25 March, 2019

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A Joke Called Sri Lanka

By Rajeewa Jayaweera –

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Sri Lanka has become a joke and is the laughing stock of the world.

Four months ago, Sri Lanka had two Prime Ministers. Then two Leaders of Opposition. It is now fielding two teams to the 40th session of the UNHRC with two contradictory messages. 

This is chiefly thanks to the falling out of Laurel and Hardy of current Sri Lankan politics, President Sirisena, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Prime Minister’s office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Dept. of Government Information, in a joint statement, has stated, GoSL will co-sponsor the roll-over resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.  

“This Strategy will prevent international war crimes allegations being continuously leveled against Sri Lankans through strengthened ownership of the implementation process,” the statement said.

It further stated, “Sri Lanka will seek an extension of the timeline of resolution 30/1 of October 01, 2015, through a co-sponsored roll-over resolution at the ongoing 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council.”

Constitutionally, President Sirisena, assisted by the Foreign Minister is responsible for the country’s foreign policy. In reality, it is Prime Minister Wickremesinghe who sets direction, relegating   the Head of State to a non-entity in foreign affairs. The absence of any reference to the President or his office in the media release is proof of this fact. 

It is also an indication the President is no longer a part of the government.  

Ambassador ALA Azeez, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations office in Geneva in his four and half minute address during the opening session of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) provided a ‘good behavior’ report with details of measures implemented by Sri Lanka to fall in line with the Geneva Resolution. 

Meanwhile, President Sirisena, who has of late been making noises of withdrawing from UNHRC Resolution 30/1 which his government co-sponsored in September 2015 has announced his intention to dispatch his own team comprising of former Ministers Sarath Amunugama and Mahinda Samarasinghe together with current Governor of the Northern Province Suren Raghavan. It has been reported, they have been mandated by President Sirisena to seek the possibility of withdrawing from the pernicious resolution.

This is while, Ambassador Azeez, representative of the so-called Head of State (Executive President Sirisena) is in the process of endorsing the extension of the timeline for the implementation of the resolution.

When then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera co-sponsored the Geneva Resolution in September 2015, he was a member of President Sirisena’s cabinet of ministers. Despite much criticism back at home, there is no evidence to indicate President Sirisena opposed Samaraweera’s plan of action. It must, therefore, be assumed, it was done with his concurrence. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s consent is a foregone conclusion.

The President also shut down the Paranagama Commission and failed to instruct Minister Samaraweera to present the commission report to the UNHRC. 

In November 2017, British Peer Lord Naseby, in the House of Lords revealed 39 pages of heavily redacted confidential reports from the British Military Attaché in Colombo filed during the period the January-April 2009. The unredacted parts revealed an estimate of 7,000 and 8,000 civilian deaths during the closing stages of the conflict. It seriously undermined the estimated 40,000 deaths stated in the OHCHR (OISL) report used in Resolution 30/1. President Sirisena, to date, has failed to demand UNHRC revisit this aspect of the resolution based on Naseby’s revelations. 

President Sirisena is in an unenviable position. He is despised by his former Yahapalana associates, shunned by the SLPP and left with a motley gang of political rejects appointed to Parliament through the National List. Having supported the co-sponsorship of the resolution during most of his presidency, he is now making a desperate attempt to shore up his image by making a U-turn and voicing his opposition to the resolution.  

Taking two contradictory positions rather than a bipartisan stand on an issue crucial to Sri Lanka at a global forum is the tragic consequence of a political alliance forged between two ideologically opposed individuals to achieve one and only one objective, that of defeating the Rajapaksa administration.

The two ideologically opposed politicians came together out of desperation. 

One was a son of the soil who saw little chance of advancing politically beyond the position of a cabinet minister and backroom boy. 

The other, realizing he could never win a Presidential election on his own steam made use of the son of the soil as a proxy with the intention of relegating him to the wilderness once electoral victory had been achieved and a consensual government was in place.

The plan started going wrong when the son of the soil began thinking for himself.           

The nation is now facing the ill effects of not throwing electoral promises to the wind and calling for snap parliamentary elections soon after Presidential elections in January 2015.   

What the country desperately needs is for elections to be held and a stable government established with both the President and Prime Minister elected from a single political party with a working majority but not a 2/3 majority.

Presidents and Prime Ministers from opposing parties are not for immature third world democracies as Sri Lanka. 

In all countries with an Executive Presidential system, Foreign Affairs is always the prerogative of the President. The system in Sri Lanka is the only exception known to this writer.  

If Sri Lanka behaves in the manner as planned in Geneva, it will lose whatever little credibility it has with the international community and will be taken for a joke.

Failure to effect course correction will see Sri Lanka slowly but steadily drifting in the direction of a failed state.

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