On CHOGM eve, Sri Lanka says `ready to look into` rights abuse complaints
As the chorus of outcry against Sri Lanka`s alleged rights abuse during the civil war grows ahead of the Commonwealth summit, President Mahinda Rajapaksa sounded defiant saying there was "nothing to hide".
Zee Media Bureau
Colombo: As the chorus of outcry against Sri Lanka`s alleged rights abuse during the civil war grows ahead of the Commonwealth summit, President Mahinda Rajapaksa sounded defiant saying there was "nothing to hide", but added that he was ready to investigate the rights abuse complaints if they followed the country`s legal system.
Talking to reporters on the eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Rajapksa said, "We are ready to look into it. We will take action against anybody. I am ready to do that. So we are very open. We have nothing to hide".
Defending Sri Lankan rights records in light of intense international condemnation, Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed that there were enough systems in place to look into the human rights issues.
He added that people "(civilians were killed) not just in 2009, there were people being killed for 30 years. There are no killings now".
"You have to remember that we have suffered for the last 30 years. All people have suffered, but as I said earlier there is no one getting killed in Sri Lanka now. At least to end that menace is something people appreciate," Rajapaksa said.
Sri Lankan President`s comments came after UK Prime Minister David Cameron refused to boycott the summit and instead said that he would use the occasion to rake up the rights abuse issue.
Rajapaksa said he was ready to confront David Cameron over the issue and said even he had some questions to ask the British PM.
Earlier, Sri Lanka had warned that the British PM shouldn`t rake up the issue of Sri Lanka war crimes allegations.
Reacting angrily, Sri Lanka said Cameron had no right to bring it up as he had not been invited on that basis, reported the BBC.
"The invitation to Prime Minister David Cameron was not based on that," minister of mass media and communications Keheliya Rambukwella told the BBC.
"We are a sovereign nation. You think someone can just make a demand from Sri Lanka?
"We are not a colony. We are an independent state."
However, Cameron said he wouldn`t boycott the Summit like other nations and instead "shine a spotlight" on "some of the human rights issues".
The leaders of Canada,India and Mauritius are boycotting the summit. Others have had to justify their plans to attend by promising to bring Sri Lanka`s government to task. Queen Elizabeth II, who is 87, is not going, but her son, Prince Charles, is presiding over the meeting.
"It`s a shame the Commonwealth has come to this," said former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders, now part of a Commonwealth panel charged with recommending reforms in the organization.
Choosing Sri Lanka as a summit venue, which gives it the Commonwealth chairmanship for two years, "suggests we are not serious about Commonwealth values. ... That makes it a hypocritical organization."Over 40,000 civilians are supposed to have been killed in the last five months of the 26-year conflict , according to a UN estimate.
However Sri Lanka denies the allegations, saying no rights abuses were committed by its forces.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa`s family has held a vice-like grip on power since 2005, with one Rajapaksa brother serving as the economy minister, another holding the defense secretary title and a third serving as speaker in a parliament firmly controlled by Rajapaksa`s coalition.
For the 53-nation Commonwealth - which has espoused democracy and human rights as its core values since its founding in 1931 - the poor publicity threatens to greatly overshadow the meeting unless it can persuade Sri Lanka to cooperate with international demands for an independent war investigation.
With Agency Inputs