Independent probe on Myanmar massacre urged

Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village in this Sept. 2, 2017 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2018
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Independent probe on Myanmar massacre urged

LONDON: A Reuters investigation into the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar prompted a demand from Washington for a credible probe into the bloodshed there and calls for the release of two journalists who were arrested while working on the report.
The special report, published overnight, lays out events leading up to the killing of 10 Rohingya men from Inn Din village in Rakhine state who were buried in a mass grave after being hacked to death or shot by Buddhist neighbors and soldiers.
“As with other, previous reports of mass graves, this report highlights the ongoing and urgent need for Burmese authorities to cooperate with an independent, credible investigation into allegations of atrocities in northern Rakhine,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
“Such an investigation would help provide a more comprehensive picture of what happened, clarify the identities of the victims, identify those responsible for human rights abuses and violations, and advance efforts for justice and accountability,” she said.
The UN on Friday described the details of the Reuters report as “alarming” and said that it showed the need for a “full and thorough investigation” into the violence in Rakhine state.
The Myanmar mission to the UN was not immediately available for comment.
The Reuters report drew on interviews with Buddhists who confessed to torching Rohingya homes, burying bodies and killing Muslims in what they said was a frenzy of violence triggered when Rohingya insurgents attacked security posts last August.
The account marked the first time soldiers and paramilitary police have been implicated by testimony from security personnel in arson and killings in the north of Rakhine state that the United Nations has said may amount to genocide.
In the story, Myanmar said its “clearance operation” is a legitimate response to attacks by insurgents.
Asked about the evidence Reuters had uncovered about the massacre, Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay said on Thursday, before publication of the report: “We are not denying the allegations about violations of human rights. And we are not giving blanket denials.”
If there was “strong and reliable primary evidence” of abuses, the government would investigate, he said.
There was no comment from the government following the publication of the report.
Nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled their villages and crossed the border of western Myanmar into Bangladesh since August.
British Labour Party lawmaker Rosena Allin-Khan told BBC’s Newsnight that the Reuters report was consistent with accounts she had heard while working as a doctor at Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh last year.
“We’ve been bystanders to a genocide,” she said. “This evidence marks a turning point because, for the first time since this all started to unfold in August, we have heard from the perpetrators themselves.”
She said that, as well as an international probe, there needed to be a referral to the International Criminal Court.
Human Rights Watch said Myanmar’s military leaders should be held accountable in an international court for alleged crimes against the Rohingya population.
“As more evidence comes out about the pre-planning and intent of the Myanmar armed forces to wipe out Rohingya villages and their inhabitants, the international community ... needs to focus on how to hold the country’s military leaders accountable,” said HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.
Campaign group Fortify Rights also called for an independent investigation.
“The international community needs to stop stalling and do what’s necessary to hold accountable those who are responsible before evidence is tainted or lost, memories fade, and more people suffer,” said the group’s chief executive Matthew Smith.
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said in a tweet: “During the reporting of this article, two Reuters journalists were arrested by Myanmar police. They remain held & must absolutely be released.”
Yanghee Lee, the UN human rights investigator for Myanmar who has been barred from visiting the Rohingya areas, echoed that call and added in a tweet: “Independent & credible investigation needed to get to the bottom of the Inn Din massacre.”


Rajapaksa to resign as Sri Lanka’s prime minister

In this Nov. 3, 2018 file photo, Sri Lanka's then appointed prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa speaks to members loyal to him at his office in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Rajapaksa to resign as Sri Lanka’s prime minister

  • The country runs the risk of being unable to use state funds from Jan. 1 if there is no government to approve the budget

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: A Sri Lankan lawmaker said that disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa will resign Saturday to end the country’s political crisis.
The pro-Rajapaksa lawmaker, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, told reporters that Rajapaksa decided in a meeting Friday with President Maithripala Sirisena to resign to allow the president to appoint a new government.
Sri Lanka has had no functioning government for nearly two weeks and is facing the prospect of being unable to pass a budget for next year.
“Unless the prime minister resigns, another prime minister cannot be appointed. But the country needs to face situations that it needs to face in January; a country cannot function without a budget,” Abeywardena said. “Therefore Mr. Rajapaksa says that he will make a special statement tomorrow and resign from the position of prime minister.”
The decision appears to have been hastened by a Supreme Court decision to extend a lower court’s suspension of Rajapaksa and his Cabinet. The top court put off the next hearing until mid-January, when it plans to rule on whether they should hold office after losing two no-confidence votes in Parliament.
The country runs the risk of being unable to use state funds from Jan. 1 if there is no government to approve the budget. It also has a foreign debt repayment of $1 billion due in early January and it is unclear if it can be serviced without a lawful finance minister.
Sri Lanka has been in political crisis since October, when Sirisena abruptly sacked then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa is a former strongman president who is considered by some as a war hero for defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 after a long civil war. But he lost a 2015 re-election bid amid allegations of wartime atrocities, corruption and nepotism. After his appointment as prime minister, he sought to secure a majority in the 225-member Parliament but failed. Sirisena then dissolved Parliament and called new elections, but the Supreme Court struck down that move as unconstitutional.
Sirisena has repeatedly rejected appeals to reappoint Wickremesinghe as prime minister, but may now be compelled to do so since Wickremesinghe has the support of 117 lawmakers in Parliament.