28 July, 2021

Blog

A Month Of Forgettable Performance

By R Hariharan

Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

If the happenings during the month in Sri Lanka are any indication, the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, voted to power by 6.9 million Sinhalas to restore Sinhala pride and Buddha Sasana as he claims, did not cover itself with glory. This was evident in the government conduct on three issues which peaked during the month – troubled ethnic relations, the handling of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting on Sri Lanka’s human rights accountability, and challenges of governance. Perhaps, the bonhomie showed by visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, despite accusations of Islamophobia voiced by Muslim minority, was the only moment of cheer for the government.

Significance of P2P march

Perhaps for the first time since the 70s, Tamils of all hues – Jaffna and Easterners, Muslims and Tamils of Indian origin (Up country Tamils) – came together, across political affiliations, to march peacefully for five days to voice their demands. They covered a distance of 750 km from the eastern town of Pottuvil to Polikandy in Jaffna in the North, to draw attention to demands, ignored by successive governments, as well as concerns on current issues.

The march held from February 3 to 9, now embedded in Tamil lore as P2P, did not draw much attention in mainstream media, though Tamil media estimated the participation of a thousand people.  Apparently, it was timed to draw international attention on the eve of the UNHRC meeting slated to discuss Sri Lanka’s human rights accountability issue. The proceedings of the UNHRC session, so far, indicates they had achieved their aim.

The P2P march is a watershed moment for a number of reasons. For the first time, besides Tamils from north and east, plantation Tamils and Muslims had joined hands to project their demands peacefully.  It was led by civil society organisations, with Tamil and Muslim political parties taking a back seat.

Slogans raised at the march voiced, much more than longstanding demands of Tamils of North and East, like forcibly disappeared, vacation of land under occupation of security forces and release of LTTE suspects still in custody without due legal process. They also protested against denial of burial rites to Muslim victims of Covid pandemic, continued recourse to Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), denial of minimum wage of Rs 1000 per day to plantation Tamils and aberrations of Sinhala majoritarian rule against minorities. This would indicate, the patience of minority population is wearing thin over the government’s continued indifference to their grievances. This increases the likelihood of minority politicians coming together for making common cause to build upon the Tamil idiom to further their political aspirations.

Two mainstream political parties the SJB (clone of its parent UNP) and the JVP – came out in support of the Tamil marchers. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who is politically savvy, would remember that the P2P was reminiscent of the early 70s, when Tamils started projecting their demands for autonomy peacefully. It later snowballed into satyagraha movement under Dr SJV Chelvanayakam’s leadership and opened the gates for Tamil separatist struggle.

Wasted opportunity at UNHRC

The four-week long 48th session of the UNHRC conducted virtually, has so far gone according to script. HR Commissioner Michelle Bechelet’s report was taken up for discussion, with 40 countries presenting their views in the interactive dialogue that followed.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena’s address was largely defensive, trying to counter Ms Bechelet’s report with recycled arguments, rather than breaking new ground to tone down the damage caused by the report. He said her report has “unjustifiably broadened its mandate and scope” to incorporate many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic, and dismissed the previous resolutions brought at the UNHRC as politically motivated. Few would be convinced by his argument that the former Sri Lanka government decision to co-sponsor UNHRC Resolution 30/1 resulted in compromising national security, which eventually led to the Easter attacks of 2019.

Representatives of the UK, Germany, Canada, Norway and the US shared the concerns raised by the OCHR and called upon Sri Lanka to share a time table for the implementation of the recommendations mentioned in the report.

India did not allow the recent hiccups in its relations with Sri Lanka to highlight the core aspects of Sri Lanka’s human rights issue. India’s Permanent Representative, Indra Mani Pandey, noted that India was an active participant in the discussions on the seven resolutions on the question of human rights in Sri Lanka since 2009 and Sri Lanka remained a close friend and immediate neighbour.

“We believe that respecting the rights of the Tamil community through meaningful devolution contributes directly to the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.” Therefore, she added India advocated “delivering on the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil community is in the best interest of Sri Lanka.” India called upon Sri Lanka to take steps to address such aspirations through reconciliation and full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Sri Lanka is worried about the new draft resolution put forward by the Core Group led by UK, which would be voted on March 22. Sri Lanka would consider certain comments and clauses of the draft resolution as provocative. For instance, it takes note of the passage and operationalisation of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, counsels the government to respect local governance including holding of elections to provincial councils and ensure they are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the 13th Amendment.

It asks Sri Lanka to provide sufficient resources and technical means for effective functioning of the Office on Missing Persons and the Office for Reparations and stresses the importance of maintaining support to these institutions, “safeguarding their independent functioning.”

It expresses serious concern over emerging trends over the past year, which “represent clearly early warning signs of a deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including the accelerating militarization of civilian functions, erosion of the independence of the judiciary and key institutions responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights, ongoing impunity and political obstruction of accountability for crimes and human rights violations in emblematic cases.”

Presumably, the draft resolution would be toned down in its final form; but the writing on the wall is clear – Sri Lanka cannot do business as usual, if it wants to maintain its win-win relations with its traditional Western allies. India in 2010 had provided valuable support to Sri Lanka in the UNHRC in shaping the final resolution. With China assuring Sri Lanka its support in international forums, how would India handle Sri Lanka’s request for help in the UNHRC, remains to be seen when the final resolution takes shape.

Future

Alan Keenan of the International Crisis Group summed up the situation in Sri Lanka in his paper, “The Rajapaksa family’s return to government has put an end to tentative efforts to address the legacy of civil war and brought in more centralised, militarised government, anchored in Sinhala majoritarianism. As Sri Lanka’s longstanding ethno-religious tensions continue to linger, the presence of hard-line Sinhala nationalists in power rules out any accommodation of Tamil political claims. Once-fringe ideas of militant Buddhist groups regarding violence and hate speech against Muslims are increasingly being adopted as government policy.”

The Rajapaksa government has so far shown neither the willingness, nor the ability, to tackle these issues dispassionately. The Rajapaksas weakest link is the ineptitude in handling foreign relations, which has caused maximum damage to the country. This was seen in all critical situations: continued insensitivity in handling India’s concerns, embarrassing the new US administration by undiplomatic comments, and clumsiness in handling Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Colombo and the inability to strategize the approach to the UNHRC session. The after effects of this weakness is likely to impact the country in the coming months.

*Col R Hariharan, a retire MI specialist on South Asia and terrorism, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90. E-mail: colhari@gmail.com Website:https://col.hariharan.info   

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Latest comments

  • 13
    5

    What is the position of India on Sri Lanka? When they are going to surrender to Sri Lanka /China?

    • 0
      1

      What is the position of India in Tamil Nadu? Before India’s Independence Tamil Nadu (it was that time Madras State) asked for a separate country. This was prevented by Jawaharlal Nehru using his brain offering the Secretary-General Post of Congress Party to Kamraj. Madras State and Kamraj surrendered to Nehru and the rest was history. Now even Kamala Harris also not capable to make Tamil Nadu a separate Tamil nation. She just appointed to the USA administrative job same as Barak Obama puppets of the USA whites

  • 1
    0

    Does Hariharan accept the fact the Sinhalese have been intolerant of the Indians and had been misleading /cheating them over the 3 -4 decades. Increased number of IPKF died as a result of President Ranasinghe arming the LTTE in 1990s. IPKF had intact killed of lot of innocent Tamil civilians. JRJ somehow managed to get the IPKF to confront Tamils. The rest of the world helped GoSL to wipe out the LTTE without making sure of Tamils RIGHTS to live in SL as equal to the Sinhalese. It’s time to make NEW CONSTITUTION that will enshrine the rights of all the minorities; Independent Judiciary/Media
    Independent Constitutional Council to keep a check on Government Top Jobs appointments

  • 9
    1

    Today more than 35 people who were protesting against junta were shot dead. This is after so called SHAM democrazy they had until junta decided to call it off. Our Lankans have to get out and try protesting again Sircular’s junta, to know whether it will be same or worse. Lets wait, it will not take too long to know the answer.

  • 5
    1

    shot dead in Myanmar.

  • 6
    3

    Col R Hariharan – ” how would India handle Sri Lanka’s request for help in the UNHRC, remains to be seen when the final resolution takes shape.”
    ========================================
    but what is your stand on this? you are hiding behind Indra Mani Pandey’s petticoat( or should i say sari or kurta what ever)
    You very well know India’s Modi has no back bone to Challenge China/Pakistan/Sri Lanka alliance .
    He will succumb and vote with China.
    or run away from the responsibility and abstain

    • 5
      2

      Rajash

      Note Indra Mani Pandey is a male diplomat. Are you sure he is a cross dresser.
      Hindians have no idea, nor long term policy objectives.
      Look their Sri Lanka adventure and tell me what have the Hindians got right in Sri Lanka, including training, arming, financing, ….. and later favouring LTTE, … prolonging the agony of the innocent people and destroyed everything that the Hindians saw as enemies.

      I am told Hindia used Tamils in Sri Lanka as a tool to get rid of American (interests) influence (1980s) in the island. LTTE worked very hard to destabilize the island and in the process it grew disproportionately. The west used VP to bog Hindians down in Sri Lanka and speeded up their exit sooner than expected.

      Now Hindians have to face problem in the North and South, emanating from Peacefully Rising Middle Kingdom. Is Hindia looking for another set of stupid Militant Tamil youth who could help to destabilize this island once again?

      Could you find out from the Colonel whether Hindia is capable of solving any problem including with their neighbors, its own citizens, …..

      Amartya Sen describe them the Argumentative Indians.
      Thats all.

      • 1
        1

        I agree with you Native. In general and particularly with Lanka, India never had any concrete foreign policy. Trump kind of president was needed to change them from pro Russia to a more pro US approach. That says it all. Ultimately it is them who lost their opportunity to be authoritative and influential in Lanka using their cultural bondage. If China could do in so short time India had its opportunity years ago. Even in the Wesr Indians had the advantage over China by numbers , who had migrated, well settled with influence. But they failed to take advantage because of their Southern zBlock Foreign policy which was drafted by Nehru and followed by senile bureaucrats sitting in New Delhi

      • 1
        0

        Native Vedda …”Note Indra Mani Pandey is a male diplomat”

        I quote from Col. (retd) R.Hariharan
        “.. Therefore, she added India advocated ….”
        ========
        so I inferred Indra Mani Pandey is a female
        ============
        Col. (retd) R.Hariharan – doesn’t know the ins and outs of Indian Diplomats?
        =============

        • 2
          1

          R
          “Col. (retd) R.Hariharan – doesn’t know the ins and outs of Indian Diplomats?”
          *
          There are things called typos.
          It is always good to check and cross check.
          *
          Many Tamil writers use female pen names, and often nobody knows their real names. A highly reputed Tamil scholar and literary critic listed Sujaathaa (S. Rangarajan) among Tamil women writers.
          There is also a problem with Indra: If female it could have been Indraa to avoid ambiguity. (But that is only recent practice.)

          • 2
            0

            SJ: There are things called typos.
            It is always good to check and cross check..
            ====
            I agree there is big different between people who type and people who write.
            ======
            typos are people who rush
            writers take their time.
            ====
            are you saying that Col. (retd) R.Hariharan to type just like you

            • 2
              0

              R
              “are you saying that Col. (retd) R.Hariharan to type just like you”
              I wish no such thing.
              I only comment on what is written.
              But do you wish it that way?
              *
              Will you call Hariharan a good ‘typewriter’ (despite the typo that is)?
              I am not, I use only my right index finger.
              *
              BTW
              (Typo is short for typographical error—a mistake made when typing something.)
              I wonder where you got your definition of typo.

  • 1
    10

    The Sri Lankan govt need to launch a counter resolution and show how the UK used Tamils to erase the island’s Buddhist roots -> https://qr.ae/TUtFWm

    • 7
      1

      Jambu

      Brilliant.
      Could you find out from Ramal Ratne whether the Tamils caused Covid19 in Sri Lanka and dig and bury the entire Sinhala/Buddhist in Blackhole.

      • 6
        0

        Native,
        Please be kind to Jambu. He is only trying to rationalize the Mahavamsa, which has recently been discovered to contravene the laws of genetics, immigration, air travel, etc.

  • 5
    0

    Just imagine if they can have their Kamala H in the white house how much of an impact they could have made given the facts they had migrated to the West in large numbers years ago because of the language advantage they had over China. Their foreign policy has not changed regardless of different governments. What was between Modi and Trump are short term and more of a BJP / Trump policy. With Biden now in WH, If they don’t make necessary adjustments they will be back to square one.

  • 3
    0

    “Their foreign policy has not changed regardless of different governments.”
    *
    So it was just a bad dream that I thought was news all these 25 years.
    Thank you C.

    • 3
      0

      You mean your Chinese Lizard story. It was just a bad dream of yours. There is no news in China. It is the Communist party version. Foreign policies are not mere debt traps. If that is what you thought all these 25 years.

      • 0
        0

        C
        Don’t ramp up your BP.
        I only thanked you for the happy ending to the story of the Indian foreign policy.

  • 1
    0

    Thanks for your concerns Prof know it all. I am right now recouping from a surgery to participate in this years half marathon.. ( completed two ) . I sincerely hope, at least you get a thankyou note from China, for your tireless services.

  • 1
    0

    Retired Col .R. Hariharan had served as an IPKF officer in Sri lanka knows very well what is happening in the country since then. The parties came to power in the last 30 years have not only cheated the majority community voters who voted them to power economically and socially, but,in particular the racial minorities by their actions targeted towards them.

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