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Peiris calls attitude of rights groups ‘colonial’

[Hindu, Tuesday, 19 October 2010 17:10 No Comment]

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris on Tuesday accused western rights groups of being “patronizing” over their calls for an international probe into allegations of human rights breaches against his government and urged expatriate Tamil groups to join the process of reconciliation.

Professor Peiris, who is on an official visit to Britain, said the attitude of rights activists smacked of “colonialism”.

"It smacks of an attitude that is almost colonial, patronising and condescending, the assumption being that other people must step in because Sri Lankans are unable to chart a course for their own future," he said.

Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Prof Peiris urged foreign-based Tamil organisations to give up their “negative presumptions”.

Activists of the British Tamil Forum protested outside the venue of his speech. In a statement, the Forum said: “Even though the war is over, a state of emergency continues to be in place. Anti-terrorism laws and emergency regulations grant extraordinary and arbitrary powers to the military and police and continue to be used to target critics of the government. Tamils in the north are living under a heavy military presence.”

Prof Peiris said the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which is holding public hearings and taking testimony from those affected by the recently-ended ethnic conflict, was based on similar bodies in other countries such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa.

"Let us begin with something benign and optimistic, something which carries a message of hope and fortitude. Let us not assume all of this is going to fail, it is our fervent wish that we will succeed, that we must succeed," he said.

Sri Lanka Government has denied allegations that any civilians were killed by its forces during fighting with the separatist Tamil groups.

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