Sri Lanka opposition to address war crimes concerns

Updated 19 December 2014
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Sri Lanka opposition to address war crimes concerns

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s main opposition on Friday promised to address international concerns over war crimes and normalize relations with regional superpower India and Western nations if they won January presidential polls.
Candidate Maithripala Sirisena said he would also negotiate with the European Union to win back tariff concessions that were withdrawn four years ago after Colombo refused to bring about democratic reforms.
“I will negotiate to get back the ‘GSP-plus’ (generalised scheme of preferences) to ensure we export more and create more jobs,” Sirisena said while releasing his party’s 63-page manifesto.
He did not outline what his approach with the EU would be, but his manifesto promised that if elected, his party would set up independent bodies to run the civil service, the police, the judiciary and the elections department. The refusal to commit to good governance conditions led to Sri Lanka’s exports losing preferential tariffs from member states across the European Union in 2010.
According to the manifesto, a Sirisena administration would also set up a special domestic court to investigate war crimes allegations, a long-standing demand of neighboring India and Western nations, who in March established a UN probe after Colombo insisted that no abuses had taken place.
International rights groups say up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by government forces in the final months of fighting, when the leadership of the Tamil Tiger separatists was wiped out, after decades of ethnic war.
Sirisena, who defected from Rajapakse’s Cabinet last month to mount a surprise challenge, said he would restore Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake who was sacked last year after some of her rulings went against the administration’s policies.
The controversial impeachment of the chief justice was criticised by the UN Human Rights Council as well as other governments as an assault on the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka.
Sirisena’s manifesto carried several populist measures, including a 10,000-rupee ($76) salary increase to public servants, free Internet wi-fi zones across the country and a host of agricultural subsidies.
Sirisena, a former health minister, also said he would bring back parliamentary democracy and won’t allow separatist Tamil Tiger rebels to re-emerge, a promise made by President Rajapakse too.
The UN has estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka’s separatist war between 1972 and 2009.
Rajapakse, 69, was seen as the favourite when he called the Jan. 8 snap election two years ahead of schedule.
But Sirisena, 63, has emerged as a formidable opponent after securing the support of all main opposition groups.
The popularity of Rajapakse’s party showed a 21 percentage point decline at local elections in September.


Indian court gives life sentence to guru, 14 followers

Updated 16 October 2018
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Indian court gives life sentence to guru, 14 followers

  • Sant Rampal was arrested in 2014 following a days-long standoff between law enforcers and his supporters
  • The court is expected to announce sentences in the death of a fifth woman on Wednesday
HISAR, India: A court in northern India sentenced a Hindu guru and 14 followers to life imprisonment on Tuesday in the deaths of four women and a child at his sprawling ashram.
The court ordered the penalty for Sant Rampal in Hisar city in Haryana state, where authorities deployed hundreds of riot police in anticipation of violence by the guru’s thousands of disciples in response to his sentencing.
Rampal, 67, was arrested in 2014 following a days-long standoff between law enforcers and his supporters in which six people died and hundreds were injured. At the time, Rampal was wanted for questioning in a 2006 murder case and had repeatedly ignored orders to appear in court.
Rampal and the 14 followers were accused by police of holding the four women and child captive inside the ashram, resulting in their deaths from a lack of food and medicine as the fierce standoff continued.
The court is expected to announce sentences in the death of a fifth woman on Wednesday.
Hindu gurus and holy men are immensely popular in India, with millions of followers. People often consult gurus before making important personal decisions. But the enormous power wielded by some has led to scandals in which they have been accused of exploiting devotees.