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Britain will seek international rights probe if Lanka fails

David Cameron

Cameron set a deadline of March for Lankan govt. to set up an independent inquiry commission

David CameronColombo: After an unprecedented visit to Jaffna, UK Prime Minister David Cameron today set a deadline of March for Sri Lanka to set up an independent inquiry commission failing which he will move the UN Human Rights Commission seeking an “international probe” into alleged rights abuses in the last phase of the war against the LTTE.

The demand was, however, instantly rejected by the Sri Lankan government which ruled out any inquiry under any “pressure”  or allow an independent international probe.

Cameron, who met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa last night after returning from a historic visit to war-ravaged Jaffna, the first foreign head of government to be there since the island’s independence from Britain in 1948, said the two had a “free and frank” discussion on all issues including an independent and credible probe, reconciliation and rehabilitation of Tamils.

“I told President Rajapaksa that there is need for a credible, transparent and independent internal inquiry into the events at the end of the war (against LTTE) by the end of March. If that does not happen I will use our position to move the UN Human Rights Commission and work with the Rights Commissioner for an independent inquiry ” Cameron told a press conference on the sidelines of the CHOGM summit here.

Ultimately it is about Sri Lanka’s reconciliation with the affected Tamils of the northern province and rehabilitation of the people displaced by the war, he said.

Asked why he should wait till March for an independent probe, Cameron said the President told him that he needed time as they were still recovering from the effects of the war.

He said that he accepted the position that Sri Lanka needed time for reconciliation. “There is a need for an independent probe into what happened in the no-war zone. I will fully back an international inquiry,” he said.

He said, he cited to Rajapaksa, the Northern Ireland example when Britain suffered for years from terrorism and how Britain took steps to reconcile with them.

He impressed on the President the need for settling the issue of human rights, journalistic freedom and to ensure that the Tamil people lived a life of dignity and respect. For all this there is need for the right track to be taken by Sri Lanka, he said.

Maintaining that it was ultimately a question of reconciliation, Cameron said there was a need for healing and it will happen “only if we deal with the issue and not ignore it.”

The rehabilitation of the people of Jaffna, Killinochi and Mullaitivu, where the Channel 4 network had shown some “chilling events”, was very much necessary, he said.

He said he had discussed with Rajapaksa all the issues he had on his agenda and told him there is an opportunity for him to do the reconciliation.

“It is important to come here and make these points,” he said in an apparent reference to the boycott by some prime ministers including those of India, Canada and Mauritius.

Referring to his visit to the office of Tamil daily “Udayam”, which had brought out the paper under trying circumstances, the Prime Minister said there was need for journalistic freedom and hoped Sri Lanka would allow it.

However, at the outset, he noted that, “Nobody wants the return of the Tamil Tigers, who did dreadful and brutal things.”

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