A top minister has rejected pressure for an international probe into alleged war crimes at the end of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict, saying the government would “definitely” not allow one.


“Why should we have an internal inquiry? We will object to it … Definitely, we are not going to allow it,” Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, told AFP on Saturday.

His comments came after British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would push for an international investigation through the UN human rights council unless the government acted by March to credibly address claims of abuses.

The Rajapaksa regime is enacting its own more limited investigation but denies civilians were killed in the final stages of the war, when government troops routed Tamil Tiger rebels in their last stronghold.

The UN and rights groups say as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the onslaught.

“It is not new, it is not the first time they are saying it,” Basil Rajapaksa said of the pressure for an international inquiry.

Asked about the March deadline for the Sri Lankans to complete their inquiry, the minister rejected talk of a timetable being imposed from outside.

“They can’t give dates. It is not fair. Even Cameron has said we need time. Even in Northern Ireland it took a lot of time,” he said.

Cameron infuriated the government in Colombo by travelling to the war-torn northern Jaffna region on Friday to meet Tamils, hours after a Commonwealth summit began in the capital.

The prime minister said he was moved by the “harrowing” testimony of survivors.

“We understand some of the things he said were aimed at his home constituency,” the minister said, thanking Cameron for attending the summit.

The prime ministers of Canada, India and Mauritius stayed away from Colombo over Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

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Two conservative prime ministers, two very different approaches.


Yesterday, Mr Cameron became the first foreign leader since 1948 to visit the Tamil lands in Sri Lanka’s north, while attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

He’s sounded a warning to Sri Lanka over its current internal investigation into allegations of war crimes.

“Let me be very clear,” Mr Cameron said. “If that investigation is not completed by March then I will use our position on the UN human rights council to work with the UN Human Riights commission and call for a full, credible and independent international inquiry.”

Mr Abbott is also here but has opted for a softer approach.

He told the CHOGM opening ceremony yesterday that leaders had come to Sri Lanka “to praise as much as to judge” the host nation.

Earlier, at a news conference, Mr Abbott said the Australian Government deplored any use of torture.

“But we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen. The important thing is to act as quickly as you can to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

Mr Cameron said he agreed with Mr Abbott that the Commonwealth should talk up Sri Lanka’s potential.

“But I think we do that not by gliding over the difficult issues,” he said. “I think it’s right to confront and discuss the difficult issues, the human rights issues, the journalistic freedom issues, the path to reconciliation – it’s important to talk about those things too.”

Prime Minister Abbott has said he praises Sri Lanka for the way it put an end to its 30-year civil war and crushed the Tamil separatist movement.

Three countries’ leaders have boycotted CHOGM this year because of Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

Canada and India pulled out, followed by Mauritius which was to have hosted CHOGM in two years’ time.

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Former Test opener and Western Australia coach Justin Langer believes the revolutionary drop-in wicket at Adelaide Oval needs work before it hosts the second Ashes Test in early December after serving up a record run feast in the Warriors’ Sheffield Shield stalemate with South Australia.


The pitch, rolled out at the historic ground in late September, coughed up well over 1000 runs and produced three centurions across the four-day encounter that culminated in a draw on Saturday.

The visitors finished on 3-202 with a 35-run lead in their second dig after the Redbacks were bowled out on Saturday morning for a whopping 601 – the highest total recorded by South Australia against WA in the Sheffield Shield.

“I know there was a directive at the start of the year to produce better batting friendly wickets (in Australia), but I think that probably went to the extreme,” Langer said.

“I’m certainly not blaming the curator because it’s a new wicket here at Adelaide Oval, but it was probably too flat for a really good game of Shield cricket.

“I’m sure they’ll use this game and the next one to get it right, or certainly a feel for it, for the Test match.”

Langer said the state of the track should take nothing away from the titanic efforts of forgotten man Marcus North, former Redbacks skipper Michael Klinger and axed Test batsman Phil Hughes, who all reached triple figures.

North belted 110 on Wednesday’s opening day to set up the Warriors’ first-innings total of 434 and was unlucky not to register another hundred on Saturday after finishing on 84 not out.

Klinger fired 125 in the hosts’ first innings, but it was Hughes who was the pick of the trio with a monstrous 204-run maiden double ton.

Hughes struck 26 boundaries and set his highest first-class score in a marathon knock that lasted 533 minutes.

“He was very fluid and he hardly played a shot in vain,” Langer said of Hughes’ 22nd first-class ton.

“His statistics are mind-blowing in terms of hundreds and that’s what you want from an Australian player.

“He will be knocking hard (for a Test recall) and his next opportunity will come. No doubt he’s one of the best six, seven or eight batsmen in Australia.”

Langer also praised Ashton Agar, whose meteoric rise in Australian cricket continued with a 93-run effort in the Warriors’ first innings.

“I haven’t seen natural talent like that since (former Australia wicketkeeper) Adam Gilchrist,” he said.

“Ashton’s got the potential to be an outstanding allrounder. You can’t teach what he does, he’s so fluid.”

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Human rights activists have voiced caution over China’s promises to loosen its one-child policy and shut down labour camps, fearing that abuses would still take place in different forms.


Days after a key meeting, the Communist leadership announced on Friday it would allow couples to have two children if one parent is an only child, widening the exemptions from a rule imposed in the late 1970s to control China’s population.

US Representative Chris Smith, who has campaigned for years against China’s one-child policy, said that authorities would still have the power to forbid births by mothers who have two children or are unwed.

“China is facing an implosion demographically and this is about as small of a step as they had to take,” said Smith, a Republican from New Jersey and staunch opponent of abortion.

“The coercive power of the state to dictate that you can have one, or maybe two, children remains unchanged. They need to end coercion and they need to end forced abortions,” Smith said.

China took the decision as its working-age population begins to shrink for the first time in decades and as it copes with a gender imbalance, which threatens instability as society faces the prospect of tens of millions of men incapable of finding opposite-sex partners.

Smith warned that “gullible Westerners” should not rush to praise China’s steps, saying that previous pledges such as a ban on sex-selective abortion have not been carried out.

The United States declined an official reaction to the promised reforms, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying only that US officials were “looking closely” at China’s announcements.

Chai Ling, a leader of the crushed Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989 who has since launched the group All Girls Allowed to campaign against the one-child policy, said that women in China were still forced to end pregnancies against their will.

“This is a small step forward, but far from what needs to happen, which is completely abolishing the one-child policy,” she said.

A 22,000-word document by China’s rulers also announced the abolition of the deeply unpopular “re-education through labour” system.

A United Nations report in 2009 estimated that China was holding some 190,000 people in such jails, where they can be sent without a court appearance.

Former inmates say that a main target has been the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, whose practitioners often face harsh physical and psychological pressure aimed at forcing them to renounce their beliefs.

The Falun Gong organisation said that China has been moving to shut down some labour camps but in some cases have simply moved practitioners to “drug rehabilitation centres” or other jails.

“What this all means, at least for Falun Gong, is that the attempt to abolish the labour camp system is not a reversal in any way of the policy to arbitrarily detain and abuse Falun Gong practitioners around China,” said Levi Browde, a spokesman for the New York-based Falun Dafa Information Center.

Corinna-Barbara Francis, an expert on the labour camps at Amnesty International, said that abolition would be “a big step in the right direction” but that authorities were looking for new ways to punish the same people.

“There is the very real risk that the Chinese authorities will abolish one system of arbitrary detention only to expand the use of others,” she said.

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About 100 supporters of the so-called Arctic 30 have protested in Sydney’s Circular Quay against the detention of the Greenpeace activists in Russia.


Family members and friends of Australian Colin Russell and Sydney resident Alex Harris released 30 white doves to mark 60 days since their arrest.

The 28 activists and two freelance reporters attempted to scale an oil platform operated by Russia’s energy giant Gazprom in September.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has announced it will apply for a three-month extension to the detention of the group, which has been transferred from the northern port of Murmansk to a detention centre in Saint Petersburg.

The cousin of Sydney resident Alex Harris says she’s been shocked by the turn of events.

“The last time I saw her before she left I told her to be safe to have fun and this new adventure would change her life,” Gemma Dallyn said.

“Needless to say I didn’t have prison in mind.”

Greenpeace says their crew members are suffering severe weight loss from the harsh conditions.

“[He is] sharing his cell with rats, [he is] very cold and not allowed out for 23 hours a day,” Colin Russell’s wife, Chrissie said.

Mr Russell’s 24-year-old daughter Maddy broke down on Saturday morning as she spoke about not having her father back by Christmas during a support rally near the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“We’ve had only one call in the whole 60 days since this happened.

“I had a hope in the back of my mind that he would be home in time for Christmas and I don’t know what to make of it now.”

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