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Sri Lanka And Geneva’s 43rd Session Of The UN HRC – OpEd

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The United Nations Human Rights Council – UN HRC will be holding its 43rd session, from 24th February to 20th March in Geneva. The presidency rotates and this year is allocated to Western European countries. The Austrian UN Representative for Geneva, Mrs. Elizabeth Reichi-Bisberg is the president during 2020.

The UN HRC comprises forty-seven (47) member states. The membership is divided on a  regional basis as follows :  (13) thirteen countries for Asia; (13) thirteen countries for Africa; eight (8) countries for Latin America (South American countries); seven (7) countries for Western Europe and other countries. The other six (6) is for Eastern Europe.

To analyse the present socio-economic and political situation in Sri Lanka, one has to consider the war that took place there. The propaganda of the government and its pied-pipers claimed that it carried out the war against the LTTE – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.  However, the people in the North and East, who have lost their economy, land, infra-structures, kith and kin and much more, never agreed with these claims.

During the war, every Sri Lankan government in power told the international community and India that as soon as the war came to an end, they would give a political solution to the people of the North and East, obviously to the Tamils.

The new Sri Lanka President rejects everything agreed, signed and sponsored by earlier governments and Presidents. For example, he says that certain aspects of the 13th amendment cannot be implemented. He should ask his brother who was then the President and now the Prime Minister, why he told the whole world including India that he would grant ’13 plus’, which is greater than the 13th amendment, as the political solution to the Tamils? It is the same scenario with the UN HRC resolution. During that time I wrote an article: 13 Plus, 13 Minus are equal cooking without a recipe”. I have been proved right. Please do revisit this article.

Responsibility of India & international community

Since Independence in 1948, every government in power in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) has taken the people in the North and East for a ride. They started with the Federal solution, District councils, Provincial Councils, etc and now it has come to a stage where, “there is no ethnic problem as such in Sri Lanka”. The newly elected President, who is a military man, says that Tamils do not have any political grievances. If this is really coming from his heart, then he should ask his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa what he said to the world about a political solution to the Tamils.

These political tactics are well known and have been experienced by the Tamils for more than seven decades. But the international community including India never knew, understood or saw what was hidden inside the nicely iced cake, known as ‘fighting terrorism’.

India and the international community are responsible for today’s situation of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Therefore, Tamils have every right to knock at the doors of every democratic country in the world to find a durable solution to their political grievances and justice for the horrendous systematic violations of human rights and war crimes.

The present President is making a huge ‘U turn’, rejecting what was said in the past by former Presidents and Prime Ministers. Earlier ones acknowledged the ethnic problem, stated they were committed to settling it but then dragged out the processes, procrastinating continuously. The present one says that there is no political problem as such for Tamils. I am sure this new clear message will reach the ears and hearts of those countries which helped Sri Lanka to conclude the war.

The new President and the government should not forget that the help given by India and the international community to conclude the war was given on a condition. Those who have helped Sri Lanka, have the right and the imperative to demand a durable political solution which respects the aspirations of the Tamils. India is answerable to the people of the North and East because they signed an accord on a solution.

43rd session

To achieve a two-third majority in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections, the President is using a new tactic and the scapegoat is the UN HRC. Since his inauguration, he has said that Sri Lanka will withdraw from its co-sponsorship of the UN HRC resolution 30/1.

This is not a huge issue to beat the drum. When any state wants to withdrew from co-sponsoring, they can easily do so by sending a letter to the President of the UN HRC. There is no need for Sri Lanka to wait until the 43rd session. It can be done even today.

The President and the government are very well aware that it will be suicidal for Sri Lanka, if they withdraw from co-sponsoring the resolution. But they are playing a political drama locally to gain votes in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. For this reason, he portrays to his voters that he is challenging the international community, especially the UN HRC.

In fact, Ranil Sirisena’s government co-sponsored this resolution to buy time and space to achieve their four pillars in the North and East – Buddhistaion, Sinhalisation, Colonisation and Militarisation. Many states understood too late that the previous government played a cunning diplomacy by co-sponsoring this resolution. In the past, I have written a few articles on this.

The President also says that the constitution doesn’t allow certain clauses in the resolution. This is ridiculous. The international community thinks that even though the present rulers of Sri Lanka do not have required capabilities to study or know about the function and processes of international institutions and inter-governmental bodies – at least there should be a person with average knowledge, such as an educationalist or an academic to explain these affairs. I doubt whether they are defunct or scared to tell the truth and reality. Of course Prof G. L. Peris will endorse everything said by the President and his government for his own political survival.

Bringing any modification in the UN HRC resolution 30/1 is not as easy as some government media writes in Sri Lanka. First of all any modifications to a resolution cannot be done without addressing the concerns of the original sponsors of the resolution. Even though Sri Lanka is one of the co-sponsors, their voice will not have any weight with the original sponsors, because they are in a process of withdrawing from their co-sponsorship.

Buddhist monk killed the Prime Minister

Regarding foreign judges, I would like remind everyone in the South that when a Commission of Inquiry was appointed by Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1963 to inquire into the political aspects of the Bandaranaike assassination, two out of the three judges were foreign. They were Justice Abdel Younis from Egypt and Justice G.C. Mills-Odich from Ghana.

Buddharakitha Thero and H.P. Jayawardene, the first and second accused in the assassination of Bandaranaike were represented in the Supreme Court by Phineas Quass, QC from United Kingdom. 

According to the courts, the fourth Prime Minister of Ceylon/Sri Lanka, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was assassinated by a Buddhist monk on 25th September 1959.

The new President and the government should read the Commission of Inquiry into the assassination of Bandaranaike to understand how many foreign judges and lawyers were involved in this inquiry in Sri Lanka.

Scrutiny

Every time the UN HRC has focused its scrutiny on Sri Lanka, many Asian counties including China and countries like Cuba and Russia have come forward to save Sri Lanka. But they have never achieved this so far. Out of those countries, China, Cuba and Russia are not members of the UN HRC in 2020. They have observer status, like Sri Lanka.

This year, if any new resolution were to be brought in favour of Sri Lanka, it would need the support of at least twenty-four states in order to be adopted. I doubt whether they will win in the UN HRC, after all Sri Lanka is in favour of China, Iran and Pakistan. The US which was the originator of the resolution on Sri Lanka may not be physically in the UN HRC, but one cannot under-estimate their influence.

If the new President is sincerely and faithfully challenging the UN HRC resolution, why is he or his government very silent about the “OMP – Office on Missing Persons”, which is the brain child of the UN HRC resolution?

Anyone who has good knowledge of international politics and the duplicity of Sri Lanka will understand the stage-drama being enacted by the new President and his government.

We should make a note of the recent visits to Sri Lanka by the foreign ministers of China and Russia. Their visits were limited to meeting the President, Prime Minister and others within the government. In the meantime, the most prominent US representative also visited Sri Lanka.

US meetings included members of civil society as well. In many countries contributions of civil society have been very powerful. They have brought governments into power and also they have removed them.

We should consider the recent reports of international human rights organizations – Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others. They are strongly advocating for full implementation of the UN HRC resolution 30/1.

International community is guilty

The international community feels guilty for the part it has played in the status or condition of the Tamils in Sri Lanka today. The international community and India were fooled during the war. They were given bogus promises by the same government today in power. Even eleven years after the end of the war instead of a political solution being granted, the question now being posed by the government is: “what are the political problems that Tamils are facing in Sri Lanka”. This is a new tune.

The present President may have polled a reasonable amount of votes to become the Executive President of Sri Lanka.  However, most democratic countries around the world consider the President as a war criminal. This was one of the reasons many countries never congratulated him on his victory. Now he is promoting most of the war criminals to executive positions and it will be more difficult for Sri Lanka when under scrutiny.

In the 43rd session, either by end of first week or the second week, UN Human Rights Commissioner Ms. Michelle Bartler will publish her report on Sri Lanka.

Following her report, some countries including Sri Lanka, may make their statements on Sri Lanka. But any chance of bringing an amendment to the resolution 30/1 is very unlikely. This year, chances are very low for any new resolution on Sri Lanka or any amendment to the original resolution. Withdrawing from co-sponsorship is a different issue.

“Gota’s War” coming to Geneva

A new President, a new government and a new UN representative are bringing “Gota’s War” to Geneva. Sri Lanka is the only country in the world which appoints war criminals and paramilitaries as ambassadors, especially to the UN. I predict that there will be much slander and many threats against Tamil activists internationally. Here I am not considering the so-called Tamil activists who are on the Sri Lankan government payroll and sabotaging what is happening in the UN HRC.

In April 2017, I wrote an article, “Sri Lankan battlefield moves to Geneva UN HRC”. Please revisit this article.

The Rajapaksa family, which speaks about sovereignty and integrity, has forgotten many things that they have done and said in the past. In the early 90s, Mahinda Rajapaksa came to the UN in Geneva and lobbied for international action on Sri Lanka. I personally saw him in the UN Human Rights sessions with heavy loads of files containing details of killings and disappearances carried out by the Sri Lankan security forces.

Security forces are murderous

I was disgusted to listen to his recent speech in the Military academy defending the Sri Lankan security forces as the best in the World. What hypocrisy!

It was him who said in the 90s that the Sri Lankan security forces murderously carried out killings and disappearances of innocent people and he called for international pressure on Sri Lanka. This is all well documented.

I presume that Mahinda Rajapaksa has two or many tongues. In the early 90s – Mahinda Rajapaksa along with Vasudeva Nayanakara came to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, EU in Brussels and many other Western countries and lobbied against the Sri Lankan security forces and then government in power.

Also Mahinda Rajapaksa, Mangala Samaraweera and Vasudeva Nanayakara requested British people – in their term Suthaas (whites) to help the mothers of those who were disappeared and killed. Where is sovereignty and integrity here? All these are well documented by the international community.

How can they talk about sovereignty, when China has huge properties in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan security forces were trained by foreign forces on their own soil, and the war was won with the help of foreign armies?

ICJ

I take this opportunity to request the new President and his government to study the recent judgement in the International Court of Justice, concerning the Rohingya people and Mymmar. Do remember that it is not a difficult affair for the diaspora to find a country like Gambia to file a case against Sri Lanka in the ICJ.

For any political settlement in Sri Lanka, there should be change in the hearts and minds of the Southern politicians. But, on the contrary, the regime change will pump in more and more venom on a race basis.

Whether co-sponsoring the resolution or not they are answerable to the following resolutions which were adopted by the UN HRC in the past – 19/2 of 22 March 2012, 22/1 of 21 March 2013, 25/1 of 27 March 2014, 30/1 of 1 October 2015 and 34/1 of 15/03/2017.

*S. V. Kirubaharan, Founder General Secretary of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights – TCHR.



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