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Sri Lanka extends war commission by six months

[Reuters, Monday, 8 November 2010 18:00 No Comment]

Sri Lanka on Monday extended the mandate of a commission probing the final years of a three-decade separatist conflict, which it says is a crucial mechanism for reconciliation after the end of the war in May 2009.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has resisted external pressure for an international probe into allegations that both the Tamil Tigers and the military committed war crimes in the waning months of the conflict, during which thousands of people died.

He has also said that what Western diplomats and Tamil parties have called a "political solution" to the underlying grievances that fuelled the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s fight against the government will be homegrown.

Sri Lanka’s mechanism to find that solution will be direct negotiations with Tamil parties along with guidance from the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which he appointed.

The president’s office said in a statement on Monday the LLRC’s mandate has been extended to May 15 "in view of the large number of persons from Sri Lanka and abroad still to give evidence before it."

Rights groups have criticised the presidential panel, saying it is stacked with Rajapaksa allies, lacks transparency and is being conducted without any kind of witness protection.

Watchdogs Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and Amnesty International have refused to testify before the panel. The government has said the groups are biased and have not produced any evidence to back their claims.

"The whole thing is a fake," said Kusal Perera, an analyst with the Centre for Social Democracy in Colombo who is a frequent government critic. "This will allow the commission to go on without any substantial proposals or measures to be made public."

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