Colombo: Stepping up opposition to a UN-backed probe into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, former defence minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa today denounced the UN human rights chief’s visit to the country as a “big joke” and accused him of trying to please the pro-LTTE diaspora.
“He can’t come here for a day and expect to understand the situation. He is only meeting one side…It (the visit) is a big joke,” Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, said on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein’s visit.
“He meets pre-arranged people and talks to them to please the pro-LTTE diaspora,” Gotabhaya said while signing a million signature public petition to safeguard the Sri Lankan soldiers from a possible war crimes investigation. Al Hussein is here on a four-day visit to assess the country’s progress in investigating war-time atrocities. He will deliver an assessment to the UN Human Rights Council in March.
The opposition says the motive of the UN rights chief’s visit is to try the soldiers in an international court for alleged war crimes during the last stages of the military offesive against the LTTE. “Our troops did not commit any war crimes during the war,” Gotabhaya said.
This baseless charge comes only from one source — the diaspora groups which supported and supplied arms to the LTTE, Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the victorious military campaign against the LTTE, he said. Gotabhaya said over 30,000 soldiers had died while another 25,000 had been maimed during the 30-year conflict.
“It will be unfair to try them in court. All this is to be done for the sake of reconciliation. I do not think that reconciliation can be achieved by trying to please a minority, this wont lead to peace between the communities,” he said.
Former Sri Lankan regime was opposed to any international probe. However Rajapaksa’s successor Maithripala Sirisena agreed to investigate allegations after defeating him in the presidential elections a year ago. Hussein’s visit assumes significance in the wake of a UNHRC resolution last October mandating an investigation into the alleged rights abuses during Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict that ended in 2009.
In a hard hitting report, Hussein had criticised Sri Lanka’s failure to deliver justice to the victims of the 26-year conflict. He has prescribed an international “hybrid court” with foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators. According to UN figures, up to 100,000 people were killed in the three-decade long civil war. Hundreds of people are still missing.