In a Talk to Al Jazeera interview, the Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena appears to contradict key findings from a UN investigation into the country's civil war, released in September last year.
The report from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) investigated atrocities committed by both the Tamil separatists and the Sri Lankan Army during the 26-year-long conflict.
In the final stages of the war, attacks carried out by the Sri Lankan Army were so bloody and aggressive that as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed.
In detailing its principal findings, the OHCHR report stated: "If established before a court of law, many of these allegations would amount, depending on the circumstances, to war crimes and/or crimes against humanity."
The Sri Lankan government forces always acted in adherence to international law and according to the laws of the government of Sri Lanka. While doing so, if a member or officer of the armed forces of the Sri Lankan government has committed offences, these investigations are aimed at finding out such instances. So if offences have been committed by an individual, we will clearly take legal action.
Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka
Speaking to Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Sirisena, rejected the allegations.
"I must say very clearly there is no allegations regarding 'war crimes', there were war crimes allegations during the early stages. But at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, mainly in the proposals presented in September, there were no 'war crimes' allegations against us.
"They contained allegations of human rights violations only. When you consider the facts surrounding the allegations of human rights violations, we are committed as a member of the United Nations, to implementing the main points and proposals," Sirisena said.
The OHCHR report recommended the creation of a "hybrid special court" comprised of international and domestic judges, persecutors, lawyers and investigators.
"Sri Lanka must now move forward to dismantle the repressive structures and institutional cultures that remain deeply entrenched after decades of erosion of human rights," said Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights, when the report was published last year.
At the time, the high commissioner, who is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on February 5, also warned against a purely domestic court.
"The levels of mistrust in state authorities and institutions by broad segments of Sri Lankan society should not be underestimated," he said, adding it is for this reason that the establishment of a hybrid special court is so essential.
"A purely domestic court procedure will have no chance of overcoming widespread and justifiable suspicions fueled by decades of violations, malpractice and broken promises."
When Sirisena defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa in elections a little over a year ago, the possibility of a new beginning seemed to be at hand.
Sirisena had run on promises to bring those responsible for crimes to justice, to end government corruption and nepotism, and open up the economy in ways that would finally benefit the common man and woman.
But how far has he come to realising these promises?
He says he has already instituted reforms that limit presidential powers, and will soon start reworking the constitution.
In conversations with the people of Sri Lanka, there is a sense of continued goodwill towards their leader, but also, impatience.
Just over a year after he came to power, in his first in-depth international television interview, Sirisena discusses the UN investigation, fighting corruption, and national reconciliation.
He tells Abdel-Hamid that he is committed to bringing war time perpetrators to trial, but that he is opposed to foreign involvement.
"Within that commitment, we will always act in accordance with the sovereignty of our country and in accordance with our constitution. For this work, we can obtain foreign technology in certain areas. In terms of people we definitely do not need outsiders."
Sirisena denies providing conflicting messages or backtracking on ensuring justice is served, saying: "There is no way of doing this in an express or super fast manner. So what we are hoping to do through this is to free the country from the allegations that have been made against it. To free the country, we must clearly face the truth, and similarly we must take decisive actions towards accountability."
He also discusses fighting corruption in Sri Lanka. "We must not be worried or in a hurry. 2016 is the year of showing results," he said.
"We have restored the independence of the judiciary, made the investigating institutions independent; their officers are allowed to function freely. They will show their results of their efforts in the future."
AIA Saturday, 30 January 2016 11:41
This is a very sensitive question that any leader will be in a dilemma to answer.
Reply : 0 13
onlooker Sunday, 31 January 2016 07:38
Problem is answers of leading govt.leaders differ. They do not have a proper vision.
Reply : 0 1
Greg Saturday, 30 January 2016 11:50
We really appreciate your new stance but did anyone explain to you the UNHRC report? It certainly has gross accussations which we expect you to defend
Reply : 2 10
Premalal Saturday, 30 January 2016 11:57
That is the very reason that we could and we should face whatever inquiry and show the world, the true nature of the Sri Lankan.
Reply : 4 14
Jude Saturday, 30 January 2016 12:08
2009 ended war casualties to be treated as "Collateral Damage," !!!!???
Reply : 4 7
Jude Saturday, 30 January 2016 12:12
UNHRC getting Numbers from thin Air!!!??? What Could UNHRC Say About the Human Casualties from 21st Century biggest Catastrophic Syrians Refugee Crisis and its victims!!!!???
Reply : 3 15
Lahiru Saturday, 30 January 2016 13:34
What president says is absolutely right, there is no need for super fast actions. Now the independence of the judiciary having restored. what action UN has taken so far on Israel openly killing children, women and taking palestine lands, houses. Why there is a rush in SL matter?
Reply : 5 9
Leo Sunday, 31 January 2016 11:10
We seek justice claiming no one is above the law but we have a different stance when the forces are questioned about war crimes are the forces above the law. The LTTE, ISIS and all terrorist groups can do what they wish which is why they are labelled as terrorists. The forces are not terrorists and even in war time the forces are supposed to uphold human safety. I do not know if war crimes happened or not so why not let a neutral party look in to this. If there are war crimes they will have to prove it with concrete proof if not all allegations can be dropped once and for all. Is this not better than running round in circles about this always recurring question. via DM Android App
Reply : 0 2
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