Sri Lankan president calls out UK over criticism on human rights record 5 replies

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Commissar MercZ

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#1 6 years ago

Sri Lanka is hosting the Commonwealth of Nations summit (gathering of the UK and former dependencies), which has been causing a bit of a controversy owing to the Sri Lankan government's victory over Tamil rebels and subsequent acquisitions of human rights violations.

This issue is believed to have led some nations to not send their major head of state or head of government, and instead a lower representative. Prime Minister Steven Harper of Canada chose not to attend and instead sent the parliamentary secretary. India likewise elected to send their foreign minister rather than the prime minister to avoid upsetting Tamils, who are a large ethnic group in India.

The UK decided to attend the summit and sent Prime Minister Cameron rather than a lower-level cabinet member. The UK government has called out Sri Lanka before on the Tamil issue, and already coming off the ground Cameron started publicly referring to the Tamil issue. He also became the first, high-ranking British government member to visit the Tamil region since Sri Lanka's independence.

After requesting that Sri Lanka submit to an independent international inquiry on the events of the civil war, President Rajapaksa criticized the move, stating that in effect the British were hypocritical to request such a measure on Sri Lanka.

British PM demands Sri Lanka rights probe, angers government | Reuters

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(Reuters) - Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday said he would push for an independent inquiry into allegations of war crimes at the end of Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war, drawing an angry response from the island nation's president.

"People who are in glass houses must not throw stones," President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, after Cameron said Sri Lanka should conduct its own investigation by March 2014 or face an international inquiry.

Cameron has been the most vocal critic of Sri Lanka's rights record during a summit of Commonwealth nations being held in the capital Colombo. The normally sedate event has been shaken by the row over atrocities during the final months of the civil war and subsequent abuses.

The Sri Lankan army crushed Tamil Tiger separatists in the final battle of the civil war in 2009, in a strategy partly drawn up by Rajapaksa's brother, defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Some 300,000 civilians were trapped on a narrow beach during the onslaught and a U.N. panel estimates 40,000 non-combatants died. Both sides committed atrocities but army shelling killed most victims, it concluded.

"Let me be very clear. If an investigation is not completed by March, then I will use our position on the U.N. Human Rights Council to work with the U.N. Human Rights Commission and call for a full, credible and independent international inquiry," Cameron told reporters.

Rajapaksa's reaction appeared to be a reference to Northern Ireland, which suffered decades of sectarian violence between Protestants wanting the province to remain British-ruled and Catholics wanting unification with the Irish republic, until a 1998 peace deal.

The Sri Lankan president made a veiled reference to the Bloody Sunday shootings, when British soldiers killed 14 unarmed protesters in 1972. It is a topic he has spoken of before.

"We have done what we can but there are other countries after 40 years they still couldn't publish a report," he said. Britain published the results of an inquiry into the killings in 2010.


Cameron visited the former war zone of Jaffna and urged Rajapaksa to do more to seek reconciliation and devolve power to the Tamils. In a meeting on Friday, Rajapaksa told Cameron it was only four years since the war ended and the country needed time to overcome its problems.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission next meets in March to assess Sri Lanka's progress on addressing human rights abuses, including the allegations of war crimes. It was not immediately clear what form an international inquiry would take. Sri Lanka has in the past refused to allow the United Nations unfettered access to former war zones.

Since the end of the civil war, harassment of government critics, including attacks on journalists and rights workers, have continued. A heavy army presence on the former Tamil Tiger strongholds in the north angers some local ethnic Tamils who feel they are treated as enemies of the state.

The Sri Lankan government, which includes several of Rajapaksa's family members, disputes the number of civilian deaths. It says criticism of its rights record amounts to foreign interference in its affairs.

"We are not going to allow it, definitely we will object," the president's brother, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, said in response to a question about the possibility of an international inquiry.

Government supporters have protested in several towns in the past days, accusing Britain of neo-colonialism. The president said he had saved lives by ending the war and had appointed a commission to investigate what happened to missing people. Critics say Sri Lanka's investigations are not impartial.

The Commonwealth groups 53 nations, mostly former British colonies, and is headed by Queen Elizabeth. It has little power or economic clout but has played a role in resolving disputes.

Sri Lanka had predicted that 37 of the Commonwealth's member states would send leaders to the summit, but 27 showed up. The leaders of Canada and Mauritius boycotted the event because of concerns about human rights. India's prime minister stayed away because of pressure from India's ethnic Tamils.

Since the civil war ended, the government has made rapid progress rebuilding the war-torn north, especially road projects. Elections in the northern province in September resulted in a landslide victory for a Tamil opposition party formerly linked to the Tigers.

(Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Janet Lawrence)


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#2 6 years ago

Well ... erm ... when you point out something wrong in the history of uk and how they acted in the past, it becomes a matter of "bygones" and when Asians do something a fraction of that, it becomes a crime.

No, I am not favouring violations of human rights by anyone, but I do not think the judge should be a partial one, either.

Mr. Matt Advanced Member


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#3 6 years ago

Good job with the ad hominem, Sri Lanka. It really clears everything up and doesn't make you look guilty at all.

Nemmerle Forum Moderator

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#4 6 years ago

Subtle difference in numbers and context 14 in a poorly controlled incident... 40,000 in fairly deliberate shelling. Some blood's always expected in a civil war but still....

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Commissar MercZ

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#5 6 years ago

These kinds of scenarios are always touchy, you'll get much the same response in any place regarding a situation involving separatists or a persistent insurgency, especially from strong supporters of the government. You'll get plenty of cases of the pot calling the kettle black or throwing stones while living in a glass house, which ever phrase you prefer.

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#6 6 years ago

Asheekay;5718757Well ... erm ... when you point out something wrong in the history of uk and how they acted in the past, it becomes a matter of "bygones" and when Asians do something a fraction of that, it becomes a crime.

No, I am not favouring violations of human rights by anyone, but I do not think the judge should be a partial one, either.

No, its ridiculous. Pointing out a period in history as an excuse for PRESENT day actions is retarded on a whole new level. Thats like saying the US has no right crusading for human rights because over a 100 years ago we had slaves.

"Sir, beating your wife is reprehensible, i believe i should report you to the authorities if you persist"

"Hey, when you were 12, you kicked a girl in the knees, stop being a hypocrite!"

same basic reasoning.