President 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 U.N.’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 close to losing an EU trade preference over human rights.
Human rights groups who have long opposed Rajapaksa’s government took advantage of the first anniversary of the war’s end 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 which were sympathetic to the Tamil Tigers and allowed their operatives to move around despite the fact the group was on the terrorism lists of more than 30 countries.
Rajapaksa also criticised those in the Tamil diaspora who still back the LTTE’s goal of a separate nation, or Eelam. Some former Tiger backers have founded the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, which has no diplomatic recognition.
“What those from abroad who seek to strengthen separatism are really doing is to once again corral the people of the north into camps,” he said. “The world should look into what happened to all the aid that was given as relief.”
Aid agencies concede that much of the humanitarian relief delivered to the North was appropriated by the Tamil Tigers. Sri Lanka was furious that heavy machinery given after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was used to build military defences and trenches.