Colombo rejects human rights probe, defends hosting CHOGM

Last Updated: Saturday, November 16, 2013 - 21:02

Colombo: Sri Lanka insisted Saturday that the Commonwealth cannot sit in judgement on its members and rejected British Prime Minister David Cameron`s warning of an international probe into its human rights record.

Cameron had called for an international probe if Sri Lanka does not address the issue by March 2014, reported Xinhua.

Cameron, who visited the former war-torn northern part of Sri Lanka Friday, said: "I have made it clear to Sri Lanka`s president that he now has a real opportunity to show magnanimity and reform and build a successful and inclusive future for his country and I very much hope he seizes it."

The British prime minister, who is here for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) hosted by Sri Lanka, is the first foreign leader to visit Jaffna since Sri Lanka`s independence in 1948.

He insisted that the visit "gave a voice to the Tamil people in the north and it is a voice the world should listen to".

"Let me be very clear. If an investigation is not completed by March then I will use our position on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to work with the UN Human Rights Commissioner and call for a full, credible and international inquiry," Cameron said.

Sri Lanka`s Leader of the House of Parliament Nimal Siripala de Silva emphasised that his country is a sovereign state and will resist any international investigation.

De Silva said "this is not a new threat by Britain", and that Sri Lanka would appeal to other members of the UNHRC to stave off external interference into its human rights issues.

The UNHRC has already passed two resolutions on Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013 with the country now facing fresh scrutiny in March 2014.

"The Commonwealth will not be used as another global policeman," de Silva said.

He said most people in the north have been looked after and allegations that the country has violated human rights were "unfounded".

"Sri Lanka endeavours to ensure everyone lives with dignity. No one will be left out," Minister of Petroleum Industries Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa will chair the Commonwealth till 2015. But he has come under severe fire from the international community with prime ministers from Canada, India and Mauritius staying away.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and Prime Minister Navin Chandra Ramgoolam of Mauritius decided not to attend the meeting because of Sri Lanka`s human rights record.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, facing domestic pressure not to attend the summit, said he would not attend.

The Sri Lankan government has fiercely defended its hosting of CHOGM with de Silva saying that many delegates had assured him it was the "best CHOGM so far".

The government has also dismissed reports of restricting access to international media and preventing journalists from travelling to the former war-affected parts of the country.

Brushing aside protests held by relatives of hundreds of people who disappeared during the war, the government insisted that systems put in place were adequately addressing calls for credible investigations.

Sri Lanka ended a three-decade war with the Tamil Tigers in 2009 but post-war economic development has been marred by accusations of widespread abuses of human rights that include civilian deaths during the last phase of the conflict.

IANS

First Published: Saturday, November 16, 2013 - 14:06

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