Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday promised a judicial inquiry into allegations that at the end of the civil war his troops killed thousands of Tamil civilians.
The announcement came after Rajapakse reiterated he would not cooperate with a UN-mandated investigation into the government's 2009 crushing of the Tamil Tiger rebellion.
In his election manifesto, Rajapakse said if rights had been violated (during the war) justice would be ensured through a transparent domestic judicial mechanism. But he did not mention how this would differ from an inquiry he ordered in July, following intense foreign pressure to account for the 2009 killing of Tamil civilians.
According to a 2011 UN report, which cited estimates from "credible sources," up to 40,000 civilians might have been killed in the final months of the war.
Rajapakse is credited with crushing the Tamil Tiger rebels who at one time between 1990 and 1995 held sway over a third of Sri Lanka's territory. But besides allegations of rights abuses he is fast acquiring the reputation of being an increasingly authoritarian ruler.
Rajapakse's main opponent in the 8 January presidential election, Maithripala Sirisena had already promised a similar investigation.
Though Rajapaske had been a favourite at the time of the announcement of the election in November, Sirisena had emerged as a formidable opponent after securing the support of all the main opposition groups, including the tacit support of minority Tamils.
Rajapaksa heads the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).
Meanwhile, www.colombopage.com reported that the president, who was contesting for an unprecedented third term, had ceremonially launched his election manifesto 'Mahinda Chinthana Lowa Dinana Maga' at a function yesterday.
The president in his policy statement promised to introduce a new constitution which curtailed the powers of the executive presidency.
Sirisena, in the election manifesto released on Friday (19 Dec), pledged to introduce a constitutional structure with an executive that was allied to the parliament through the cabinet instead of the present autocratic Executive Presidential System.
Rajapaka said at the function that he would never let the country become an Egypt, Syria, or Libya and accused that foreign powers had always been active against the country but that would not deter the large scale development programmes started by the government.
"It is because we eliminated terrorism and established democracy, people are talking about good governance," he said.