Friday, 15 November 2013

Aggressive Lankan President Rajapaksa says Commonwealth should not turn 'punitive, judgemental'

Colombo:  Under attack over alleged war crimes against Lankan Tamils, President Mahinda Rajapaksa today urged Commonwealth nations not to turn the grouping into a 'punitive and judgemental' body.

On the opening day of the three-day Commonwealth summit in Colombo, Mr Rajapaksa made a combative statement about his country's battle against "30 years of terror."

"The association must respond sensitively to the needs of its people and not let it turn into a punitive or judgmental body. We also need to guard against bilateral agendas...Make the Commonwealth a truly unique organisation for engaging in collaborative unity rather than indulging in prescriptive and divisive ways," he appealed.

Several leaders are boycotting the summit after Mr Rajapaksa refused to allow an independent international investigation into allegations that up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict in 2009.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had said that he would raise "serious questions" about the alleged torture and abuse of the country's ethnic minority.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called off his visit to Colombo after strong demands from Tamil Nadu politicians, including three of his own ministers, to boycott the event.

Instead of Dr Singh, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is representing India in the summit.

Mr Rajapaksa on Thursday said he was "satisfied" that Mr Khurshid was attending the meet. When it was suggested to him at a press conference that the Indian Prime Minister had skipped the event to respect Tamil sentiment, the president shot back, "But he has not said this to me".

Mr Khurshid made it clear upon his arrival in Colombo that India's participation was not a dilution of its stand on Tamils in Sri Lanka.

The Rajapaksa government has denied the allegations and called them a campaign by rebel sympathisers to tarnish the country.