Sri Lanka mulls Mandela’s reconciliation model

Updated 22 December 2013
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Sri Lanka mulls Mandela’s reconciliation model

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is considering a South African-style reconciliation commission nearly five years after crushing Tamil separatists in an offensive that triggered international allegations of war crimes, a minister said Tuesday.
Information minister Keheliya Rambukwella said President Mahinda Rajapakse, who attended a memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg last week, was trying to replicate the late civil rights icon’s reconciliation bid.
“We are seriously looking at the possibility of having something like the (South African) Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Rambukwella told reporters in Colombo after the first cabinet meeting following Rajapakse’s return from South Africa.
Sri Lanka is under international pressure to probe allegations that its troops killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of defeating Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.
“There is a discussion going on (inside the government) about a Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Rambukwella said. “We can also build on the structures we already have.”
He gave no further details, but official sources said Sri Lanka was already in talks with South African authorities to secure their help for a TRC along the lines of the one South Africa adopted after the end of apartheid.
The TRC worked on the basis of restorative justice rather than punishing offenders of gross human rights abuses.
At a Commonwealth summit hosted by Colombo last month, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron warned that he would push for an international inquiry into Sri Lanka’s alleged war crimes under the auspices of the UN unless Sri Lanka ensures accountability by March.
The government has already rejected Cameron’s deadline, but official sources said the government was also keen to establish a new mechanism to address reconciliation and build on a local investigation that called for a wider probe.
Sri Lanka’s small but influential Catholic church warned last week that foreign intervention would be inevitable unless Colombo addressed international concerns over accountability for alleged war crimes.
In a pastoral letter, the church warned that failure on the part of Colombo to ensure accountability could trigger international investigations that would be a “serious threat to the sovereignty of the country.”
The UN estimates that the Tamil conflict had cost at least 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.


Taliban under attack in Badghis province

In this file photo, Afghan National Army soldiers carry out an exercise during a live firing at the Afghan Military Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghan officials say around 100 soldiers fled their posts and tried to cross into neighboring Turkmenistan during a weeklong battle with the Taliban, in the latest setback for the country's battered security forces. (AP)
Updated 58 min 29 sec ago
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Taliban under attack in Badghis province

  • Several government troops fleeing the Taliban rampage crossed into neighboring Turkmenistan
  • In a statement, the ministry had said that 50 Taliban combatants had been killed

KABUL: Afghanistan’s government launched a ground and air offensive on Monday to flush out Taliban insurgents from a key area in the northwestern province of Badghis, which is close to the border with Turkmenistan, officials said.

The focal point of the operation was the Bala Murghab district where, a few days ago, the Taliban had captured dozens of government forces in addition to overrunning several parts of the district, which serves as a gateway to the northern areas for the insurgents.

Several government troops fleeing the Taliban rampage crossed into neighboring Turkmenistan, officials said. 

One provincial official and a lawmaker from the province, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said that Turkmenistan was due to hand over the troops to Afghanistan on Monday.

Sayed Mohmmad Musa, a lawmaker from the province, said that hundreds of government troops have taken part in the operation, which had resulted in the deaths of several of the Taliban’s top commanders.

“Through the operation, the government wants to not only regain the control of the district, but is also trying to free those forces who either had to join the Taliban or were captured by them several days ago,” he said by phone.

“There is heavy fighting there and the government wants to end the Taliban threat because it is a strategic location,” he said.

Meanwhile, spokesmen for the defense and interior ministries did not answer repeated calls for comment about the government’s operation and about the Taliban’s rampage days ago.

In a statement released earlier, the ministry had said that 50 Taliban combatants had been killed.

There were conflicting reports about the number of troops who were captured by the Taliban and those who had fled to Turkmenistan, while the Taliban said 90 soldiers had surrendered.

The development comes amid continuing efforts in recent months by US diplomats and Taliban delegates for finding a peaceful settlement to the war. 

Both the Taliban and government forces, backed by the US military, have stepped up their attacks in a number of areas in the country.

Ahmad Saeedi, an analyst from Badghis, said the remoteness of the province, changes in the leadership of the ministry and confusion among troops about the peace process were some of the factors for the Taliban’s gains in Badghis.

“The time of US and Taliban formally announcing a deal has become closer; this has disheartened some troops in some parts of the country to keep on fighting,” Saeedi told Arab News.

Mirza Mohammed Yarmand, a military analyst and retired general, agreed. He told Arab News: “Unfortunately, the schism and differences among the political leaders of the country have caused disruption and slowness in the conduct of responsibilities of officers in the battlefield.”

He added: “Logistical shortcomings, the amount of attacks conducted by the enemy, (the government’s) failure to transport on time the war casualties from the battle ground and the amount of time officers spend in war zone, are among the reasons for incidents such as Bala Murghab.”

“When there is difference among the leaders that certainly impacts the moral of troops,” he said.