International rights group have "colonial attitude": Lanka

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - 23:16

London: Sri Lankan Foreign Minister said international right groups have displayed a "colonial attitude" by refusing to testify before a government commission probing the violations during the war with LTTE.

Speaking at the International institute for Strategic
Studies, a London-based think-tank, Gamini Lakshman Peiris
said that the "rights groups have displayed a most
unattractive attitude."

"It smacks of an attitude that is almost colonial,
patronising and condescending, the assumption being that other
people must step in because Sri Lankans are unable to chart a
course for their own future," he said.

Certain pro-Tamil groups here have intensified their
demand for setting up a war-crimes tribunal to investigate
alleged atrocities in the Sri Lankan civil war.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, London-based
Amnesty International and Brussels-based International Crisis
Group last week accused the panel of a cover-up and refused an
offer from Colombo to appear before it.

Pictures including blood-stained bodies of young men
and women who had been blindfolded and had their hands tied
behind their backs, were released by the Global Tamil forum, a
group that includes former supporters of the Tamil Tiger
rebels, today, a day before Prof Peiris is to meet the British
Foreign Secretary William Hague.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Hague would reiterate
Britain`s demand for a "transparent investigation" into
alleged war crimes.

The rights groups have long accused government forces
of ordering civilians into a "no-fire zone" and shelling them
in the final stages of fighting between government troops and
Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in early 2009.

According to the UN 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were
killed in the final months of the conflict. Rights groups say
upto 30,000 civilians perished.

Sri Lanka has denied any civilians were killed by its
troops and has rejected a separate UN probe into alleged
rights abuses. The UN`s offices in Colombo were blockaded by
protesters earlier this year.

Peiris urged the rights groups and exiled Tamil
organisations not to "begin with negative presumptions."

"Let us begin with something benign and optimistic,
something which carries a message of hope and fortitude.

Let us not assume all of this is going to fail, it is our
fervent wish that we will succeed, that we must succeed," he

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission
(LLRC) began public hearings in August and is said to be
taking testimony from ethnic Tamils in the island`s former war
zones. But international media have been barred from
travelling to the area to cover the proceedings.

The Global Tamil Forum said it had been given the
latest photographs by a Tamil Tigers intelligence official who
said he had acquired them from within the Sri Lankan army.

A group spokesman said the pictures had not been
verified but they raised serious questions that only an
independent investigation could address.

He said some of the photographs of Sri Lankan army
officers inspecting rows of bodies suggested the pictures may
have been taken as "souvenirs".

One showed a semi-naked young woman lying, apparently
dead, with blood trickling from her nose.

She is surrounded by the bodies of young men, some
naked, and all blindfolded and bound.

Father S J Emmanuel, of the Forum, said: "If the
government if Sri Lanka has nothing to hide, why wouldn`t they
at least now admit to allowing the UN to investigate?"

The Sri Lankan government said the photographs had
been released by a pro-Tiger group that admitted it could not
verify them in an effort to discredit the government during
Prof Peiris`s visit to London.

A spokesman said the defeat of the Tigers had given
Tamils new freedoms while a "Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation
Commission" would consider matters relating to international
humanitarian law, reconciliation and governance".

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We have
consistently called for a credible, independent and
transparent investigation into allegations of violations of
human rights and humanitarian law.

These allegations will haunt the country for many
years to come, and will hinder much-needed reconciliation
between the communities, unless there is an honest process of
accountability for the past.


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First Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 - 23:16

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