29 September, 2020

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A Few Thoughts For Navi Pillay

By Kath Noble

Kath Noble

As the Commonwealth Summit draws closer, the world is going to turn its attention to the situation in Sri Lanka. It is a major international event, and people will want to know what is happening in the host country. When Mahinda Rajapaksa stands up to welcome his fellow heads of government, talking about their shared values and vision, he will give them the perfect opportunity to ask questions – principally, do we really have anything in common with this administration?

Some campaigners have already decided on the answer. They want a boycott, and in the next few months they will be working hard to persuade key individuals – in particular David Cameron and Manmohan Singh – to stay away.

Whether or not they succeed is not very important. What matters is the issues that they raise in the process.

Navi Pillay’s visit will set the tone. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who is due to arrive in Colombo this weekend, has had plenty to say about Sri Lanka since she was appointed back in 2008. But this is her first trip to the island. She will spend a week here, meeting various officials, politicians and activists, and her report will form the basis of the next round of discussions in Geneva, as well as informing the positions of the Secretary General and member states. It is also to her opinion that the international media will turn for an assessment of how the Government should be treated – like a naughty child or like an armed and dangerous criminal.

And she has a decision to make.

She can continue to focus on allegations of war crimes, in step with the Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam, which last week renewed its call for an investigation in a letter to the new United States Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power.

But that would be ethnically polarising. Sinhalese overwhelmingly reject the idea of international oversight of the way the war was fought, many of them believing that such intervention would not be honest or reasonable. There is a feeling that Sri Lanka is being singled out, and that sense is strengthened by the memory of what most people regard as a much worse episode in the country’s history – the response to the JVP uprising in the late 1980s, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Sinhalese – that did not generate anywhere near as much of a reaction.

In any case, Navi Pillay getting involved in efforts to seek justice for war victims only makes them less likely to succeed, by pushing Sinhalese back into their narrow conception of nationalism, which is most ably represented by Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The other option would be for her to stress issues of concern to everybody.

At the moment, the vast majority of people in Sri Lanka could agree on two points with regard to human rights. First is the need for the authorities to crack down on crime and in particular on politically connected criminals, or in other words to depoliticise the legal system. Sri Lankans from all communities are fed up with selective policing. They have been appalled by the revelations from Deraniyagala – the latest example of politicians abusing their power, with villagers describing the situation in recent years as a ‘reign of terror’ by the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman. Most of them are also disgusted by Sinhalese extremist organisations, whose attacks on Muslims have been allowed to go on for several months now.

They would feel the same about politically connected criminals from the Tamil community if they had heard about them.

The second point on which there is consensus is the need for the authorities to go easy on protests and dissent. The killings in Weliweriya shocked the nation in a way that no other excess by the Security Forces has done in a very long time.

Delivering a strong message on these issues would show that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is on the side of the majority of the population.

Majority does not mean the majority community. It means looking after the interests of the powerless, whether they be Sinhalese, Muslim or Tamil.

International solidarity with or support for struggles against the powerful cannot help if it does not take account of the context in which they are going on. It has to respond to the prevailing attitudes in the society, working intelligently to change them over time, acknowledging that it is not just a matter of telling people what to do – they have to be convinced.

The Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam is the perfect example of how to fail.

One of its other demands is a referendum in the North and East on the establishment of a separate state. It says that Tamils should be free to decide their own destiny, just as the Scottish will do next year when they vote on whether or not to leave the UK. But it is not that simple. The Scottish have persuaded the English to accept it. And this effort was needed, because our people could never be completely apart from each other and would not want to be – our lives are intertwined through centuries of sharing the same small island. We have to get along.

Likewise, the Tamils of Sri Lanka have to live with Sinhalese and Muslims.

Of course things can be imposed on small countries from outside, but history shows that this does not tend to work out as intended.

Navi Pillay must concern herself with both means and ends.

Pressing the Government to act on the two points referred to above can open space for others to work, including representatives of the Tamil community.

One person who now seems to have grasped the importance of such an approach is Karunanidhi.

The DMK chief is not known for his measured approach to Sri Lankan issues. But despite the fact that India is fast approaching a parliamentary election, which generally encourages parties in Tamil Nadu to issue ever more radical statements on Sri Lanka in competition with each other – being a matter of foreign policy, they know that they do not have the power to actually do anything, so they can say whatever they like – Karunanidhi has chosen to stress entirely sensible demands of late.

His revival of the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation last year did not bode well, but in the protests that he led a few weeks ago calling for India to boycott the Commonwealth Summit, it was a political solution and the full implementation of the 13th Amendment that was stressed.

This is good news for Sri Lanka.

These are things that the Government can and must agree to, and the extra pressure that it is going to be subject to in November if applied in the right direction has a chance of bringing results.

*Kath Noble’s column may be accessed online at http://kathnoble.wordpress.com/. She may be contacted atkathnoble99@gmail.com

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Latest comments

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    Kath@,

    congrats for an another valuable article help opening the eyes of many.

    But I really dont think that CW nations are very much interested in the prevailing situation in the country. CW summit to be held on a country where killings have become usual to lanken rulers, not knowing for what purpose they deployed troops to treat the unarmed people striking for a clean water issue with bullets.

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      Kath Thank you.
      I am with Dan.
      It looks to me that CW is least bothered about Srilanka’s internal matter. India’s reluctance is purely to keep the TN & BJP happy.
      I dont think K. Sharma could do what he did without the blessings of UK & India.
      Navi Pillai so far maintained her firmness. Lets see what would she do during & after the visit.
      International community or its pressure to any bad governance is a mere rutual these days. No effects at all. The West losing its credibility since people like Bush, Berlisconi,Aznar, Blair, Howard, Sarkozy etc, came to power.
      In Sri Lanka, the change should come within. People must realize and choose their leaders.

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    pillays job is not to do anythging constructive . it is like asking AI or HRW to take a pratical approach . it wont happen

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    Navi Pillay will do her work but the UN will do sweet nothing until Geneva 2014. Another day, another month, another year.

  • 0
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    Kathy, Navi Pillai will come and Navi Pillai will go. She will not find the streets of Gold in the North or will it be flowing with milk and honey.She and her entouarge will be given a hospitality beyond their dreams and suddenly find humans bent over heads and heels! At the end of all this the comment will be like , ………..had a meaningful dialogue with the rajapakse regime,….many suggestions and ideas shared for the upliftment of the downtrodden masses( or asses!) in the north and east………..more areas to be opened for free speech and human rights etc..etc.
    Finally, a clear signal for all those delegates to come to sunny Srilanka and enjoy the hospitality and the luxury to lick and savour at the cost of the downtrodden masses who have to eke out find a day’s square meal.
    End result….ideas shared, resolutions passed and press conferences a plenty with flashing faces of delegates and everything will be carried on until they meet again in another two years in a another place!

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      I differ Mohammed, Navi Pillay is not that sort of person, yet what you say cannot be ruled out.

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        the truth is a bitter medicine, at time’s even a spoonful of sugar will not help the medicine go down!
        Mani, i hope this lady will make the difference unlike the ones from across the palk straights.
        Peace and peace alone is all i seek. i still cherish a lone journey to jaffna by train all alone wayback in the 70’s, all alone at the age of just 18!

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          mohamed fazly ilyas

          “the truth is a bitter medicine, at time’s even a spoonful of sugar will not help the medicine go down!”

          Lets bring Mary Poppins.

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            Even her magic will not help us………..because we don’t need medicine nor ‘a spoon full of sugar ‘ ……….we are’ chintasized’!

  • 0
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    Hello Kath,

    You used to call a ‘spade’ a ‘spade’. Now suddenly your tone has softened and is conciliatory. In this article you seem to convey the idea that there is hope in MR’s government after all.

    Unfortunately I do not share your sentiments. I do not believe that good governance or bringing about reconciliation between minorities is achievable under MR.

    The MR government is in a nepotistic cocoon, anathema to good democratic governance. No wonder the ruling SLFP is nw better known as the ‘Sri Lanka Family Party’.

    Four years after the war, with power that a dictator or the best of the cosa nostra chiefs would be envious of, MR has failed miserably to address the real issue that devastated the country – racism. In fact they have opened a new front – that of Muslim hate. I try to dig deep but can’t even find an iota of evidence to make me feel optimistic with the MR regime.

    Navi Pillay will come and go. Those who want to make representations will do so looking over their shoulders for the white vans. Not many foolhardy folk are left in Sri Lanka to front up to NP.

    At the end Navi Pillay’s visit and CHOGM will only endorse and legitimise this appalling government even is small ways. Achieving anything other than that is only what dreams are made of.

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      I have not seen anyone interviewing president directly why is that ?
      In CBK^s terms, she presented herself in interview once a while. But this man is either excluded from the International Communities or he deliberately avoids those interviews.

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    Did I just read that Kath says forget rights abuses during war and catch atha kota???!

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    Kath,

    Pillay has already made her decision. She is comming to see what else she could add to the charge sheet.

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      Hela

      “She is comming to see what else she could add to the charge sheet.”

      She is coming here to find information which could be used to write her opt out clauses. Hindians and American insist on an escape route for the clan to survive next few years. Pillai has no option but to oblige them.

      Nothing will happen.

      According to sources not so close to him, MR himself has floated the idea of setting up a Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

      Could you shed some light on this surprise move.

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    Strange that Kath would refer to the Weliweriya incident and yet think it unwise to go into the question of war crimes in 2009. If justice is to be forgotten because it may be ‘ethnically polarizing’ we are in dire straits.

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      Ask her if the antics of the BBS and such outfits against Muslims and Christians are not ethnically, religiously polarizing.

      She is just expressing her opinions – or it may be line taken by the people for whom she writes these articles.

  • 0
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    Kath is correct.

    As usual.

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    Since of late the government has been unashamed in aiding, abetting, funding political crimes along with protecting political criminals. As a result of government utter lack of empathy with regard to child molestation and murder, both crimes are on the rise. MR and GR are so cocky in their approach to human rights, or the lack thereof, that I doubt the pressure from Commonwealth would make a dent.

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      What pressure, They got it all taken care of through you know who!

    • 0
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      is n’t that you all supported those criminals when they massacred innocent civilians alias humanitarian operation?

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    In any country, majority religion and majority race execise the prevleges than minorities. When minorities are trying to get more smarter than the majority, communinal or racial conflicts arised. It happened and happens in the world everywhere. Pillai must be having lot of experience in this context in her own motherland. What ever it is, Tamils, Muslims and other minorities have to live with Sinhalese. Sinahles are not aggresive extremists untill they are hit…That is the reality…

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    Before the British and Indians ask MR any questions they will have to do a lot of soul searching themselves.They will ask themselves where they place the standard of proof on for their own crimes; how they will arrive at conclusions about war crimes when their own armies are waddling in feces in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and other conflict areas.
    Australia and New Zealand have their own questions to ask themselves: how do they treat their own natives. It could be argues that the Maoris are a free people in principal but how many languish in Kiwi jails because of discrimination and ignorance of the settlers who are in charge. The Canadians are hypocrites. How can they boldly stand up in any forum and ask any questions about legal issues when native Canadians face expulsion and treatment that is both degrading and insulting to Human Rights. Native Canadian burial grounds are being acquired for pleasure purposes without any consultation and for the ancient people who lived with nature in “America” not to be able to pay respect to their ancestors is probably the worst crime of all. Could any of these descendants of marauding criminals be in any position to hold their heads up high and throw stones at Lanka’s glass roof. Their criminal behaviour is historical.
    Navi Pillay can be asked to clean her own nostrils because of the stench of post apartheid South Africa pollutes the world. Her own Government is committing atrocities against unarmed strikers in mines still run by minority white settlers. She has kissed boot by joining forces with a legend who suffered injustice – Nelson Mandela. What would she had done if she threw her lot in with Desmond Tutu the “rogue in robes” who was chosen for the Nobel prize because he did the white man’s bidding for years by preaching Judaic trollop as the truth. Pillay is a Tamil and she will hold brief to a group of terrorists who she obviously supported wholeheartedly. Where was she when the LTTE committed atrocities against the Sinhalese civilians? What is her stand on Palestine a country that existed before 1948 and was wiped off to give birth to a nation of thieves who had no place to hide after they were found out for financial scandals over hundred of years.
    Many Tamil refugees sadly are following the same path and bringing a sulphurous reputation to the law abiding with their claim to a land that probably they too feel the inexistent “God” set aside for them. There is no doubt that these people will improve in their status outside Sri Lanka and then come back to ruin the harmony that has been created after May 2009.

    There is a chance for the Sri Lankan journalists to ask these “heads of State” where they stand about the truth and why they are hounding “whistle-blowers” people like Assange, Manning and Snowdon for exposing their dubious policies against the civilians of other countries and their own. Is the world not wiser that in the name of anti terrorism the spy on every cat, dog and mouse who differ in opinion?

    The many pro opposition journalists who find specks to moan about in Sri Lanka should see that they enjoy more media freedom than do journalists after the truth in these so called developed countries.
    I also would like to ask Mangala Samaraweera who was the Minister of Media whether he was not employing convicted criminals as journalist on his watch and if he did not stuff his own supporters into posts of decision making so that his boss Mrs Chandrika Kumaratunga would only be praised for her fight against terrorism while journalists like Lasantha Wickrematunga were attacked more than once for alleging that the “great leader” was mentally and morally not fit to lead the country. Samaraweera should ask himself if there were no attacks on pro Opposition union leaders at Lake House on his watch. One in particular was Clifford Hyler an experienced journalist who was banished to a depot in Anuradhapura on the threadbare evidence of a liar. Hyler’s crime was showing content when Ranil Wickramasinghe’s UNP were winning seats in the 2000 Parliamentary Elections. He has the gumption now to throw stones at the present government when his own were in command when the LTTE took over the Vanni. He will have to deny that both the Government and the Opposition were having cosy relationships with the LTTE and the best soldiers were shunted into pen pushing positions so that the “war” could go on. Yes commissions were at stake.
    Mr Samaraweera what about Pallathalawinna? I could not get in touch with you for over a week.

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      Excellent, excellent!

    • 0
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      “The many pro opposition journalists who find specks to moan about in Sri Lanka should see that they enjoy more media freedom than do journalists after the truth in these so called developed countries.” – can you provide any evidence?

  • 0
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    well now we can be certain where kath is coming from….

  • 0
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    The visit of the High Commissioner is a seminal moment in the post-conflict challenges affecting Sri Lanka. However, there are dark forces at work and the GOSL will need to ensure the safety of the determined lady who will be nobody’s fool in her mission to do a thorough job in her investigations.

  • 0
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    Kath
    Please make sure Navi gets a proper translator – there were many instances where foreign visitors have been given translators with specific instruction not to say anything against the govt and thus there have been instances of mistranslation.

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