‘We are ready to look into allegations. We are very open, we have nothing to hide’
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday said he was satisfied with the level of India's representation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) beginning here on Friday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not participate in the CHOGM held in Perth in 2011, he pointed out at a press conference.
Asked whether Dr. Singh’s absence was due to his consideration of Tamil sentiments, Mr. Rajapaksa said: “He did not say that to me; the letter [sent by Dr. Singh] said something different.” He was responding to a query from a journalist representing a Tamil television channel in India.
Responding to questions on alleged war crimes, he said: “You all must respect a country’s system, a country’s culture. Sri Lanka is ready to look into allegations. We are very open, we have nothing to hide. Whether it was torture or rape, anyone who wishes to make a complaint could do so through the system.”
“If there is any violation, we will take action against anybody,” said the President, who will turn 68 in a few days.
To a question from a British journalist whether the President would, while shaking hands with the Prince of Wales currently in Colombo, admit to Sri Lanka’s “dire” human rights record, Mr. Rajapaksa said: “Before I shake hands, I will say ‘ayubowan’ [may you live long]. That’s the way a Sri Lankan greets anybody whether it’s a king, or queen or beggar.”
Asked whether he would hold a one-on-one meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, “who plans to ask him some tough questions,” he said: “Yes, I will meet him. I have already given him an appointment...we’ll have to see, I will also have to ask him some questions.”
Earlier, referring to the 30 year-long conflict, he said the country had suffered a lot. There were human rights violations; civilians were killed, women and children suffered a lot. “Today, no one is getting killed. We finished that war; that menace. And that is something people are appreciating.”
Asked whether the Commonwealth made a mockery of its values by holding its meeting in Sri Lanka, which faces allegations of rights violations and war crimes, its Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, who was present at the press conference, said the Commonwealth was engaging with Sri Lanka on several issues. “It is not making a mockery. It is showing the Commonwealth in action.”