Sri Lanka to dig up suspected Muslim mass grave

Updated 24 June 2014
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Sri Lanka to dig up suspected Muslim mass grave

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan authorities are to dig up the site of a suspected mass grave next week after claims it contains the bodies of scores of Muslims killed by Tamil rebels 24 years ago, police said.
The move comes amid criticism that Sri Lankan authorities have been turning a blind eye to recent attacks against Muslims carried out by Buddhist militants. At least four Muslims were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in rioting last week at two southern resort towns.
"The site will be exhumed on July 1," a police statement said adding that security has been tightened in the area ahead of the exhumation.
"According to the complainant, the bodies of nearly 100 Muslims killed by the Tigers are buried there."
The announcement came the day after a judge ordered the dig to be carried out following a complaint from a local resident that nearly 100 people were killed by militants in the east coast town of Kalavanchikudy in 1990 before then being buried on the beach.
Sri Lanka's 37-year civil war, which ended in 2009, mainly pitted the majority ethnic Sinhalese, who are Buddhists, against the minority Tamils, who are mainly Hindus and live in the north.
The Muslim community, which accounts for around 10 percent of the island's population and is concentrated in the east, largely avoided being caught up in the fighting.
But there have been allegations that the Tigers carried out several massacres of Muslims in the east as part of their push to create a separate Tamil homeland.
Several mass graves have been found in Sri Lanka since the end of the conflict, mainly inside the former war zone but also in areas which were largely unaffected by the conflict which claimed around 100,000 lives.
Sri Lanka's government, whose troops are accused of the mass killing of civilians in the latter stages of the war, has been heavily criticised for failing to prevent last week's riots.


Labour set to vote against Brexit deal, open to second referendum

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, left, and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry during the third day of the Labour party conference in Liverpool Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 38 sec ago
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Labour set to vote against Brexit deal, open to second referendum

  • If Theresa May brings back a deal that does not meet our tests — and that looks increasingly likely — Labour will vote against her deal
  • Starmer said May was on course to fail these tests

LIVERPOOL: Britain’s opposition Labour Party is set to vote against any deal Prime Minister Theresa May clinches with the European Union and is open to a second referendum with the option of staying in the bloc, Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said on Tuesday.

With just over six months until Britain leaves the EU, May has yet to reach a deal on the terms of the divorce, and her plan for future trade ties has been rebuffed by both the EU and many lawmakers in her own Conservative Party.

Labour has listed six tests it would apply to any Brexit deal, including whether it ensured a strong future relationship with the EU and delivered the same benefits Britain has as a member of its single market and customs union.

Starmer said May was on course to fail these tests.

He called for an election to allow a Labour government to steer Britain’s departure from the EU, the biggest shift in the country’s foreign and trade policy in decades.

“If Theresa May brings back a deal that does not meet our tests — and that looks increasingly likely — Labour will vote against her deal,” he told Labour members at the party’s conference in the northern city of Liverpool.

He repeated Labour’s argument that if Parliament rejected May’s Chequers deal, named after the prime minister’s country residence where she hashed out a plan with her ministers, the party would press for a general election.

“But if we need to break the impasse our options must include campaigning for a public vote and nobody is ruling out remain as an option,” he said to a standing ovation and prolonged applause in a packed conference hall.

The Conservative Party’s chairman, Brandon Lewis, accused Labour of breaking “their promises” and taking “us back to square one on Brexit.” 

The EU indicated officials in Brussels saw a new referendum as a complication rather than a solution.

“That does not sound like a solution to anything. The first referendum is still keeping us busy. And will they want to have a third one in another two years?” asked a senior EU diplomat in Brussels. “It’s more about power struggles in Britain than about managing Brexit seriously.”

But with May’s plan for maintaining close ties with the EU for trade in goods facing opposition from her own lawmakers, Labour could play a decisive role in whether any Brexit deal is approved by parliament.

May has a working majority of just 13 in the 650-seat parliament and a former junior minister said this month as many as 80 of her own lawmakers were prepared to vote against a Brexit deal based on the Chequers plan.

But like the governing Conservatives and much of the country, Labour is split over how to leave the bloc, with its veteran euroskeptic leader, Jeremy Corbyn, under pressure from many members to move to a more pro-EU position.

Brendan Chilton, general secretary of Brexit campaigning group Labour Leave, accused Starmer of launching a leadership bid and of trying to undermine Corbyn.

“This is a betrayal of the very highest order. It is a betrayal not only of the millions of Labour voters, but of our 2017 manifesto,” he said, referring to the party’s campaign at last year’s election that gained Labour more votes than many expected.

Labour’s conference will vote later on Tuesday on keeping a second Brexit referendum as an option if May fails to get her Brexit plan through parliament.

In the published motion which the Labour conference will debate later on Tuesday, the party again set out is position on Brexit — it wants full participation in the EU’s single market after Brexit and will reject a “no deal Brexit.” 

The wording on a possible second referendum was left vague, opening the way for some to describe it as a fudge when the party’s finance spokesman, John McDonnell, said any such vote should be on how to leave the EU, not whether to do so.

But Starmer was clear. He understood that the motion could allow Britain to vote to stay in the EU.

“This isn’t about frustrating the process,” he said. “It’s about stopping a destructive Tory Brexit. It’s about fighting for our values and about fighting for our country.”