Religious leaders oppose UN report
Panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka 'accuses government of shelling civilians'
Government minister Wimal Weerawansa held a hunger strike in front
of the UN office seeking the withdrawal of the panel.
Religious leaders from different faiths are protesting a UN report that alleges the Sri Lankan government committed war crimes in the final stage of the conflict against Tamil rebels two years ago. “While terrorists were attacking religious places and civilians, the UN did not talk about human rights violations,” said Father Sarath Hettiarachchi, co-chairman of Inter-religious Alliance for National Unity (IANU) today at the protest site in Colombo. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon last June appointed a panel to advise him on alleged human rights abuses during the final stages of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels. The panel gathered evidence for 10 months and submitted its report to him last week week, a copy of which was handed over to the Sri Lankan government. After concluding a 30 year-war, the UN is trying to interfere with the internal matters of Sri Lanka, said Father Hettiarachchi. “Sri Lanka did not involve in any kind of war crimes. Government forces were fighting with terrorists for the good of all. It was a humanitarian operation,” said Venerable Kumburugamuwe Wajira Thera, a Buddhist monk and chairman of the alliance. The Sri Lankan government has denied wrongdoing and opposed the setting up of the UN investigation. Sri Lanka's president has called for mass protests against a UN report. The UN report also alleged that the Tamil rebels held civilians as a buffer and killed others who attempted to flee areas it controlled. A local newspaper in Sri Lanka published a summary of the report alleging that Sri Lankan soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels committed serious violations, including some which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report accuses the Sri Lankan government forces of indiscriminate shelling causing civilian deaths and of hindering humanitarian assistance provided by ships of the International Red Cross. Media said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith described the report as a conspiracy. The country was being harassed by those who couldn’t stomach Sri Lanka’s victory over terrorism, the paper reported the cardinal as saying. According to the UN, between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the country's 26-year civil war. The Sri Lankan government has set up a local investigation committee to investigate various aspects of the conflict.