COLOMBO: Sri Lanka commemorated the ninth anniversary of the end of its civil war as a divided nation Saturday, with minority Tamils calling for an international investigation into alleged wartime atrocities and the government defending soldiers from allegations.
President Maithripala Sirisena presided over a war memorial ceremony in the capital, Colombo.
Sirisena said even though some accuse the military of war crimes, such allegations haven’t been formally levied by world bodies such as the U.N. Human Rights Council. He said there were no proper records to show the number of civilians who died in the 26-year civil war but said it could be around 100,000.
The U.N. initially estimated the death toll at the same number, but it is suspected to be much higher since there were no independent witnesses to the final year of fighting.
The government pledged in 2015 to carry out an impartial investigation into alleged war crimes, but has taken no action so far.
In his remarks, Sirisena said that his government on the path to ethnic reconciliation.
At another ceremony, C.V. Wigneswaran, chief minister of Tamil-dominated Northern Province, called for an international investigation into civilian deaths during the war.
“The international community without delay should set up an international strategic mechanism to ensure justice for the people affected,” Wigneswaran said. He also called for every May 18 to be observed as “Tamil Genocide Day” and for the withdrawal of Sri Lankan armed forces from the former war zones.
Sri Lankan troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 ending more than a quarter-century separatist civil war.