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‘We will never accept an international war crimes tribunal’ – Sri Lankan prime minister

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament that his government “will never accept an international war crimes tribunal” in a lengthy statement delivered on Thursday.

The prime minister accused the island’s media of engaging “in witch hunting” and called upon “the newspapers to clean up the mess in their institutions”.

Mr Wickremesinghe went on to state:

"We will never accept an international war crimes tribunal. I never approved the Rome Statute. Sovereignty lies with the people according to our Constitution. Our Supreme Court is one of the oldest in the world.

Our Constitution has specified how the members of the Supreme Court are appointed. Judges have to be Sri Lankans. We cannot go against that provision. Those who come to the Court under the provisions of the Constitution should accept the ruling of the court. If foreigners come to appear for some others they should first obtain the permission from the Supreme Court. If the court permits them we cannot do anything about it. Giving them permission is not our task."

He went on to add that his government “will never betray the forces”.

“We are going to strengthen the police and tri-forces,” said Mr Wickremesinghe. “We will never betray the forces. But, what happened during the war should be investigated. That is not a decision we made. That decision has already been made and we only gave our consent. We need a Truth Commission.”

See the full text of his statement here.

His remarks come after a flurry of comments from Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena ruling out an international accountability mechanism for mass atrocities committed during the armed conflict.

Mr Wickremesinghe himself said just days ago that the participation of foreign judges had not been ruled out, in an apparent contradiction of the president’s comments.

In response, 144 civil society organisations released a statement saying “these contradictions between the President and the Prime Minister are however not new and have been a constant feature of the Government’s public communications about their commitments under the resolution ever since the resolution was passed.”