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Tamil lawmakers want UN pressure on Sri Lanka

Associated Press
Mar 16, 2012 at 06:49am IST

Colombo: Ethnic Tamil lawmakers in Sri Lanka asked the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday to press the government to investigate alleged wartime abuses and share power with the ethnic minority to prevent the country sliding back into violence.

Sri Lanka's civil war ended in 2009 with government troops crushing the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, but there have been lingering accusations that both sides committed war crimes during the final stages of the conflict.

The United States is planning to bring a resolution before the UN rights council, currently meeting in Geneva, urging Sri Lanka's government to investigate those possible crimes.

Tamil lawmakers want UN pressure on Sri Lanka

A UN panel has reported that tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed in the final months of the civil war.

Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance, said in a statement on Thursday that his group supports the proposed US resolution.

He said the government has not shown a genuine interest in sharing power, a long-standing demand of ethnic minority Tamils, despite promises made to the UN and countries like the US and India.

The statement also accused the military of continuing to run ethnic Tamil-majority areas since the end of war, as well as bringing in majority ethnic Sinhalese settlers into the former war zones in a bid to alter the demographics.

"As the opportunities for postwar peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka gradually slip away, the members of the UNHRC must act urgently to prevent an ominous slide towards a recurrence of the tragedies of the past," Sampanthan said in the statement.

The statement comes as the Sinhalese-dominated government arranges protests across the country against the US resolution, an indication of the divide and contrasting opinions that exist between Sri Lanka's two major ethnic communities.

A UN panel has reported that tens of thousands of civilians may have been killed in the final months of the civil war and there are credible allegations against both government soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels of serious human rights abuses, some of which could amount to war crimes.

The government's own reconciliation commission has ruled out that the military could have targeted civilians deliberately but has recommended that isolated cases of civilian killings be investigated.

Cabinet minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, who led Sri Lanka's delegation to Geneva, told the council when sessions opened last month that the government has already taken steps for ethnic reconciliation and any external pressure would only impede the process.

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