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Sri Lanka rejects UN war resolution amid anger

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka Friday rejected a UN resolution urging it to seek external help in probing alleged war crimes committed during an onslaught against the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels nearly three years ago.

Acting Foreign Minister Dew Gunasekera told parliament that Sri Lanka will resist outside help to investigate violations of humanitarian law, a key demand in the US-initiated Human Rights Council resolution in Geneva Thursday.

“We will not, under any circumstances, allow others to impose on us their advice or solution,” Gunasekera said, referring to the resolution.

The minister said the Indian Ocean island did not need any foreign help to ensure accountability. Rights groups have said that up to 40,000 civilians were killed by troops in the final stages of fighting which ended in May 2009.

“It is the government of Sri Lanka which is best placed in evolving a home-grown solution acceptable to all the citizens of the country,” he said. “We will therefore not entertain alien quick fixes.”

The UNHRC resolution urged Sri Lanka to probe war crimes, implement the recommendations of a domestic inquiry into the war and seek UN help for reconciliation efforts with its minority ethnic Tamil community.

Elsewhere, there were signs of anger in the local press and in comments from public officials following weeks of anti-US and pro-government demonstrations in the capital.

Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa called for the shutting down of a Voice of America (VOA) transmitting station in the island’s north-western coast.

“We must shut down the VOA station,” Weerawansa, a hardliner in the cabinet, told a rally in the central town of Kandy, according to a copy of his speech released by his office.

“VOA get out of Sri Lanka. They use this station for intelligence gathering,” he added.

The Voice of America, a US government-funded broadcaster, expanded their operations in Sri Lanka with the commissioning of a re-broadcasting facility at Iranawila in 1999.

Weerawansa last week called for the boycott of US companies such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds, KFC, Google and Gmail but the government later said it was the minister’s personal view and was not backed by the cabinet.

UN rights chief Navi Pillay warned Friday of reprisals against Sri Lankan activists, noting “threats and intimidation” carried out by Colombo in the run-up to the contested war crimes probe vote.

There has been “an unprecedented and totally unacceptable level of threats, harassment and intimidation directed at Sri Lankan activists” before the vote, he said, and “there must be no reprisals”.

Sri Lanka’s media reacted bitterly Friday to the resolution and said the island had done well to go down fighting in Geneva.

The state-run Daily News said the 24 nations which voted in favour of the resolution urging a credible investigation were being destructive.

These countries were making “a desperate attempt to disempower and undermine Sri Lanka and they are trying every trick in the bag to further this dark design,” the Daily News said.

The privately-run but pro-government Island newspaper commended the hawkish administration of President Mahinda Rajapakse for putting up a fight in Geneva.

“The cornered badger bravely fought the mastiffs of neo-imperialism, savage in the fray, and went down fighting yesterday,” the Island said. “It certainly was a defeat as good as victory.”

The paper also took a swipe at Sri Lanka’s traditional ally India which turned its back on Colombo during the council’s contested vote.

“India has been a loser in Geneva, though it helped the US win,” the Island said. “India failed to carry Asia, or at least South Asia with it. In other words, Sri Lanka has won against India in Asia.”

Tabling the resolution, the US said Colombo had been given three years to hold its own probe into allegations of war crimes, but “given the lack of action… it is appropriate” that the 47-member UNHRC pushed it to do so.

Colombo has denied its troops were responsible for any non-combatant deaths, but UN-mandated experts have accused the Sri Lankan military of killing most of the civilian victims in their final offensive against the rebels in 2009.

The United Nations estimates some 100,000 people died during Sri Lanka’s war between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels between 1972 and 2009.
By Amal Jayasinghe (AFP)

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