Sri Lankan President rules out autonomy for Tamils

International

Sri Lanka's president on Monday ruled out giving Tamils greater political autonomy, appearing to back away from his long-stalled promise to empower the ethnic minority as part of the country's reconciliation process following a bloody quarter-century civil war.

President Mahindra Rajapaksa made his about-face despite growing international pressure to compromise with defeated minority and investigate allegations of war crimes.

Sri Lanka is expected to face questions from UN Human Rights Council in March on progress in implementing its own war commission report.

The pressure comes nearly four years after the government, dominated by the ethnic Sinhalese majority, defeated the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels, who had been demanding an independent Tamil nation after decades of perceived discrimination. According to a UN estimate, 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed during the war, which ended in 2009.

"When the people live together in unity, there are no racial or religious differences," Rajapaksa said in his independence day speech.

"Therefore, it is not practical for this country to have different administrations based on ethnicity. The solution is to live together in this country with equal rights for all communities," he said.

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