War crimes push aimed at ousting Sri Lanka government - source

Thu Aug 18, 2011 8:08pm GMT

By Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO (Reuters) - A Western-led push for a war crimes probe into Sri Lanka's war to destroy the Tamil Tigers is motivated by a "hidden agenda" to oust President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government, the island nation's defence secretary said Thursday.

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the architect of Sri Lanka's destruction of the separatist Tamil Tigers in 2009 and the president's younger brother, also expressed frustration that post-war rehabilitation efforts were being ignored.

Sri Lanka's military crushed the Tamil Tigers to decisively end one of Asia's longest-running modern wars in May 2009, but since the waning months of the conflict the government has been under increasing pressure over accusations of civilian deaths.

A panel commissioned by the U.N. secretary-general in April said it had "credible evidence" both sides had committed possible war crimes, and in particular alleged the government had killed thousands of civilians.

"There is a hidden agenda behind these allegations. Their main requirement is to change the president and the government who are not fulfilling their desires," Gotabaya Rajapaksa told a forum organised by the Federation of National Organizations.

The United States and Britain have been at the fore of a call for an independent probe into the allegations, which Sri Lanka says first emanated from the Tamil Tigers' well-funded overseas propaganda arms and are false.

"No matter what we do there is no end to these allegations," he said.

The defence secretary has since 2009 acknowledged civilian deaths occurred, but rejects claims that tens of thousands were killed.   Continued...

An aerial view of a former battlefront can be seen from the helicopter carrying U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his visit, which also included a visit to the refugee camp called Manik Farm, on the outskirts of the northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya May 23, 2009.   REUTERS/Louis Charbonneau
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