A group of Sri Lankan disabled soldiers march at the victory day parade in Colombo yesterday. Sri Lanka staged a delayed military parade to mark the first anniversary of the end of its 37-year civil war, with pressure mounting for a probe into alleged crimes during the conflict. Photo: AFP
Sri Lanka's president yesterday criticized foreign pressure for a probe into war crimes allegations as "sympathy towards terrorism" and said soldiers had committed no rights violations.
resident Mahinda Rajapaksa took aim at his critics during a military parade to mark the one-year anniversary of Sri Lanka's victory over the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), delayed by a month due to monsoon rains.
"It is understood by all that we carried out this great humanitarian operation only to eliminate terrorism," Rajapaksa said. "We left no room for even one bullet to be fired against ordinary citizens."
Nonetheless, pressure for some kind of independent probe is mounting and the United Nations ignored Sri Lanka's plea to let its own commission investigate the end of the war.
The UN's top political official on Thursday said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's advisory panel on Sri Lanka would be named next week, which notches up the stakes for Sri Lanka, already near losing an EU trade preference over human rights.
Human rights groups took advantage of the anniversary to renew allegations that thousands of civilians were killed in the final months of one of Asia's longest modern conflicts.
Colombo says no war crimes took place and rejects the allegations of civilian deaths as wildly inflated.
The government has acknowledged that some civilians died, but says the LTTE's guerrilla tactics and forcible enlisting of nearly all able-bodied people including children as fighters or support staff means it is impossible to tell who was a combatant.
"The countries that show sympathy towards terrorism and separatism will be the victims of terrorism. This is the lesson of history," he said.
Sri Lanka's government has long been angry at Western governments it says were sympathetic to the Tamil Tigers and allowed their operatives to move around despite the fact the group was on more than 30 countries' terrorism lists.