NEW DELHI: In a move that is bound to upset Colombo, India Thursday said it had sought a probe into alleged human rights abuses when the Sri Lankan military finally crushed the Tamil Tigers.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna also stressed the need for an early lifting of emergency regulations as the long-drawn war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended two years ago.
Krishna told the Lok Sabha in a suo-moto statement that the victory of the Sri Lankan military “has also raised questions” on the conduct of the war by Colombo.
He said India had noted a report from an experts panel constituted by the UN Secretary General on accountability in Sri Lanka.
He also referred to “public reactions” to the telecast of a Channel 4 documentary, ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, which Sri Lankan officials have dubbed as a fake.
“Presently, our focus should be on the welfare and well-being of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Their rehabilitation and rebuilding should be of the highest and most immediate priority.
“A just and fair settlement of the (Tamil) political problem is of utmost importance,” he said.
“I have, nonetheless, stressed to my Sri Lankan counterpart the need for an early withdrawal of emergency regulations, investigations into allegations of human rights violations, restoration of normalcy in affected areas and redress(al) of humanitarian concerns of (the) affected families,” Krishna said.
Sri Lanka has come under pressure from the West over the alleged killing of a large number of civilians in the northeast in the run up to the military defeat of the once powerful LTTE in May 2009.
Colombo says it conducted a clean war and allegations of rights abuses are Tiger propaganda. Until now, India had not joined the Western chorus.
India, Krishna said, had articulated its position that the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka was a historic opportunity to address outstanding issues relating to the minority communities including the Tamils.
Such a settlement should be done “in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation”, he added.
He said his Sri Lankan counterpart had affirmed his government’s commitment to ensure “expeditious and concrete progress” in the dialogue with the Tamil political parties.
Sri Lanka, Krishna said, had also assured that “a devolution package, building upon the (India-backed) 13th amendment (of the constitution), would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such a reconciliation”.
The minister’s statement came against the backdrop of repeated expressions of concern by political parties about the condition of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Krishna said that since the end of the war, around 290,000 internally displaced Tamils had been resettled. “Only around 10,000 remain in camps.”
Krishna said that India had also repeatedly taken up with Colombo the issue of attacks on Indian fishermen.
“(We have) conveyed to the Sri Lankan government that the use of force could not be justified under any circumstance and that all fishermen should be treated in a humane manner.
“The Sri Lankan side, while denying that their navy was involved (in such attacks), has promised to seriously investigate these incidents.
“In 2010, a total of 137 Indian fishermen were apprehended and released by Sri Lanka. Till Aug 3, a total of 164 Indian fishermen were apprehended by Sri Lanka and all were subsequently released.
“At the same time, in 2010, a total of 352, and in 2011 a total of 131 Sri Lankan fishermen have been apprehended by our authorities.
“A total of 104 Sri Lankan fishermen are still in Indian custody whereas all Indian fishermen apprehended on charges of fishing related violations in Sri Lanka have been released,” he added.