Sri Lanka far from true peace: Think tank

Sri Lanka`s postwar policies are a hindrance to reconciliation between the country`s embittered ethnic communities, a think tank has said.

Colombo: Sri Lanka`s postwar policies are a hindrance to reconciliation between the country`s embittered ethnic communities, two years after the end of a civil war, an international think tank has said.

Belgium-based International Crisis Group said in a report published Monday that "the government`s intransigence and triumphalism" after defeating Tamil Tiger rebels "has meant the country is yet to see any semblance of compromise or inclusiveness."

Sri Lanka`s 25-year civil war ended in May 2009 after government forces crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels who had been fighting for an independent state for minority Tamils, after decades of marginalization by governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority.

Between 80,000-100,000 people may have been killed in the war, including at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in the last five months of the conflict.

A UN expert panel report in April accused Sri Lanka`s government and the rebels of serious rights violations and potential war crimes and recommended an independent international inquiry. The government has denied deliberately targeting civilians and did not comment immediately Tuesday on the latest allegations.

The group said that after the war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa`s government "has refused to acknowledge, let alone address, the Tamil minority`s legitimate grievances against the state."

It also urged authorities to end the state of emergency, revise powerful anti-terrorism laws and stop repression of media and political opponents.

"Restoring the rule of law and accountability is essential, as is a political settlement to provide real devolution of power," the group said. It also said attention should be paid to victims of the war and political violence and rebuilding relations among communities.

"All of this will take years, but the sooner it starts the more likely renewed conflict will be avoided," it said.

While the government tells a different story to the international community and to its people about its agenda, claiming that it is pursuing reconciliation and taking care of the victims, reality in the war-devastated north is different with resentment already growing among many Tamils, the group said.

"Contrary to the image it projects, the government has increasingly cut minorities and opponents out of decisions on their economic and political futures rather than work toward reconciliation," the group said.

Bureau Report