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CHOGM: Rajapaksa says Lanka 'has nothing to hide'

CHOGM: Rajapaksa says Lanka has nothing to hide

Colombo: On the eve of the CHOGM summit, allegations of human rights abuses against Tamil civilians during the war against the LTTE Thursday dominated a press conference by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was at his combative best claiming he had "nothing to hide".

At the 30-minute press meet here this morning, Rajapaksa also sent out a message to the Tamils, especially the diaspora, that he was willing to discuss issues with them and invited them for talks.

He also promised to take action against anybody guilty of torture and violation of human rights as the government had nothing to hide.

"We are very open, we have nothing to hide," he said.

There was a legal system, human rights commission and the Lessons Learnt and Rehabilitation Commission (LLRC) where people can complain about torture, rape and murder during the war, he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided to skip the conference after political parties in Tamil Nadu raked up the issue of killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka and the failure of the Sri Lankan government to devolve adequate powers to the Tamil-dominated Northern Provincial government in Jaffna, saying his presence would give legitimacy to Rajapaksa's "crimes".

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Chandra Ramgoolam also called off their participation in the summit citing poor human rights record of Sri Lanka. British Prime Minister David Cameron did not agree with heads of government boycotting the summit saying one can express strong views only when he is present.

The Sri Lankan President took the opportunity to express satisfaction over the level of Indian participation in the summit. "I am satisfied," he said when asked if he was satisfied with the presence of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

When an Indian journalist told him that Singh skipped the conference in deference to the public sentiments in Tamil Nadu, he shot back, "But he (Singh) has not said it to me."

He was apparently referring to Singh's letter expressing his inability to attend the summit after the Congress core group decided against his going to Colombo.

To another question, Rajapaksa said the Indian Prime Minister had not attended the previous summit in Perth, Australia.

He said, "The foreign minister (Khurshid) is here and I am satisfied with it.

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