Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned that he would withdraw his government from global bodies if attempts to prosecute Sri Lankan soldiers for war crimes are pursued.
Speaking at a ‘National War Heroes Day’ event, Rajapaksa vowed that his regime “will take every measure always to protect the dignity of our heroic forces” and slammed “attempts to discredit and destroy the dignity” the Sri Lankan military.
“If any international body or organization continuously target our country and our war heroes, using baseless allegations, I will also not hesitate to withdraw Sri Lanka from such bodies or organizations,” he declared.
Rajapaksa’s address comes after earlier this year, his regime rejected a UN Human Rights Council resolution that mandated a hybrid court to prosecute for atrocities committed during the final phase of the armed conflict. Several resolutions have been passed at the council since the end of the armed conflict eleven years ago, when tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were massacred by state forces. No one has been held accountable for the crimes.
Instead, earlier this year, the Rajapaksa regime came under fire for pardoning a Sri Lanka soldier who was convicted to death over the murder of Tamil civilians.
“I assure you that under my administration, we will take every measure always to protect the dignity of our heroic forces,” he added in his address.
The Sri Lankan president went on to refer to the massacres at Mullivaikkal as a “humanitarian operation” and claimed “with the end of terrorism, an environment where people could live without fear or anxiety and enjoy their human rights freely was created”.
“The atmosphere where people can travel freely without any restrictions to any place of the country was restored,” he claimed, just a day after Sri Lankan security forces prevented Tamils from travelling to Mullivaikkal and halted commemorations they had attempted to hold to mourn those killed.
“Our country, nourished by Buddhist philosophy, possesses a form of administration that an oasis for all religions and all nationalities,” continued Rajapaksa.
“Throughout its history, people in this country including Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher have had equal rights.”
“The motive of the extremists was to divide us. If they were successful in their attempt, our history could have taken a different course. Sri Lanka could have become a country where communities hate each other.”
See the full text of his speech here.