It's a first since the Sri Lankan civil war ended exactly two years ago. New Delhi on Tuesday asked Colombo to probe allegations of human rights violations that have continued to surface since government troops militarily wiped out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May, 2009.
The issue of human rights violations came up during Lankan foreigh minister GL Peiris’s three-day visit to New Delhi to discuss, among bilateral issues, the UN panel’s report which alleged that tens of thousands of civilions were killed during the last phase of the civil war.
An Indo-Lanka joint statement released in Tuesday urged Colombo to withdraw emergency regulations that give sweeping powers to the Government.
The statement also asked Sri Lanka to resettle the IDPs and bring in ‘genuine’ reconciliation amongst the ethnic groups.
While the joint statement was carefully worded not to mention the damning UN report or the wide array of allegations in it, India bringing up the issue of rights violations could be interpreted as an unspoken endorsement of it.
It is widely believed in Colombo's diplomatic circles and commentators that New Delhi was well aware of the violence unleashed against Tamil civilians by advancing government troops and retreating rebels.
"The External Affairs Minister of India urged the expeditious implementation of measures by the Government of Sri Lanka, to ensure resettlement and genuine reconciliation, including early return of IDPs to their respective homes, early withdrawal of emergency regulations, investigations into allegations of human rights violations, restoration of normalcy in affected areas and redress of humanitarian concerns of affected families," the joint statement said.
Diplomats here were not willing to comment on the statement's specifics but said it was indeed the first occasion that India had, at least officially, brought up the twin issues of investigating rights violations and withdrawing emergency laws.
Critics have repeatedly questioned the need to govern the country under emergency regulations, considered draconian by many, even after two years of the end of the war.
The issue of violence against fishermen was also discussed. "The Indian side conveyed that the incidents of continued violence against Indian fishermen in the vicinity of Sri Lanka were of serious concern," the statement said. During his visit, Peiris called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and met with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and foreign minister SM Krishna among others.
· Minister GL Peiris expressed Sri Lankan government’s willingness to work with the Tamil Diaspora on the welfare of their community members.
· On fishermen's issue he said the government was concerned about it and talks between two governments and respective fisheries societies had taken place and a working group established is making progress.
· Rejecting calls for an international investigation on alleged human rights violations recorded in the UN expert panel report, the minister was of the view that institutions within Sri Lanka are capable of 'resolving issues'. He called the UN Panel report as a negative development affecting on-going re-conciliation efforts.