Presenting an oral update on Sri Lanka at the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), nine months after a consensus resolution was adopted on reconciliation and accountability, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is reported to have made several critical remarks on the present state of affairs in Sri Lanka.
While the Commissioner for Human Rights is entitled to have his own views, it is very necessary that such an important functionary should exercise high level of caution and give due consideration to the views of Sri Lankan government as well as people from various walks of life while presenting his views.
The Human Rights Commissioner said that he has found “heavy” military presence in the northern and eastern province of Sri Lanka. There is no need for him to be critical of the presence of military particularly, when there is no information or complaints that military has indulged in any atrocities at present.
One has to keep in mind that Sri Lanka has gone through very difficult internal strife for several years and it had to fight for its territorial integrity. The rebels used heavy artillery and fire arms and indulged in sabotage and killings and demanded separate state by splitting Sri Lanka. No government worth its salt can keep idle in such circumstances. Sri Lankan government had to fight back and this was what it did. In the process, violence has taken place and innocent people have been killed and properties have been destroyed, for which Sri Lankan government alone was not responsible.
The presence of military in northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka is necessary and it has to be there as a precautionary measure, particularly since the separatists who are said to be operating from abroad are still demanding separate state. It is surprising that UN Human Rights Council has not seen this ground reality while criticizing the military presence.
Sri Lankan government has been cooperating with UN Human Rights Council and there is no reason for any doubt or misgivings about its positive approach. It has repeatedly said that it is anxious to restore peace and amity in northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka and is doing the best it can to do so under the circumstances
Elections have been conducted in the provinces recently in a very peaceful and civilized manner and a popular government is in place at present, which is a positive and healthy sign.
The Human Rights Council has been quite unfair in stating that the Sri Lankan government has not moved fast enough with tangible measures to build confidence amongst the victims and minority communities. The very fact that a free and fair election has taken place and natives belonging to the -northern and eastern provinces are running the government only highlight the fact that confidence of the people has been restored to a considerable extent.
The Human Rights Council has also criticized the Sri Lankan government for what it calls as slow progress in identification and release of land still held by the military in the two provinces. The process may be slow in the view of Human Rights Council but progress is being made steadily, keeping in view the local scenario.
The fact is that a number of positive measures for rehabilitation and reconstruction has taken place in the provinces in recent months with considerable support from countries like India. Railway lines have been laid and number of housing projects has been completed. Several other projects are under planning and implementation. There is absolutely no reason to think that Sri Lankan government is uninterested in restoring progress in the area, given the magnitude and complexities of the problem that the government is confronted with.
What is the role for Human Rights Council? By voicing criticism and concern without recognizing the positive measures, what does it hope to achieve? It would have been more appropriate if it had provided helpful suggestions, appealed to the international community to extend greater support to Sri Lanka in rebuilding the Eastern and Northern provinces and enthuse the citizens with proactive observations. On the other hand, it is creating confusion and weakening the resolve of the Sri Lankan government
One cannot but get an impression that UN Human Rights Council appear to think that it’s job would be over with critical observations. It should be conscious of its objectives and responsibilities, which is to work for conducive and positive conditions and not vitiate the atmosphere by negative approach.
Sri Lanka today needs support and understanding and not criticisms which help nobody.
Further, one wonders why U N Human rights Council is not so harsh in commenting about some recent violent developments in the so called developed countries, where it is conspicuous by silence. Bombing by militarily strong advanced countries in some regions in the name of fighting militancy, has resulted in killing of several innocent people. In all such cases, UN Human rights Council has not made critical comments.
Why is it that Sri Lanka being viewed differently?
This article appeared at South Asia Monitor.