Thousands of people took part in government-backed protests across the country yesterday against a proposed resolution by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC ) on alleged rights abuses committed during the long-running civil war.
Around 3,000 people, including religious leaders, parliamentarians and government sector workers, gathered in the capital Colombo for the main protest to condemn the resolution, which seeks to press the government into holding an official inquiry into the alleged abuses.
Colombo has accused the world body of interfering with its internal affairs and hit out at certain western powers for backing the move.
At one point another group of protesters, including some clerics, marched towards the US embassy to try and hand in a petition but were confronted by riot police. Several protesters were later allowed into the embassy to hand over the petition.
Elsewhere smaller demonstrations took place in more than 150 other cities and towns across the country to coincide with the start of 19th session of the UNHRC in Geneva which began yesterday.
“Today we are here to show the world that we are united to protect our motherland and protect our war heroes from any foreign intervention from western powers,” state minister Champika Ranawaka told the Colombo gathering.
“We ask the US and other western allies not to interfere with the internal sovereignty of this country. This is an attempt to make Sri Lanka another Libya, Syria or Iraq,” the power and energy minister said.
Rights groups estimate that up to 40,000 civilians were killed in the final months of the war but Colombo estimates the death toll at around 9,000.