Sri Lanka refuses to give timeline on human rights issues

Published: 17th November 2013 08:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th November 2013 08:23 PM   |  A+A-


Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday refused to give a timeline on resolving his country's human rights issues despite an ultimatum by British Prime Minister David Cameron that he would push for an international probe if credible investigations are not held by March next year.

Talking to reporters at the end of the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Rajapaksa retained his defiant stance that the wounds of the three-decade-old conflict cannot be healed in a prescribed time, Xinhua reported.

He reiterated that the Sri Lanka government has put in place internal mechanisms to address accusations of war crimes. These include the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, a special commission to investigate into disappearances, and a Parliament Select Committee to resolve power devolution mechanisms.

"We have already started the process," he said when asked how much more time Sri Lanka would need to put its human rights record in order.

"We need time. We have to slowly build this, we have to change the minds and thinking of the people, not only in the north but also the south. They are all my people. I have to look after them. It is my responsibility so I will do it. But you can't give a timeline ... that's very unfair," Rajapaksa said.

Rajapaksa has been bombarded with questions over the island's human rights issues that include alleged killing of civilians during the last phase of the war that ended in 2009 during the CHOGM.

British Prime Minister David Cameron Saturday issued an ultimatum to Sri Lanka saying that if the south Asian island nation did not deal with human rights issues by March 2014, Britain would work with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to push for international investigations into alleged war crimes.

The prime ministers of Canada and Mauritius, Stephen Harper and Navin Chandra Ramgoolam respectively, boycotted the Commonwealth summit citing Sri Lanka's human rights record.

Mauritius even lost the chance to host the CHOGM in 2015 due to the absence of its prime minister, and the next summit will be hosted by Malta.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, facing domestic pressure not to attend the summit, said Nov 10 he would skip the event.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said his country would rise to the occasion after being selected to host the biennial event, Xinhua reported.

The decision was made at the retreat session of the CHOGM after Mauritius withdrew as host of the 2015 Commonwealth summit as a result of its prime minister boycotting the Colombo summit.

Ramgoolam had told Britain's Channel 4 television that Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma had informed his government that the head of the state of Mauritius needed to be present in Sri Lanka as the next host of the summit.

Ramgoolam said, as a result, he was ready to withdraw as host of the 2015 Commonwealth summit as he stood by his decision not to attend the Colombo summit.

Earlier, following the conclusion of the CHOGM 2013, the Commonwealth leaders Sunday reaffirmed their commitment to sustainable development and promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future.

In a communique issued at the end of the three-day CHOGM here, the leaders acknowledged that eradicating poverty was the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, Xinhua reported.

The Commonwealth leaders ensured an integrated and holistic approach to sustainable development and reaffirmed all the Rio principles, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

The leaders acknowledged the importance of the inter-governmental process for elaboration of a set of sustainable development goals that could integrate with the post-2015 development agenda.

They adopted the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable, Inclusive and Equitable Development at the end of the summit.

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