By Malinda Seneviratne –
This is not THE resolution. Let’s keep that in mind. It is not even a ‘draft’. It is a leaked draft, at best. But in these days of leaks and gushes when the key political issue that bothers the world is, in a word, Ukraine, but ‘Geneva’ thinks Sri Lanka is bigger than Ukraine, Russia, the USA and the EU put together, there’s no harm in commenting on this piece of paper, one might argue.
Is this resolution on (sic) Sri Lanka (read, ‘against Sri Lanka’) a ‘tightening’ considering the wording in the 2013 document? If it is indeed a tightening, does it amount to pinch, punch or strangulation? Well, those who were salivating at a choking-prospect are dismayed. That should say something.
At best it is a lazy (tired?) upgrading of the 2013 document (upping, if you will) that appears like a copy-paste exercise from some good-governance guidebook. There are keywords, though. There’s ‘concern’ and ‘deep concern’. There is ‘alarm’. There is ‘taking note’ of this and that. There is ‘recollection’. There is ‘reiteration’. There is ‘affirming’ and reaffirming’. There is ‘report’. There is ‘allegation’. There is underlying assumption. No, ‘assumption’ is not a keyword, don’t get us wrong here; it is the thread that loosely ties one paragraph to the next and the next.
Reading through the litany of woes (reports of woes, to be precise) and the usual disclaimer about ‘intimidation and retaliation against civil society members’ (who, by the way, roam around Colombo and party to their hearts’ content), one might think the authors are talking about Albuquerque, New Mexico or Anaheim, California. One could also think of places in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other places where the Democracy Squads of the USA have opened the doors to ‘sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law’. The USA has not only ‘opened the doors’ but done the honors too, let us not forget.
There’s mention also of demilitarization. That’s troop withdrawal, folks. No, not of US troops in some 150 countries, not of withdrawals from Japan almost 70 years after THAT war ended, but the treatment of the North and East of Sri Lanka as though they are no-go zones for the state. ‘Funny,’ did someone say?
So we have exaggeration. We have selectivity too. Come on, there’s worse stuff being ‘reported’ in other countries but no finger-wagging ‘no-no’ resolutions being tabled in the UNHRC about them. Really, if this is what the UNHRC is about, and if it is indeed serious about right all (assumed) wrongs, the sessions should be 12 months long, for that’s the time it would take to table, debate, listen to submissions and counter-submissions, prepare texts, pencil in amendments, take votes etc., on all the countries that deserve this kind of ‘censure’.
And yet, this is still a watered-down resolution of the kind that would upset the delicate sensibilities of the likes of Fr (sic) Emmanuel, Navi Pillay, Callum Macrae, Frances Harrison, Louise Arbor, David Cameron and other Sri Lanka haters. Indeed it is surprising that the USA, such a mover and shaker, such a lover of those who love to hate Sri Lanka, has not upped the ante here. Makes one wonder.
Is it that the USA fears a harsher document would get shot down because a) it is ridiculous, b) the membership has bigger things to worry about, or c) Sri Lanka might call the US bluff and say ‘ok, let’s investigate all atrocities committed by all parties from 1975 to 2009, India included, and if you want post-war stuff, let’s go with that too; and since we need the world to be lovely let’s extend the logic to include all nations, happy?’
It might be that in the aftermath of Obama’s ‘cost-warning’ to Russia over Ukraine (which didn’t stop Russia) and John Kerry’s ‘you can’t invade a country on a trumped-up pretext in the 21st Century (although we invaded Iraq), the USA is worried that some countries might begin to figure out that Washington was, is and will always be full of sh**. Some might even think that they would be digging their own graves by saying ‘aye’ to this blatant bullying, meddling, destabilizing and indeed wrecking the chances for peace and reconciliation. It might even upset India, come to think of it.
Since ‘Ukraine’ remains unresolved and signs are that Obama may have to eat his words, voting representatives at the UNHRC might do a re-think of ‘best do what boss says’. If someone, anyone, gives the boss the finger then ‘bossness’ is under threat and a threatened boss can’t exactly throw his weight the way he did before. Is that the problem, one might ask.
With regime-change fanatics betting heavily on a fillip from Geneva, this kind of watering down will be seized by the Government as a victory that’s sweet and, all things considered, adequate. If this is what all the frenetic lobbying by powerful persons (US and UK envoys in Colombo were canvassing the support of the voting members in blatant violation of protocol; this too is indicative of desperation) yielded, it is a sad indictment on their powers of persuasion. That too will be noted by the Government.
Let Sri Lanka not entertain any illusions. The deck is stacked. Against Sri Lanka. Watered down or otherwise. The watering down, however, constitutes a ‘blinking’ on the part of Uncle Sam. Let Sri Lankans have no illusions. A ‘come down’ on the part of the USA would do the country good, but that does not mean Sri Lanka is a perfect nation. Its imperfections are many and quite apart from the fact that many imperfections flow from a flawed constitution, the arrogance of the powerful and a manifest reluctance of fixing the democracy-gap embedded in the constitution is not something to cheer about.
If this is THE draft, it can’t get ‘harsher’. It can only get further diluted as March 29 approaches. For now, though, let’s not forget the ‘leaked’ element of the matter. At the same time, let us not forget that the dynamics alluded to above will not go away in the next few weeks. Let the circus roll on, either way. We might as well get entertained if that’s the best we can obtain from all the clowning that has since of late come to be associated with Geneva in the month of March.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com