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Maithripala Sirisena said he would also negotiate with the European Union to win back tariff concessions that were withdrawn four years ago after Colombo refused to bring about democratic reforms.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 forces kills 5 insurgents, 12-year-old boy in Kashmir

Updated 38 min 59 sec ago
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Indian forces kills 5 insurgents, 12-year-old boy in Kashmir

  • The bodies were found after an exchange of gunfire that started in northern Bandipora district Thursda
  • Insurgents have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with neighboring Pakistan since 1989

SRINAGAR, India: Indian security forces say they have killed five militants and one civilian in gunbattles in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.
Army spokesman Rajesh Kalia says security forces have found the bodies of two insurgents and a 12-year-old boy after an exchange of gunfire that started in northern Bandipora district Thursday.
Two insurgents were killed in western Baramulla district and another in southern Shopian area separately during cordon and search operations by security forces, Kalia and police said Friday.
A grenade attack by insurgents wounded three police officers in Sopore area Thursday, police said.
Insurgents have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with neighboring Pakistan since 1989. India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety.