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Sri Lanka's ex-president fears for life, says govt is conducting constant surveillance on her


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka's former president said she fears for her safety because the government's secret services are conducting constant surveillance on her, an allegation the government rejected Friday.

Chandrika Kumaratunga was president from 1994 to 2005 but has been sidelined from politics since being succeeded by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Recently, she has been outspoken on alleged rights violations in the country and ill-treatment against her. Her allegations of government surveillance come amid speculation that she is considering returning to politics by contesting for the presidency.

In a letter she wrote to the current president, Kumaratunga said her telephone calls, emails and her two residences are under constant surveillance and her friends have been interrogated by secret service officials after they visit her. She alleged that Rajapaksa's government violated her "privacy, caused much harassment to me and concern with regard to my personal safety."

The letter was dated March 5 and seen by The Associated Press on Friday.

Kumaratunga wrote that secret service officers visit and interrogate the management of hotels after she visit them entirely for personal reason and have kept a 24-hour surveillance on another hotel where stayed with a group of foreign friends. Her hosts are also subjected to harassment by those officers after her visits them.

She said "this amounts to a calculated strategy of your Government to harass me and cause severe mental and emotional stress to me, while intimidating my friends and associates" and that she has "serious reasons to be concerned about my safety."

The president's office responded that there wasn't "even a shred of proof to justify such charges of a serious nature."

"... In fact, what is set out is seen as a litany of generalities, marked for being vague and unauthenticated," presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga said in a reply posted on the office's website.

Rajapaksa has assured Kumaratunga that no surveillance was being conducted on her phone, email and residences. The reply also alleged that Kumaratunga's letter was intended to synchronize with the "wholly unfair allegations" being lodged in the U.N.

The Sri Lankan government is facing mounting criticism for human rights violations and resisting calls to investigate alleged war crimes.

The United States is sponsoring a third resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council calling for an international investigation of alleged war crimes if Sri Lanka fails to conduct one of its own and to end post-war human rights violations and abuses.

Voting on the resolution is expected next week. Sri Lanka has resisted calls for an international investigation into alleged war crimes as its civil war was ending in 2009.

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