Sri Lanka risks censure as president falters on war legacy

But that optimism has been sorely tested as Sirisena, having missed a two-year deadline to investigate war-era abuses, declared he would never prosecute his soldiers, rejecting outright fresh UN calls for an international trial.

Sri Lanka risks censure as president falters on war legacy

World Bulletin / News Desk

President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in Sri Lanka promising justice for war crimes, breaking from his hawkish predecessor and presenting the island with its first real shot at a lasting peace.

"I am not going to allow non-governmental organisations to dictate how to run my government," he said a day after the UN criticised Sri Lanka's "worrying slow" progress in facing its wartime past.

"I will not listen to their calls to prosecute my troops."

His defiant tone marked a sharp shift from the conciliatory approach that had earned praise from the international community, and drew unfavourable comparisons to Sri Lanka's wartime leader Mahinda Rajapakse.

The strongman resisted international pressure to probe allegations government forces under his control killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war, which ended in May 2009.   

"Sirisena's remarks are worrisome and alarmingly reminiscent of speeches by his rival and predecessor Mahinda Rajapakse," the International Crisis Group's Alan Keenan told AFP.

Sirisena has made inroads towards shedding Sri Lanka's status as global pariah since defeating Rajapakse in January 2015.

A member of the majority Sinhalese community, he received the support of the Tamil minority after promising accountability for excesses carried out by the largely Sinhalese military.

In October 2015 he went one step further, agreeing to a UN Human Rights Council resolution which called for special tribunals and gave Sri Lanka 18 months to establish credible investigations.

But the deadline lapsed without those commitments being met.

"We put too much trust in him, and he's badly disappointed us," said Eswarapatham Saravanapavan, a politician from the war-ravaged Tamil heartland of Jaffna.

"We didn't ask for handouts. All we wanted was justice."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 10 Mart 2017, 10:44