In what seemed a major public U-turn, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena today vowed to subject his country to the UN-mandated war crimes investigation going back on his comments last month indicating he was no different from his predecessor who insisted there had been no atrocities.
President Sirisena issued a warning to his political opponents as well as the media as he promised ethnic reconciliation and unity which he described as essential work that had been ignored soon after crushing Tamil rebels in May 2009.
Snubbing his detractors, Sirisena also took the courageous step to have the national anthem sung in Tamil in a major symbolic gesture of reconciliation with the country’s main Tamil minority.
Ultranationalists such as Udaya Gammanpila had threatened to bring an impeachment against Sirisena if he allowed the anthem to be sung in Tamil. Some had said they will commit suicide.
The ceremonies marking the 68th anniversary of independence began with the anthem sung by school children in Sinhala and the celebrations were closed with the anthem, this time in Tamil, sung by the same students.
President Sirisena said he will abide by the the UN Human Rights Council Resolution in order to protect the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the nation as well as to salvage the dignity of the nation.
He insisted that Sri Lanka must fall in line with the UN resolution and
face up to war crimes investigations to protect the reputation and ensure that the country’s armed forces. He wanted the country to be accepted as a respected member of the international community.
His speech was in sharp contrast to his recent comments to both the BBC and Al Jazeera television networks when he sought to question the need for investigations, triggering doubts about his commitment to accountability.
Sirisena had taken flack over the remarks attributed to him, but his address to the nation on Independence Day showed a strong support to implement UN Human Rights Council resolution on war crimes.