Sri Lanka plans ethnic reconciliation panel

Sri Lanka plans to set up a reconciliation commission to foster ethnic unity as the island emerges from nearly four decades of bloody conflict, a state-run newspaper said Wednesday.

Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne said the government hoped the panel would ensure that majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils did not return to warfare.

"The commission is expected to prevent the communities falling into an unfortunate situation again," the Daily News quoted the prime minister as saying.

Government troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year after killing the guerrilla leaders who were fighting for an ethnic Tamil homeland.

Details of the proposed commission were not known, but the announcement came shortly before the first anniversary of the rebels’ defeat.

Tamils represent 12.5 percent of the Sri Lankan population.

Sri Lanka’s parliament is expected to approve scaled-down emergency laws Wednesday withdrawing some of the wide powers granted to the police and security forces in dealing with the Tamil separatists.

Jayaratne told parliament Tuesday that easing of emergency regulations would not lead to the automatic release of 11,700 Tamil rebel suspects who have been in detention for over a year.

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