Sri Lanka has ‘nothing to hide’ over rights: president

Sri Lanka has ‘nothing to hide’ over rights: president

COLOMBO - Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse hit back angrily Thursday against allegations of war crimes which are set to overshadow this week's Commonwealth summit, saying he had "nothing to hide" from his critics.

Rajapakse, who is to chair the three-day summit in Colombo, told reporters that he was ready to confront the likes of Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron but would not be lectured to.

The summit has already been dogged by boycott, with the leaders of Canada, India and Mauritius all staying away from Sri Lanka over the bloody end to one of the deadliest conflicts of the 20th century.

Rajapakse has been under fire from rights groups and UN bodies over his refusal to allow an independent investigation into the finale of the conflict which pitted ethnic Tamils against the majority Sinhalese government.

"We are very open, we have nothing to hide," the president, who is himself Sinhalese, told reporters on the eve of the summit.

Rajapakse said he was ready to meet Cameron to discuss allegations that up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan forces in the closing stages of the 37-year conflict in the island's north.

"I will be meeting him and we will see what, I will also have to ask some questions," he said.

Rajapakse, who was elected president of the former British colony in 2005, mounted a stout defence of his administration's handling of allegations of rights abuses.

"We have a legal system in Sri Lanka," he told a press conference. "We have a human rights commission, now the Commonwealth is ready to strengthen it.

"If anyone wants to complain about a human rights violation in Sri Lanka - whether it be torture, whether it be rape - we have a system.

"If there are any violations, we will take actions against anybody."

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