Sri Lankan Minister of Human Rights and Disaster Management Mahinda Samarasinghe on Saturday defended the human rights record of the three armed forces and the police and said they did not violate international laws in the course of the 34-month war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Addressing the National Safety Day event at Kurunegala, Mr. Samarasinghe referred to the controversial charges made (subsequently withdrawn) by the former Army Chief and presidential contender, General Sarath Fonseka, against Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa about the sequence of events in the last phase of Eelam War IV (May 16 to 19).
The controversy has raged on for three weeks now though the retired General chose to distance himself away from the controversial interview. After the government hinted at possibility of legal action against General Fonseka, the U.N. envoy wrote to Colombo asking for clarification on the sequence of events in the last phase of the war particularly on the death of LTTE leaders who wanted to surrender.
The comments of Mr. Rajapaksa assume significance in view of the ongoing controversy triggered by charges made by the former Army Chief and the major opposition parties’ consensus presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka.
Significantly taking note of the support extended by the Sinhala Buddhist ultra-nationalist organisation, Patriotic National Centre (PNC) led by Buddhist Monk Venerable Dhambara Amila Thero to the candidature of General Fonseka, pro-LTTE TamilNet in a feature said, “Thero has been opposed to outside influence, both the Western and the Indian, since the Norwegian brokered Ceasefire Agreement in 2002 and his movement has been a key opinion maker of the Sinhala nationalism, exercising the pressure on the Sri Lankan state to nullify the Norwegian brokered P-TOMS in 2005 and to unilaterally withdrew from the Ceasefire Agreement in 2008”.
“Rajapaksa’s dependency on certain powers and his family-centred politics has caused certain sections of extreme Sinhala Buddhists to prefer Sarath Fonseka, said a newspaper editor in Colombo commenting that the move by the Sinhala nationalist monk also demonstrated that the Sinhala nationalists were confident in taking forward their agenda facing any eventuality at the elections”, the feature noted.
The National Safety Day event was held to remember the December 2004 tsunami which killed thousands of people in Sri Lanka and the Asian region. A report posted on the Information Department website said President Rajapaksa joined the nation in observing silence in memory of all those who lost their lives in the tragedy of the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka five years ago on December 26, 2004. He observed silence at Janadhipathi Mandiraya, just before setting out setting out for a busy schedule at Puttalam.
More than 40,000 were killed, over 20,000 injured, over 1000 children were made orphans, and more than 100,000 lost their homes and were displaced by the tsunami in Sri Lanka. It was the biggest natural disaster to strike Sri Lanka, and many countries in the Indian Ocean region.