War crimes probe advocates are traitors, says Lanka’s Rajapakse
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse branded calls for a probe into atrocities during last year’s offensive against the Tamil Tigers a “great betrayal” on Friday. He was speaking at a military parade to mark the first anniversary of the victory over the separatist rebels.
"Our troops carried a gun in one hand and a copy of the human rights charter in the other," said Rajapakse, after taking the salute from thousands of troops from units who had taken part in the offensive. "Our guns were not fired at a single civilian."
"It is an insult to the heroic troops who shed their blood and gave their lives for the country in this great humanitarian operation to say that they shot at terrorist leaders who came carrying white flags," he added.
The remarks are seen as a reference to General Sarath Fonseka, the army chief at the time, who stood against Rajapakse for the presidency. Fonseka is now in military detention after calling for an inquiry and accusing the president’s brother, Gotabhaya, of ordering the execution of surrendering rebels.
The parade had been put off from last month because of heavy rain on the planned day.
The United Nations is to form a war crimes panel to advise Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his dealings with Sri Lanka, under secretary-general for political affairs Lynn Pascoe announced in Colombo late Thursday.
The UN estimates that at least 7,000 Tamil civilians died in the final four months of the 37-year war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, whose leadership was wiped out at the end of the conflict.
Japan’s top visiting envoy Yasushi Akashi and US President Barack Obama’s two senior advisors are in Sri Lanka this week.
Although the US officials are reported to be pressing Colombo for accountability on war crimes, Cabinet Spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle on Thursday denied their visit is linked to the probe calls.
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