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Sri Lanka slams US on rights report


Colombo : Sri Lanka Friday slammed the US State Department’s report on the human rights situation in the island, saying that it was based on “hearsay, innuendo and exaggeration” and charged that it had thrown a “life line” to the Tamil Tiger terrorists.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama summoned US Ambassador Robert Blake to register his country’s “serious” concerns about the report, which he said, was a “litany of unsubstantiated allegations, innuendo and vituperative exaggerations”.

It had “resulted in throwing a lifeline to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), at a time when it is struggling to maintain its position both militarily on the ground and internationally.”

But the US embassy refuted the charge, saying that the report was “fair and objective”, and asserted that the US government stood by its contents.

Bogollagama told Blake that there was a “suspicious similarity between the comments made in the report and the views expressed by those deliberately seeking to denigrate the government of Sri Lanka”.

The minister admitted that there were human rights concerns in 2006 and early 2007, but maintained that the government had taken steps to address these. The government was confident that the situation would continue to improve, he said.

Detailing the various steps taken by the government to improve matters, he noted that the US report had failed to appreciate them.

Bogollagama pointed out that even according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)), there had been a decline in disappearances. But the US report had ignored this and relied on “dubious” sources including newspaper articles.

On the working of the Commission of Inquiry into some high profile cases of abuse, the minister said that it had been faster than similar commissions in other parts of the world.

On the disappearance of the Jaffna Catholic priest, Jim Brown, the US report had quoted the media, when the government’s report based on DNA analysis had clearly said that the body found was not Father Brown’s. This showed an “eagerness to come to predetermined conclusions” Bogollagama told Blake.

The Sri Lankan minister objected to the remark that no proper inquiry was made into the killing of E. Kausalyan, the eastern Sri Lankan political leader of the LTTE. He wondered whether any one could make a similar observation in regard to the killing of terrorist leaders by the US in its war against terror.

While standing by the report, the US embassy said that Washington welcomed any information from governments and other parties to correct perceived inaccuracies.

However, the embassy release made it clear that the US would continue to comment on the rights situation in Sri Lanka. “We look forward to continued dialogue with the government to address human rights issues in Sri Lanka,” it said.