Colombo: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is countering international criticism on his treatment of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority by saying that he is not against Tamils.
“The war was not against the Tamils. We only fought a brutal terrorist outfit that was the LTTE ,” the president told a political gathering in the southern district of Galle.
“If our war was against Tamils how could the Tamils live happily and peacefully among the Sinhalese in the south of the country,” Rajapaksa quipped.
Responding to accusations that his government had promoted a culture of impunity for those who attack the island’s religious minorities, more particularly Muslims, Rajapaksa said the religious harmony and reconciliation was visible throughout the country.
“I am aware that some non governmental organisations with foreign help are trying to show there is religious disharmony,” Rajapaksa stressed.
The remark was a reference to his predecessor Chandrika Kumaratunga’s meeting with his main rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe this week.
Kumaratunga heads an NGO which promotes religious harmony. All these are attempts to embarrass the government at a time the UN Human Rights Council meeting is happening, the president said.
Attacks against religious minorities is an issue of concern as the next UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka is to be put to vote in two weeks time in Geneva.
The UNHRC is certain to adopt another adverse resolution later this month in Geneva censuring Sri Lanka on its lack of progress on human rights accountability and reconciliation with its Tamil minority after the civil war ended with the defeat of the LTTE.
India had backed the previous two resolutions. The US-moved resolution is expected to prompt an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses and crimes against humanity during the last phase of the military conflict which ended in 2009.
Former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga earlier had said she has started a dialogue between political parties and other groups in the country to promote inter-faith coexistence.
Speaking to reporters after meeting opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe, the former President said she had taken part in the initiative following an invitation extended by the South Asia Policy and Research Institute (SAPRI), a non-governmental organization.
Kumaratunga said she has also sought a similar meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa but was yet to receive a response, Xinhua reported.
“I am grateful to the UNP (United National Party) leader for giving us time for the discussion. We have received responses from some government ministers who are willing to meet us. We will later brief the public on the importance of interfaith coexistence and how this will help the country,” she said.
The initiative follows attacks on mosques and Christian places of worship in Sri Lanka over the past few weeks, which the government insists are isolated incidents.