While China and the US are in the two extremes, India occupies the middle ground
Colombo, February 26: China, India and the US took different positions on the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution about the rights situation in Sri Lanka which was debated in the on-going 46 th.Session of the Council in Geneva
In the debate held virtually on Thursday, China supported Sri Lanka in toto by reflecting the Lankan view that the charges made in the resolution were unwarranted and that the motive was questionable.
On the contrary, the US castigated Lanka for showing scant respect for human rights. India, however, took a moderate stance sticking to just one key issue – the non-implementation of the 13 th.Amendment of the Sri Lankan constitution which devolves powers to the provinces including two Tamil-speaking provinces in the North and East.
According to India, devolution of power to the Tamil-speaking provinces is essential for ethnic reconciliation and lasting peace in Sri Lanka. The Indian Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Indra Mani Pandey told the Council that India’s policy towards Sri Lanka rests on two pillars: i). Support for Sri Lanka’s unity and territorial integrity. ii). An abiding commitment to aspirations of the Tamils of Sri Lanka for equality, justice, peace and dignity. But these are not either-or choices, he added.
“We believe that respecting the rights of the Tamil community, including through meaningful devolution, contributes directly to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka,” Pandey said.
“While advocating that delivering on the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community is in the best interests of Sri Lanka, India calls upon Sri Lanka to take necessary steps for addressing such aspirations, including through the process of reconciliation and full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka.”
Ambassador Pandey, who is the Permanent Representative of India, said that Indian believes that respecting the rights of the Tamil community, including through meaningful devolution, contributes directly to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.
“We have taken note of the High Commissioner’s report on Sri Lanka and her oral remarks. The Council has adopted 7 Resolutions on the question of human rights in Sri Lanka since May 2009, when the three decades old conflict in that country ended.”
“The assessment of the High Commissioner regarding developments nearly 12 years from the end of the conflict raises important concerns. The Sri Lankan Government has articulated its position on these issues as well. In evaluation of both of these, we should be guided by a commitment to find a lasting and effective solution for this issue,” Pandey said.
US Stresses Accountability
Daniel Kronenfeld of the US mission in Geneva told the Council that the United States shares the concerns of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Sri Lanka. Kronenfeld stressed that the US is concerned by accounts of increasing marginalization of minority communities and the shrinking space for civil society, including independent media.
“We remain concerned about the lack of accountability, including high-level appointments of military officials credibly accused of conflict-era abuses,” he said.
The US envoy insisted that Sri Lankan government’s efforts to address concerns raised in OHCHR’s report via a domestic process need to be meaningful and credible.
“We note that the Sri Lankan Commission of Inquiry does not include a mandate to pursue accountability, and that the Office of Missing Persons and Office of Reparations need to operate without political interference.”
“We note that respect for the human rights of all Sri Lankans is critical to Sri Lanka’s long-term peace, security and prosperity, and call on the Sri Lankan government to take meaningful, concrete steps to promote accountability, justice, and reconciliation,” he remarked.
China Backs Sri Lanka
The Chinese Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador Chen Xu however, extended China’s full support to Sri Lanka.
“As a friendly neighbor of Sri Lanka, China sincerely hopes that Sri Lanka maintains political stability, ethnic solidarity and national unity and wishes Sri Lanka greater achievements in its national development. We commend the government of Sri Lanka for its efforts to actively promote and protect human rights, advance sustainable economic and social development, improve people’s living standard, protect the rights of the vulnerable groups, advance national reconciliation and combat terrorism.”
“It’s the consistent stand of China to oppose politicization and double standards on human rights, as well as using human rights as an excuse in interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. We are concerned about the clear lack of impartiality shown in the OHCHR’s report to this session on Sri Lanka and express our regret over the failure of the OHCHR to use the authoritative information provided by the Sri Lankan government.”
“The so-called “preventive intervention” and the proposed targeted sanctions contained in the OHCHR’s report are clear interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and exceed the mandate of the OHCHR. We hope that the HRC and the OHCHR will strictly follow impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity and non-politicization principles, respect the sovereignty and political independence of all nations, respect the efforts of the nations for the protection and promotion of human rights, advocate constructive dialogue and cooperation, and abandon the practice of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and exerting political pressure.”
“Prior to the opening of the 46th Session of UNHRC, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa wrote a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping requesting China’s understanding and assistance on the resolution. On 24th February, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena also made a telephone call to Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to seek the continued solidarity and support. Wang Yi reiterated that China is willing to unswervingly support each other with Sri Lanka to jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries, the basic norms governing international relations, and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter including non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.” Chen said.