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Sri Lanka says war crimes allegations ‘propaganda’

[AFP, Thursday, 27 October 2011 08:10 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s government on Thursday sought to dismiss war crimes allegations as propaganda from its defeated rivals, as it came under further pressure ahead of a Commonwealth summit.

A spokesman for Sri Lankan President Mahendra Rajapakse described the heavy focus on the issue in the lead-up to Friday’s gathering of leaders from the 54-nation Commonwealth bloc in the Australian city of Perth as "unfair".

"This is the well-oiled propaganda machinery of the LTTE rump," spokesman Bandula Jayasekera told the ABC news network, in reference to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and its diaspora overseas.

Sri Lankan government forces are accused of committing atrocities against the Tamil Tigers during a final push that defeated the separatists in 2009, with accusations that the military killed tens of thousands of civilians.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard raised the issue with Rajapakse during talks in Perth on Wednesday, and it is expected to be high on the agenda during the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

"This is hearsay. These are mere allegations… we have ended 30 years of terror," Jayasekera said.

Rajapakse also repeated at a Commonwealth business forum in Perth on Thursday his government’s insistence that it crushed a "terrorist" organisation when defeating the Tamil Tigers.

"An end to terrorist violence was absolutely essential to move the country forward along the path of economic and social development," Rajapakse said.

The next CHOGM summit is due to be held in Colombo in 2013, and Amnesty International chief Salil Shetty criticised Commonwealth nations Thursday for allowing Sri Lanka to have hosting rights with the war crimes issue unresolved.

"Commonwealth countries share a commitment to basic values including democracy, freedom, peace and rule of law," Shetty wrote in an opinion piece for The West Australian newspaper.

[Full Coverage]

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