As a Fiscal Crisis Looms, Sri Lanka’s Leader Promises Rights Reformation

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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s leader vowed human rights revisions and “justice” for missing persons from the country’s civil war on Tuesday (Jan 18), following years of rebuffing such demands.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressed a fresh session of Parliament as the Sri Lankan government seeks foreign assistance to deal with a severe economic and debt crisis.

“We condemn racism. “What this government wants to do is ensure that all citizens’ honor and rights are protected equally,” Rajapaksa stated.

“As a result, I advise politicians who continue to instigate people against one another for political benefit to stop doing so.”

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe also stated that he was open to comments from the international community on human rights issues.

Rajapaksa has resisted requests to examine missing victims from the civil war since taking office in 2019. Many of the missing were kidnapped by the military for being engaged with separatist rebels near the end of the battle, according to victims’ families.

The Tamil Tiger rebels were crushed by government forces in 2009, effectively putting an end to the drive for an independent state for minority Tamils.

Both sides have been accused of committing serious human rights violations.

Rajapaksa has portrayed himself as a leader of the majority Buddhist Sinhalese in previous addresses, emphasizing the fact that he was elected mostly by their votes.

The Sri Lankan government’s unwillingness to confront or investigate claims of human rights violations and war crimes stemming from the civil conflict has strained relations with many Western countries and India.

Sri Lanka is currently seeking financial aid from India, which has 80 million ethnic Tamils and has supported the rights of Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils.

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