"Don’t cave into unjustifiable pressures’’
President urges UN chief to drop war crimes probe
Labour accused of looking for Tamil votes

President Mahinda Rajapaksa Thursday evening urged UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon not to go ahead with an independent investigation into alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka’s successful war against the LTTE.

Government sources said that the President had emphasized that the UN shouldn’t give in to unjustifiable pressure brought on the world body by INGOs and the British government.

They said that the President had pointed out that those who demanded a war crimes probe against Sri Lanka never sought similar investigation in Iraq and Afghanistan where multinational forces were engaged in counter-terrorist operations and stressed that Sri Lanka wouldn’t cooperate with a unilateral decision.

This was consequent to Sri Lanka’s top diplomat in New York, Ambassador Palitha Kohona, head of Sri Lanka’s permanent delegation to the UN, making representations to the world body.

An authoritative government spokesman told The Sunday Island that INGOs should never be allowed to dictate terms to the UN. He accused the Labour government in UK of playing politics with another country’s domestic issue for political gain alleging that Labour was eyeing the Tamil vote at the forthcoming British election likely in early May.

Responding to our queries, the official said that the Labour government allowed the World Tamil Forum to meet in London recently and was now pushing for war crimes probe to appease the Tamil Diaspora.

A British High Commission official told The Sunday Island that Britain consistently supported the UN Secretary General’s call for an ‘accountability process’ into allegations in violation of the International Humanitarian Law during the final phase of the war in the Vanni.

"This has been our consistent position since May last year when the UN Secretary General discussed the issue with the Sri Lankan government," he said.

Instead of a war crimes probe, the UN Chief would now appoint a panel of experts to advise him on "accountability issues" relating to possible human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, his spokesman said on Friday. Government sources said that this could be a prelude to a war crimes investigation.

In a telephone conversation with President Rajapaksa on Friday, Ban said he intended to "go ahead with the establishment of a panel of experts," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

"The UN Chief also explained that such a panel would advise him (the secretary-general) on the way forward on accountability issues related to Sri Lanka," Nesirky said.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama yesterday told The Sunday Island that Colombo would not oppose the UN Chief having a panel of experts to receive advice, though it could not influence the UN’s opinion on Sri Lanka. He said that Sri Lanka could launch a domestic inquiry similar to the Chilcot inquiry by the Labour government on the deployment of British forces in Iraq.

(See page —- for govt. version of Mahinda – Ban telecom)

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