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Sri Lanka’s main opposition stands with government over war crimes

These are extracts from a speech in parliament on May 3 by Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of Sri Lanka’s main opposition United National party (UNP), on the UN expert panel’s report on Sri Lanka’s war crimes (see full text here):

“We made it clear that we will whole-heartedly extend our cooperation to the government in respect of all genuine efforts to uphold our sovereignty and democracy.”

“The present situation is perhaps the single most difficult position we have faced externally since the [Indian] airdrops of 1987.

In whatever we do, we, as a responsible party in the Opposition are committed to putting the country first.

I do not intend to make political debating points on a partisan basis. The stakes are too high for this. We need to be unified and dignified in our response to what is a major challenge to our nation.

“India has issued a statement that they will engage with the Government of Sri Lanka on the issues contained in this Report. This is welcome. We must maintain good relations with our neighbours. I also appreciate the statement made by China, a good friend. It is also necessary to maintain similar engagements with other friendly countries. These countries helped us to defeat the LTTE, to freeze its financial resources and destroy its network in the western world.”

“In conclusion at this crucial moment, I would like to remind ourselves of the apt quotation read by J R Jayawardene, who was then Prime Minister, when he made his last speech as a Member of Parliament: ‘Turn the search lights inwards, Be a lamp unto yourself, Hold fast to the truth; no harm can come to you in this life and the next.”

Premier Jayawardene amended Sri Lanka’s constitution in 1978 to create the office of the President; he then became its first occupant.

Just days before the 1983 Black July riots in which three thousand Tamils were massacred, mostly in the Colombo, and the rest driven out, this is what President Jayawardene told the Daily Telegraph (11 July 1983):

I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people.. now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion ... Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy.

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