30 October, 2020

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After CHOGM Ecstasy, Preparing For Geneva Agony

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

 After CHOGM Ecstasy, Preparing for Geneva Agony: The Right Way and the Wrong Way  

CHOGM may not have been unblemished ecstasy, but Geneva will be every bit an agony unless the government gets its act together in time for the UNHRC sessions in March next year.  Three months are not enough to resolve the contradictions of a thirty year war.  The government could possibly make that argument, but it would be a hard sell coming 56 months, after the war ended, of political indifference and inaction towards the Tamils, and inexplicably orchestrated harassment of the Muslims.  Still, the government can make a reasonable case for more time and against another censure by: (a) declaring that its honest and sincere intention is to effectively work with the new Northern Provincial Council; (b) indicating immediate measures to address the humanitarian issues in war affected areas; and (c) producing a reasonable timetable to implement the LLRC recommendations.  Three months are more than enough to prepare along these lines before the Geneva meeting.  In fact the government could work with the NPC Administration and put together a joint plan of action for presentation in Geneva.  That would be the right way to respond to what is now a predictable and periodical interrogation in Geneva.

That would also be the right way to respond to the challenge thrown by British Prime Minister David Cameron that Britain would pursue the matter vigourously at the UNHRC if Sri Lanka does not complete before March its own investigation of what happened during the final stages of the war.  President Rajapaksa offered a plausible rejoinder that these issues that are the fallouts from 30 years of war cannot be resolved in three months, even though the political origins of the war go back another 30 years before the war started.  Further, whether the reply was honest is a different matter given that the government has done nothing for 56 months.  Nor could it be considered sincere without a commitment to a plan of action and a firm timeline.  Significantly, however, the President did not reject out of hand the British Prime Minister’s call for an inquiry, and is reported to have shown some interest in the experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa.

But as we have seen time and again during his presidency, President Rajapaksa gives all the indication that he would be doing the right thing but ends up doing the opposite wrong thing.  It is as if he is under some compulsion to ignore good advice and allow himself to be swayed by bad advice and make wrong decisions.  The incarceration of Sarath Fonseka and the impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake were instances where President Rajapaksa appears to have gone along with wrong advice after expressing initial reservations.  May be it is more difficult to manage a cabinet of extended family members than a cabinet of political ministers.  Not that the Sri Lankan formal Cabinet is the ideal forum for objective debate and disinterested advice.  The few good ministers in the bloated cabinet are only seen and not heard, and the many rogues therein say and do things even worse than their terrible children.

The one instance where the President reluctantly spurned bad advice and followed saner counsel was in putting an end to the calls for repealing the Thirteenth Amendment and in persisting with his correct decision to hold elections to the Northern Provincial Council.  The President himself and the enlightened ones among his supporters must realize what a mess the Commonwealth Summit would have become if President Rajapaksa had given in to the demand to repeal 13A and cancel the NPC election.  The right road to Geneva for the government is to build on the success of the NPC election by positively working with the new Council and Chief Minister.

Picture worth a thousand words

One of the lasting CHOGM pictures for history, certainly for the political history of the Tamils, is the snapshot of British Prime Minister David Cameron standing between TNA leader R. Sampanthan and the Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran on the balcony of the Jaffna Public Library.  The political interpretation of the picture will vary from one wagging political tongue to another, but my point is about its caring symbolism.  The hawks in the government and its more hawkish supporters will view the picture as a provocative affront to Sri Lanka’s sovereignty by a meddling foreign leader with a colonial past.  My pitch is to the sober elements in the government to envisage an alternative scenario after the NPC election in which President Rajapaksa and not David Cameron could have been the one standing between Sampanthan and Wigneswaran for a historic photo opportunity.  Such a picture would have sent a powerful message of change of heart and of caring to the Tamil people, all Sri Lankans and CHOGM visitors.

Of course such a picture would have required a priori, a change of heart and a caring disposition on the part of the government towards the war affected Tamil people in the north.  What Cameron offered in Jaffna was human touch to a people waiting most of all for some empathy and humanitarian deliverance from the devastations of war.  Neither the President nor any government leader has similarly extended their hand as a sign of basic empathy to the war affected people.  The description of these people has no precedent in Sri Lankan statistics.  There are close to 90,000 war widows equally divided between the North and East, and 20,000 of them in the Jaffna District alone.  There are thousands of people without eyesight or limbs in each district in the two provinces.  People are stranded, dispossessed of property and denied of reclamation.  In the name of security, the earth is scorched, and where it is not it is overgrown wasteland.  Cameron stepped into a psychological void that should and could have been filled by the Sri Lankan President and his government.  Cameron came, he saw, and he touched the people of Jaffna.  What will the Sri Lankan government do now is the question?

The government has to do something different and substantial before it can create a new photo opportunity in Jaffna.  It is not hard infrastructure and tourist fantasies that the people in the North are asking for.  They are looking for soft redress to war’s sufferings and the return of their land so that they can start rebuilding their lives.  They are not interested in being curiosities to insensitive visitors.  Providing redress, returning property and supporting rehabilitation through the mechanisms of the New Provincial Council is the only way that the Sri Lankan government can sincerely, honestly and meaningfully reach out to the people of the North. The government must deal directly and officially with the NPC and its Chief Minister.  Politically, the President and government leaders must deal directly with the TNA, and only the TNA.

It would be an insult and a mistake to ask the new Chief Minister to co-chair some DDC contraption with Douglas Devananda.  This is a political gimmick and not a Constitutional requirement.  The new Provincial Council has carefully selected as its Ministers men of competence and experience and central government Ministers and officials must start the practice of working with them in a systematic way in keeping with the purposes and practices of devolved government.  Initial priority must be on humanitarian measures and land restoration.  The experience in these initiatives could be extended to other areas such as education, health, law and order, and, yes, hard infrastructure.  All of this can be programmed within the framework of the LLRC recommendations.  The government could easily demonstrate its good intentions by taking some principled and practical steps between now and March.  And there cannot be a better preparation for UNHRC in Geneva.  Real progress on the ground can be the most convincing presentation before the UN Human Rights Council.

The wrong way: A ‘defence strategy’ in Geneva

The wrong approach would be to continue playing the ‘numbers game’ in Geneva, trying to build support among the UNHRC members to defeat Western and Indian resolutions against Sri Lanka.  To that end, efforts are apparently being made to push the government into developing ‘a defence strategy’ for Geneva, whatever it might mean, whether legal defence or some other defence.  An inspired rumour also appears to have been let afloat that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will be leading the government team to Geneva in March.  Mr. Rajapaksa is fast becoming the government’s Man for all Seasons, but addressing an international tribunal is a different cup of tea from talking to captive audiences like the local engineers and teachers.

The defence strategy idea is the thrust of an email that is being circulated calling upon President Rajapaksa and his brother Secretary not to give into Cameron’s bullying but to fight back.  The failure so far on the international front, according to the author(s) of the email is the failure of the present government officials to present an aggressive case in Geneva on behalf of the government.  The email’s pitch is that the government must make use of the ideas, resources and talents of national patriots.  The email lists the names of sixty five such patriots without soliciting their consent to put their names on the list.  27 of them live in Sri Lanka and they are an assortment of talent, while the 38 living abroad are classified by their country of residence:  ten each in Australia and the US, eight in UK, four in Canada, one each in France, Middle East, New Zealand, Singapore and the West Indies, and one unidentified by country.

The email notes that on the overseas list “the names of patriotic Tamils and Muslims have been purposely left out for their own safety as they risk being targeted by extremist groups because of their patriotism to the nation.”   The obvious question is why there are no Tamils or Muslims among those living in Sri Lanka included in the ‘resident’ list.  Which extremist group is targeting the national patriots among Tamils and Muslims living in Sri Lanka and supporting the government?  The truth is that some groups calling themselves national patriots have been targeting Muslims in recent months.  If at all, there were complaints last year that it was the Sinhalese activists opposed to the government who were targeted by government supporters in Geneva.

It is rather laughable that a new team of national patriots, led by the Defence Secretary, by virtue of their forensic talent, eloquence and powers of persuasion, would be able to turn the tables in Geneva against the West, India and other countries and get a new majority vote vindicating the Sri Lankan government and defensive intransigence.  More seriously, the Sri Lankan government must pay attention to some of the recent shifts in alignments among the main world powers.  There is a new unity of purpose and action between the US, China, Russia, Britain and European countries in their approach to Syria and in their collective, albeit tentative, rapprochement with Iran.  Already, China has gently rebuked Colombo over its minding of the human rights business in Sri Lanka.  In the light of these developments, Sri Lanka must think twice or even more about adopting a defensive strategy and playing the Rest of the World against the West in Geneva.  It would be far better for the government to politically make up with the TNA, work positively with the Northern Provincial Council, and demonstrate to the UNHRC in Geneva its new intentions and its commitment to pursue them.

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Latest comments

  • 1
    1

    You begain with the wrong footing.

    after the war ended, of political indifference and inaction towards the Tamils,

    The rest of the article also went south didn’t it really? What action needed for “Tamils” ? Central, Eastern and Western province Tamils is accounted and reconciled. When 75% of Tamils are ok what you talking about?

    • 0
      0

      Central Tamils are treated as slaves. Eastern Tamils have lost their weight and are being further oppressed by the day. Only the Northern Tamils are showing some resistance to all this. They will show the way ahead to the rest!

      Sengodan. M

  • 0
    1

    Well said.
    Let us patiently wait until March 2014 to see which path the government chooses to follow. The chances are 10 to 1 the government will choose the wrong path!

    Sengodan. M

  • 0
    0

    I am sure Dayan Jayatilake, the old hat at Geneva, is in “the email list of 27” to defend his master Pissa Rajapakse and the mafia again in Geneva.————————————————————————-
    No wonder he is missing from the CT columns after he had the breakfast with his former master!

  • 2
    0

    HAs Sri Lanka done any of the following things. Sri Lankan forces died while saving Tamils.

    “Best Military in the World, Really?
    by JOHN LaFORGE
    In response to regular reports of atrocities by US soldiers, drone controllers, pilots and interrogators, the White House routinely tries to help. Every president promises to honor our armed forces and says ours is the finest military of all, etc. At last year’s Veterans’ Day ceremony, president fill-in-the-blank boasted, “America is and always will be the greatest nation on Earth.” This Nov. 11th, Mr. Obama said that since 9/11 the US is “defining one of the greatest generations of military service this country has ever produced,” and, of course,“[W]e have the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped military in the world.”

    Really? On Veterans’ Day 2001, one headline blared: “American Soldier is Convicted of Killing Afghan Civilians for Sport.” US aggression, occupation, torture of prisoners, massacres, drone attacks, offshore penal colonies and sexual assaults against our own service members, take the luster from our official self-image of ‘exceptionality.’

    In a bold invitation, Human Rights Watch has called on 154 parties to the UN Convention on Torture to bring charges against US officials under explicit language in the treaty, ratified by the US in 1994. The treaty requires such action when reputable allegations are not prosecuted by the accused governments, and ours doesn’t need any more evidence, just some of which may be found in these mainstream US media stories:

    • “US Practiced Torture after 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes” (Apr. 16, 2013)

    • “Afghans Say an American Tortured Civilians” (May 13, 2013)

    • “CIA Drones Kill Civilians in Pakistan” (Mar. 18, 2011)

    • “GI Kills 16 Afghans, Including 9 Children, in Attacks on Homes” (Mar. 12, 2012)

    • “Libya Effort is Called Violation of War Act” (May 26, 2011)

    • “NATO and Afghan forces killed 310 civilians over the same period, mostly from airstrikes, the UN reports” (Aug. 3, 2009)

    • “100,000 Iraqis killed since U.S. invasion analysis says” (Oct. 29, 2004)

    • “U.N. Chief Ignites Firestorm by Calling Iraq War ‘Illegal’” (Sep. 17, 2004);

    • “Iraq Says Blast in Baghdad Kills Dozens of Civilians: U.S. Blamed” (Mar. 29, 2003)

    • “U.S. Presses for Total Exemption from War Crimes Court” (Oct. 9, 2002)

    • “Pentagon Says U.S. Airstrike Killed Women and Children” (Mar. 13, 2002)

    • “Bombing Necessary Despite Toll on Civilians, U.S. Envoy Says” (Jan. 9, 2002);

    • “U.S. helicopters fire on women, children in Somalia” (Sep. 10, 1993)

    • “US forces buried enemy forces alive” (Sep. 13, 1991)

    • “200,000 died in Gulf War, and counting” (May 30, 1991)

    The Military’s Dirty War on Women

    Atrocities against people of occupied or targeted countries aren’t the only ones accumulating. According to a July 2012 report by the Pentagon, over 25,000 sexual assaults occurred in fiscal year 2012, a 37 percent increase from FY 2011. About “500 men and women were assaulted each week last year,” USA Today reported July 25. See: “Reports of Military Sexual Assault Rise Sharply,” NY Times, Nov. 7; & “Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm: 26,000 Cases Last Year,” May 7, 2013.

    Throughout the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, according to the Pentagon, 74 percent of females report one or more barriers to reporting sexual assault. In addition, 62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault indicated they experienced some form of retaliation. This is why, according to US Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., more than 85 percent of all military sexual assaults go unreported. In fact, Sen. Baldwin says, “overall rates of reporting dropped from 13.5 percent in 2011 to 9.8 percent in 2012.”

    In view of the staggering numbers, and to help end the cover-up and suppression of sexual assault reporting, US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, has proposed removing investigation and disposal of such allegations from the military chain of command and place these cases with military prosecutors. Currently, commanders — superior to victims and perpetrators — decide whether or not to prosecute an accused G.I. Commanders even have the power to reduce or overturn a judge or jury’s conviction.

    Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, S. 967, would give military prosecutors, instead of commanders, the independent authority to decide whether or not felony cases go to trial. The proposal has earned broad bipartisan support. It would reform the Code of Military Justice to make the system independent at the felony level.

    A related bill, the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act — S. 548 — sponsored by Sen.s Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would prevent those convicted of sexual crimes from serving in the military, improve tracking and review of sexual assault claims in the military, and help ensure victims have access to criminal justice.

    Presidential speeches can’t permanently obscure our record of military outrages. Some Congressional reform could at least confront the ones committed against women in uniform. “

  • 1
    1

    This article speaks the TRUTH nothing but the TRUTH for any one with an ounce of intelligence.

  • 1
    1

    Some good advice by Rajan Philips.
    Would MR listen to these?
    It would like pouring water on the back of the duck.

  • 0
    0

    The Sinhala majoritarian goal handed down for several generations is to annihilate the Tamil nation in the island: ————————————————————————————How can the incumbent president let go the golden opportunity after defeating the LTTE, and the on-going colonization of the Tamil homeland with Sinhalese going successfully, with the goal almost in the bag?

    • 0
      0

      Thiru, let me begin with a quote from Rajan Philips :

      “But as we have seen time and again during his presidency, President Rajapaksa gives all the indication that he would be doing the right thing but ends up doing the opposite wrong thing. It is as if he is under some compulsion to ignore good advice and allow himself to be swayed by bad advice and make wrong decisions.”

      NOW A QUOTE FROM YOUR PIECE:

      “the on-going colonization of the Tamil homeland with Sinhalese going successfully…”

      THERE IS A GROWING MASS OF PROOF OF RAJAPAKSA HAVING CONSISTENTLY INVALIDATED EACH AND EVERY PROMISE AND COMMITMENT, AND EVERY STATED COURSE OF INTENDED ACTION, BY TOTALLY CONTRARY ACTIONS. HE HAS PROVED BEYOND ANY MORE NEED FOR PROOF,THAT His word is not worth a dud coin.IF YOU THINK I AM BEING MILD IN MY ALLEGORY, WHY THEN, GO ON AND INTERPOLATE YOUR OPINION.MAKE ME PUKE TO EVEN HAVE TO DODGE THE NEED TO BE MORE EXPLICIT AND HENCE IMPLY SAY” IS NOT WORTH A DUD COIN”

      CONTRARY TO HOW RP PUTS IT, RAJAPAKSA is NOT “under some compulsion to ignore good advice” NOR IS HE A BABE IN THE WOODS TO “allow himself to be swayed by bad advice and make wrong decisions.”

      THAT SOUNDS NAIVE. RP IS FAR, FAR FROM NAIVE. I CAN SEE HIM SITTING AT HIS COMPUTER, TONGUE-IN-CHEEK THREATENING TO CHOKE HIM AS HE PLAYED AROUND WITH THOSE WORDS BEFORE TYPING THEM. THE REST OF HIS ARTICLE SHOWS THAT HE DOES NOT WANT TO PLAY AROUND WITH PRECIPITATING ANY WHITE VAN PROSPECT. I DOUBT HE , FOR EVEN THE FRACTION OF A MOMENT, BELIEVES THAT RAJAPAKSA WILL EVER CONSIDER, EVEN IN HIS CRAZIEST DREAMS,ANY OF THE POSITIVE MEASURES HE SUGGESTS THE GOVERNMENT MUST ADOPT IN RELATION TO GENEVA CRISIS CONTROL MEASURES.

      A GOOD BUT NEGATIVE EXERCISE BY RP/

      I WOULD RATHER FACE THE TRUTH AND SAY IT OUTRIGHT THAT THE GOVERNMENT’S LACKEYS WILL HAVE BEEN ORDERED TO

      TO THE CONTRARY, YOU FORTHRIGHTLY STATE THAT “the on-going colonization of the Tamil homeland with Sinhalese[IS] going successfully…”

      YOU PUT YOUR FINGER WITHOUT ANY ADO, OR ANY ATTEMPT AT SIDESTEPPING THE TRUTH, AND THAT TRUTH IS THIS , IN MY OPINION : THE RAJAPAKSA PLAN IS TO WIPE OFF THE TAMIL “HOMELANDS’ CLAIM BY ENFORCING AN IRREVERSIBLE DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE UNTIL THE STATUS QUO IN ABOUT SIX TO TEN YEARS IS SUCH THAT THERE WILL BE A SIZABLE SINHALA POPULATION IN THE NORTH TO ELECT SINHALA REPRESENTATIVE TO PARLIAMENT AND THE NORTHERN AND EASTERN PROVINCIAL COUNCILS AND THEREBY DESTROY AN OVERRIDING TAMIL POLITICAL FORCE IN THOSE PROVINCES.WHEN THAT PLAN COMES TO FRUITION THERE WILL BE NO NEED ANY MORE TO TRANSFER LAND AND POLICE POWERS TO A TAMIL DOMINATED NORTH AND EAST.THAT WILL ALSO REDUCE TGTE PLAN TO ABORT IJ A WHIMPER.

      SO THEN, ALL ELSE BETWEEN NOW, AND THE PROJECTED TIME WHEN THESE PLANS COME TO FRUITION, WILL BE NECESSARILY FLOODED WITH MORE LYING, CRAPPY “COMMITMENTS” TO BUY TIME UNTIL THE YEARS PASS WHILE THE GOVERNMENT DOES JUST THE OPPOSITE TO WHAT RP STATES AS I NOW QUOTE :

      ” It is not hard infrastructure and tourist fantasies that the people in the North are asking for. They are looking for soft redress to war’s sufferings and the return of their land so that they can start rebuilding their lives. They are not interested in being curiosities to insensitive visitors. Providing redress, returning property and supporting rehabilitation through the mechanisms of the New Provincial Council is the only way that the Sri Lankan government can sincerely, honestly and meaningfully reach out to the people of the North. The government must deal directly and officially with the NPC and its Chief Minister. Politically, the President and government leaders must deal directly with the TNA, and only the TNA’

      I THINK IT WOULD BE THE HEIGHT OF NAIVETE TO EVER EXPECT THE GOVERNMENT TO ABANDON ALL ITS PLANS AND ADOPT ANY OF THE ABOVE SUGGESTIONS.

      IN FACT, EVERY ONE OF THEM HAS BEEN PROVEN ANATHEMA TO THE RAJAPAKSA CHINTHANAYA.

      WELL KNOWING THAT THIS IS THE TRUTH, I AM AT A LOSS TO UNDERSTAND RP’S EXERCISE IN FUTILITY, ALTHOUGH IT’S BEEN OBVIOUSLY PUT FORWARD IN GOOD FAITH.

      I’D SAY THAT THE POST BY SUMITH, ABOVE, WAS MORE LIKE THE TRUTH, TO WIT:

      “Some good advice by Rajan Philips. Would MR listen to these? It would BE like pouring water on the back of the duck.”

      THAT’S A TAD MORE ACCURATE.

  • 0
    0

    What philips needs to understand is that Srl Lanka only eliminated terrorists out of its own country. It did not invade another country like US and UK (to get the natural resources)and kill thousands of civilians. And what do you think the terrorists did during the 30 year war in my country? They killed innocent civilians in thousands!! Where was UNHRC at that time? Was it sleeping??
    The UN has to be careful not to make mistakes when handling Srl Lanka. Personally I think UN system is shattered and if not careful will end up like the League of Nations very soon.(This time it will fail because US is a member and last time it failed because it was not a member!! How ironic!!!)

    All you need to know is that in this universe the truth always win!!!

  • 0
    0

    Here comes Geneva.You defeated Tamil terrorists get ready to clean the shit of the Suddas.Keep on day &night dreaming.Geneva my ass!

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