It is better to request than dictate, says President

In an apparent rejection of a move for an international inquiry into alleged human rights violations and war crimes in Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday said independent panels set up in the country would credibly investigate the charges at their own pace.

His comments came the same day British Prime Minister David Cameron, at a press conference here, served a virtual ultimatum to Sri Lanka — setting a March 2014 deadline for the country to complete a credible probe, failing which, he said, an international probe would become inevitable.

‘No direct reference’

On the pressure from Mr. Cameron ahead of the next U.N. Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Mr. Rajapaksa said: “People in glass houses should not throw stones.” However, he later said it was not a direct reference to the British Prime Minister.

It had only been four years since the war ended, and Sri Lanka would “take its own time and investigate [the allegations], said Mr. Rajapaksa. “Pressure won’t do anything. It is better to request than demand or dictate,” he said.

Independent bodies

Pointing to the work being done by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and other commissions set up to look into issues such as disappearances, the President said the panels were professional and independent bodies.

Asked about his meeting with Mr. Cameron, Mr. Rajapaksa said it was “cordial” and “friendly.” Mr. Cameron, at his morning press conference, described Friday’s meeting as a “very frank” one, where both sides expressed “very strong views.”

Prior to the President’s press conference, some Sri Lankan Ministers, including Leader of the House Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, told mediapersons that they would resist any move to hold an international inquiry in Sri Lanka. Outlining events on the penultimate day of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said the Commonwealth retreat added value to the programme, for it was a space for the heads of government to interact in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. CHOGM 2013 has heads of nearly 30 countries taking part, apart from senior-level delegations from other member-countries.

David Cameron has set a March 2014 deadline for Sri Lanka to complete a credible probe, or an international probe will become inevitable