Rajapakase seen as hero at home, despite foreign critics

COLOMBO, November 15, 2013 (AFP) – Mahinda Rajapakse may be a pariah for some of his Commonwealth peers, but for many of his fellow Sri Lankans he is a national hero who ended four decades of bloodshed. The combative Sri Lankan president has long battled allegations that his troops killed some 40,000 civilians in the closing stages of the island’s ethnic conflict which ended in May 2009.

His refusal to countenance an international inquiry into alleged abuses at the end of the war has prompted the leaders of Canada, Mauritius and India to all stay away from this weekend’s Commonwealth summit in Colombo.

Others who are attending, such as Britain’s David Cameron, are promising to have “tough conversations” with the 67-year-old Rajapakse.

But for all the international criticism, Rajapakse’s popularity has stood firm back home among a population who endured 37 years of war before government troops crushed the Tamil Tiger rebels once and for all.

“People were getting killed for 30 years, at least after 2009 we have stopped it,” Rajapakse said in a typically unapologetic performance before the press in Colombo on Thursday.

“There is no killing in Sri Lanka today.”

Former Sri Lank