Colombo, March 9: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised to push ahead with development while opening a Japanese funded highway here Saturday, reiterating he would not back down from international scrutiny over the country’s human rights record, Xinhua reported.
The Outer Circular Highway, which includes several national and provincial roads and cost $184 million was primarily funded by the Japanese government through its development arm JICA.
Rajapaksa drove a bus on the new highway to declare it open before heading off to make a speech at an election rally close by. The opening comes just two weeks ahead of a western and southern provincial council election.
Recounting the challenges faced by Sri Lanka during three decade of war that ended in 2009, Rajapaksa said the numerous large scale infrastructure projects estimated at over $4 billion are aimed at “winning the hearts and the minds of the people”.
Referring to a third US backed resolution before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which calls for greater reconciliation measures, Rajapaksa insisted that his new development strategy was aimed at bringing people of different communities together.
The Sri Lankan government is battling a US-led resolution before the UNHRC for failing to implement adequate reconciliation measures and investigate allegations of war crimes.
The resolution, which is the third consecutive one faced by the government insists Sri Lanka’s human rights record has failed to improve since the conflict between the government and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009.
UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay has also called for an international investigation into allegations of alleged war crimes in the last phase of the conflict. A vote on the resolution will take place March 28, a day ahead of local provincial elections.
Rajapaksa took the opportunity to criticise “tale carriers” of the government who are preparing to support the resolution in Geneva. Civil society organisations, activists and Tamil politicians are routinely slammed by the government for “betraying ” the country.
“Even the international community against Sri Lanka admits there is great infrastructure improvement. No matter what resolution is passed on Sri Lanka we will never stop our march towards development,” he said.