankly by having international pressure in order to make sure that that happens.”

Earlier, the UK leader met Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan, a Tamil who works for reconciliation in his country.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron playing cricket in Sri Lanka, 16 November 2013

David Cameron faced the bowling of Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan, who said the PM had been misled about the situation in the country


David Cameron at the Sabapathi Pillay Welfare Centre in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, 15 November 2013

Mr Cameron travelled to the northern Jaffna region on Friday to hear the concerns of local Tamils who complain of human rights abuses


Sri Lankan girls in traditional costume at the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, 15 November 2013

The Commonwealth summit opened on Friday amid traditional displays highlighting Sri Lanka's cultural heritage


Wives and first ladies at the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka

The government hoped the summit would showcase the country on the international stage but the meeting has been overshadowed by the human rights

 

Spin bowler “Murali” backed the prime minister’s decision to travel to Sri Lanka but said he had been misled about the situation in the country.

Murali told journalists: “He must have been misled by other people. People speak without going and seeing the things there. I go on and off. I see from my eyes there is improvement.

“I can’t say the prime minister is wrong or not. He hasn’t seen the site, he hasn’t gone and visited these places – yesterday only.”

BBC political editor Nick Robinson, in Colombo, said it was clearly a tense and difficult meeting between the prime minister and Sri Lanka’s president.

Meeting boycott

Earlier on Friday, Mr Cameron became the first international leader to travel to the Tamil-dominated north of the country since Sri Lankan independence in 1948.

At one point, the PM’s convoy was surrounded by more than 200 protesters holding pictures of loved ones who they claim were killed by the Sri Lankan armed forces or have disappeared.

Mr Cameron said the visit – in which he also toured a temporary refugee camp and a newspaper office whose printing presses had been burned – had “drawn attention to the plight” of the Tamil minority in the country.

The Tamils’ treatment at the end of the civil war in 2009 has dominated the run-up to the the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm), taking place in Colombo.

The prime ministers of Canada, India and Mauritius are staying away from the summit in protest over the allegations.

Sri Lanka Timeline

  • 1948 – As Ceylon, the island gains independence from Britain.
  • 1972 – The government changes its name to Sri Lanka and gives Buddhism primary place as country’s religion, antagonising largely Hindu Tamil minority.
  • 1983 – As ethnic tensions grow, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) launches a violent uprising, seeking autonomy for the Tamil-dominated north and east.
  • 2005 – After years of war, and failed peace talks, Mahinda Rajapaksa is elected president.
  • May 2009 – Tamil Tigers defeated after army over-runs last patch of rebel-held territory in the north-east. LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran killed.
  • Apr 2011 – UN says both sides committed atrocities against civilians and calls for an international investigation into possible war crimes. Sri Lanka says the report is biased.
  • Nov 2012 – Another UN report says 70,000 civilians were “unaccounted for” at the end of the war.
  • Nov 2013 – Colombo prepares to host Chogm

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