Colombo: A group of global statesmen, founded
by Nelson Mandela, on Tuesday criticised the Sri Lankan government
for failing to build on peace brought to the island by the end
of the civil war last year.
Sri Lankan troops defeated the separatist Tamil Tiger
guerrillas in a massive military offensive that ended decades
of bloody ethnic conflict.
But the "Elders" -- who include former United Nations
secretary-general Kofi Annan, ex US president Jimmy Carter and
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- said the government`s
post-war conduct warranted international concern.
"The ongoing persecution and disappearances of human
rights activists, journalists and government opponents is
truly terrifying," said Tutu, calling for a "much greater
commitment to achieving meaningful reconciliation."
The Elders said 8,000 suspected ex-combatants were still
detained without charge, and that the government was still
using wartime emergency laws to control public debate.
They also said the marginalisation of ethnic minority
Tamils that was at the root of the war was not being
Sri Lanka has recently opposed a UN panel of experts
appointed to investigate "accountability" during the last
months of fighting, when thousands of civilians were killed.
The Elders urged the government to co-operate with the
panel, and expressed their anger at a siege of UN offices in
Colombo last month by demonstrators led by a cabinet minister.
The group, which was formed in 2007, said the Sri Lankan
government was guilty of a "clampdown on domestic critics" and
"disdain for human rights."
Annan said there had been "a deafening global silence in
response to Sri Lanka`s actions, especially from its most
influential friends," namely China, India, Japan and the
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has dismissed calls
for an international probe into alleged war crimes committed
against the Tamil Tigers, and said he seeks ethnic
reconciliation in the country.