By Jehan Perera –
With the Zero Draft in circulation there is no longer any doubt that a resolution on Sri Lanka will be presented at the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month. This resolution will be presented by a core group of countries led by the United Kingdom and will be supported by the United States which, though not a current member of the UNHRC, has opted to return to it under the presidency of Joe Biden. This will be a powerful combination for a small country like Sri Lanka to challenge. It does not appear that Sri Lanka will present its own counter resolution. There was perhaps a miscalculation of the waning power of the western countries in the face of the rise of China. The western powers continue to dominate international institutions. The absence of a coherent foreign policy is reflective of the much greater power of the countries that Sri Lanka is having to contend with.
President Biden has made it his administration’s policy to work in tandem with his country’s traditional and like-minded allies on issues requiring international cooperation. Sri Lanka would be an example or test case of the new US administration’s foreign policy priorities. The indications are that they will be oriented towards human rights and the strengthening of international institutions set up over the past several decades. President Biden’s early appointees have been weighted in favour of those with internationalist perspectives and a significant number of them are of South Asian origin, the most important of whom is Vice President Kamala Harris. They are likely to consider Sri Lanka to be a country of special interest.
In itself Sri Lanka is an interesting and important country for world politics at present. This can be seen in the changes the government is making in rapid succession in its dealings with foreign powers which appear to be pressuring it on all sides. The geopolitical location of the country makes it important to the security of both neighbouring India and to the sea lanes that all the big powers utilize. This can be the only explanation for the sudden reversals of decisions such as in the case of the denial to India and Japan of the Eastern Terminal at Colombo port, the inability to proceed with the Chinese bid for a solar power project on three islands off Jaffna and the withdrawal of the invitation to international cricket icon Imran Khan, now Prime Minister of Pakistan, to address parliament. For the reason that Sri Lanka is important to all these countries, and to the world, it may become an example for others to learn from. The government has a duty to do its best by its citizens and being a small country this will be best done without antagonizing any powerful country or bloc of countries.
The government’s successful election campaigns of November 2019 and August 2020 highlighted the issues of national sovereignty and the resolve not to permit international intervention detrimental to the national interest. The emergence of the new government with a large majority gave a sense of confidence that the government would be able to forge its own path in international politics. The government leaders made promises not to brook any foreign interference in internal affairs. The government’s withdrawal from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution 30/1 of 2015 was a vindication of that promise. There was hope that the majority of countries in the UNHRC would accept this withdrawal which was bolstered by the pledge by China and Russia not to permit other countries to take any UN-sanctioned collective action against Sri Lanka. However, the question is that if a country had invited assistance from many countries to sort out their internal armed conflict could they now assert that this was an internal matter only. In fact, the countries that gave assistance may themselves be held accountable for the violations that took place.
The draft of the forthcoming UNHRC resolution and its operative paragraphs have made their appearance in the media. The overall political context that the drafters of the resolution see is “accelerating militarization of civilian government 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,” policies that adversely affect the right to freedom of religions or belief, surveillance and intimidation of civil society and shrinking democratic space, arbitrary detention, allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment and sexual and gender based violence, and that these trends threaten to reverse the limited but important gains made in recent years and with the recurrence of policies and practices that gave rise to the grave violation of the past.”
Some key parts of the resolution are as follows: Concern about the decision to mandate cremations for all those deceased from COVID-19 which has prevented Muslims and members of other religions from practising their own burial religious rites; A comprehensive accountability process for all violations and abuses of human rights committed in Sri Lanka, including those by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; The importance of democratic governance and independent oversight of key institutions and ensure that all provincial councils are able to operate effectively in accordance with the thirteenth amendment to the constitution of Sri Lankan; Requests the Office of the High Commissioner to enhance its monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including progress on reconciliation and accountability. Recently the cases against the security forces have been withdrawn or recommended for withdrawal with no reference to judiciary at all by the Political Victimization Commission which is a matter of controversy.
The silver lining in this draft resolution from the government’s perspective is that it does not mention the intention to take the country to the International Criminal Court or any international or hybrid tribunal. The draft document seems to expect the national, or local, judicial system to deal with these issues. However, the draft document also has a section in which it calls on the UN system to ensure that evidence of violations of human rights are preserved and analysed for future use. This suggests that if the national judicial system fails to meet their obligations, there will be the option to resort to the international system to fill the gap. This approach is not dissimilar to that of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith who has unexpectedly become an advocate of international justice. The Cardinal effectively gives leadership to the Catholic Church on political issues. It is a clear warning that there is something that has gone wrong in the state of Sri Lanka.
In his recent pronouncements, and in leading a protest at the Katuwapitiya church that suffered from one of the suicide bombings on Easter Sunday 2019, the Cardinal expressed his disappointment at the government’s inquiry into those bombings that specially targeted the Catholic community. He participated in a silent protest by hundreds of Catholics including families of the victims, to oppose the cabinet committee appointed to study the reports compiled by the Presidential Commission probing the April 21st attacks. The Cardinal pointed out that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry which comprised five intellectual judges gave their recommendations and decision so that the government and the Attorney General can take action. He added that he would call for an international investigation if the national investigation was undermined. He has subsequently added that he would appeal to the Vatican, which is the power centre of the worldwide Catholic Church.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith’s recent position is a reversal of his previously held position on similar issues. In the aftermath of the war in 2009 he was a staunch opponent of international interventions in support of accountability for human rights violations. He consistently took the position that Sri Lanka had the internal resources in terms of history, culture and integrity to find its own solution based on justice to post-war issues and challenged the double standards of the international community. The change in the Cardinal’s position is a wake-up call to the government that it risks losing the support of even those civic and religious leaders who have been supportive of its efforts to keep the international community at arms-length with regard to finding solutions based on justice. Instead of trying to combat the forthcoming UNHRC resolution, the government needs to take actions that win back the confidence of those who presently call for international intervention out of frustration that justice is not available within Sri Lanka. This may be done by the government acting upon the pledge of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to be the president of all Sri Lankans and be willing to correct the wrongs done to any section of the Sri Lankan population.
upali1942 / February 23, 2021
In his independence day speech he said will govern according to Buddhism.
Ajith / February 23, 2021
Yes he said he will govern according to Buddhism. But his definition of Buddhism is much different and it is against Lord Buddha’s teaching. He also said in another meeting that he had two faces to threaten another Christian Sinhala. Most of the Buddhist Sinhala in Srilanka follows the other face of Rajapakse family Buddhism.
Noor Nizam / February 23, 2021
Sri Lanka’s Human Rights situation will come under the microscope at UNHRC.
Why has United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet “NOT” called for an International Criminal Court investigation to come under the microscope at the UNHRC into Rights violations of the Sri Lankan Muslim Community of the North and Eastern Provinces during the separatist war perpetrated by the LTTE, LTTE supportive Tamil government Officials, and Tamil politicians who aided and abetted and supported the killings of hundreds of Muslims in the Eastern province while they were performing their prayers in mosques, to ensure justice for those civilians killed?
Noor Nizam.Convener “The Muslim Voice”.
February 22nd., 2021.
Mallaiyuran / February 23, 2021
Noor, so you want Muslims to change the culture to cremate bodies in alien with your HE HE HE HE royals?
Were you one within those attacked the Muslims participated in P2P, in Trinco?
Sinhalese wants Ali Sabre removed, but if they come to know your name, they will sure ask your son also to get in politics. You are such a subservient to Sinhala Buddhists.
You are artificial in your servitude.
Noor Nizam / February 24, 2021
You are making comments without knowing whom I am. This shows your ingnorance and you ar similar to a barking dog in politics. Get you house in order before writing idiotic statements. I feel sorry for your state of mind.
Noor Nizam – Convener “The Muslim Voice”.
Mallaiyuran / February 24, 2021
Noor, knowing a man is in two ways (or both). Knowing the Physical Personality: Of cause you & me never saw each other.
Knowing man’s nature by the the traits he espouses. Why do you think I don’t even know your Voice?
Ok, I gave you an honest answer. Please give me an honest answer to my question. Where were you today(2/23/2021)? Rioting against Aanduwa in Galle Face with Hakeem or receiving Pak PM Khan in Katunayake with Ali? Did you hear Hakeem’s thundering voice in Galle Face riots? Are you going to reply to Hakeem tomorrow in your Voice? Would you bring that to CT too?
Noor Nizam / February 24, 2021
Well, here are my “HONEST” answers to your questions (my statements have always been honest and “NOT” deceptive.
Q. 1. Where were you today 2/23/2021?
A. I was watching TV and also writing comments whenever needed.
Q.2. Did you hear Hakeem’s thundering voice in Galle Face riots?
A. YES, I heard his normal speech (not thundering like expressed by you) on the TV broad casts, that were aired.
Q3. Are yougoing to reply to Hakeem tomorrow in your Voice?
A. I heard only the portion that was broadcasted on the TV, not the full speech, if any. If there is is need to reply Hakeem today after listening to the full speech, I will defenitely do so.
Q. 4. Would you bring that to the CT too?
A. YES, if I write some “content”, I will certainly bring that to CT too. It will be CT’s decision to publish it or not, as I respect the norms of journalism.
The traits I espouse is what my parents have embedded in me and what God AllMighty Allah has blessed upon me, as a person, in character, in poltics and in the principles of life especially radiating from my faith in Islam and my belief in God AllMighty Allah.
Mallaiyuran / February 24, 2021
I take it on the face value. Thank you. .
Further if you could not see anything that need to be replied or commented in Hakeem’s speech about elected Muslims Leaders were prevented meeting PM Khan, who is a heroic figure to local Muslims, whom always support Pakistan team, when he plays against Lankawe, is something disappointing to the Voice reading Muslims and for me. For your info, Rishard has very firmly stressed that shutting off Muslims leaders from Pak PM is only a political move of Appe Aanduwa and there is nothing any security threat. ( Rishard is correct on that because LTTE is no there anymore. ISIS attack is only Yahapalanaya and Chitanta governments’ combined drama. Now Cardinal want to introduce himself as the Villan, who was missing when Chitanta & Yahapalanaya government got united to kill 500 Tamil Christians and tourist. That was only to make Slap Party win the election and punish the West in UNHRC.)
Mallaiyuran / February 25, 2021
I hear some Muslim MPs met Pak PM. Some have talked with him too. Mr. Khan has said he took the burial matter with King and the Old King. The Muslim website reported this is not giving any details, for the reason of avoiding publicity. We will wait see if any other info coming out eventually.
soma / February 25, 2021
You are in wrong country. Go to Pakistan, Bangladesh or Saudi Arabia.
Ajith / February 23, 2021
I don’t think that Rajapaksa family ever listen to your advise when the higher ranking Buddhist leaders give a different advise to suit the needs of Rajapakse family. Most of the Buddhist Sinhala thinks and believe that only Rajapaksa family can win the entire world politically, economically and militarily.
Sri Lanka is going to be a place of international players for many many decades and the people have to suffer again and again that is going on from the day this land fallen under the rule of Sri Lankan Buddhism. It is true for a small country like Srilanka there are many super powers fighting. For example, the three small islands (Neduntivu, Nainativu and analitivu) which has only less than 8000 people together which is currently electrified by Generators) China and India competing to spend millions of rupees when there is no proper regular, transports or hospitals or drinking water. Is it a necessity to create that project? Similarly, when the country do not have money to spend on vaccine, the government spend millions in archeological commissions to East and North and many other commissions to take revenge on previous regime are necessary?
Eagle Eye / February 23, 2021
Buddhist monks, Sinhala Buddhists, Sinhala/Sri Lanka Buddhism have become a pain in the neck of some people who are eager to convert this country to one of their play grounds. So, they have hired coolies to do the donkey work to humiliate and ridicule Buddhist monks, Sinhala Buddhists and Buddhism.
The missionaries that came with European invaders probably would have thought they will be able to convert Sinhala Buddhist pagans to Christianity easily and kill Buddhism in Sinhale but they miserably failed mainly because of the presence of Buddhist monks and the close relationship prevailed between monks and lay persons. Colonial rulers tried hard to break this close relationship between monks and lay persons but they failed miserably. Even now the same thing is happening. There are ‘Para’ organizations and local guys hired to break the relationship between monks and lay persons. Ridiculing monks and Buddhism is a part of that game plan. This became obvious during ‘Jadapalana’ Government. These dumbos will never succeed. This country will remain as a strong Sinhala Buddhist country no matter how hard these ‘Para’ people try to change that.
Buddhist1 / February 23, 2021
The fundamentals on which the Rajapakses came to power in 2020 was RACISM. To spread this ideology to win the elections the Rajapakses used rogues who had cases hanging around their necks and the Buddhist Priests. Unfortunately both these groups have forgotten the history. The history is very clear. Every Sinhalese in this country has a Pandian Citizens blood (Indian Blood In them), chances are that its Tamil blood as Vijaya (although he could not have any children with his Pandian princess) his other 700 friends all married Pandian women from Madurai. This is history written in Mahawamsa. Hence the Buddhist Monks who today are the channels of RACISM are expressing their stupidity.
Sri Lankan Govt is avoiding peace in the country and doing the right thing due to RACISM, which is their tool to win the war. Hence unless and until they get rid of the RACIST IDEOLOGY there will be no opportunity to give any attention to International Justice.
soma / February 25, 2021
Probably you are right – I don’t know who f***** whom in history.
I hope you are right and try to convince those people who call themselves Tamils and made this place a hell to live in.
You are the best argument to my side.
Rumble 2021 / February 25, 2021
(1) The investigations should be for peace but not for which hunt/geo political interests/retribution etc.
(2) Either way If UN want to do an investigation we/GOSL should insist that is in the interest of finding/lessons learned of all who have created trouble in SL be it “National” groups or “International” players since 70’s. This is to prevent future destruction of all the developing nations too.
(3) The investigations should start with FP/TULF and what took place in Jaffna since 70’s……….if not we should not bother with International nor Local investigations. War concluded in 2009 all SL families have lost loved ones. Foreign powers found guilty should go through state sanctions/compensate our nation?
(4) Our nations foreign policy is for her development and not dictated by “security concerns” of others….if they felt security concerns with China they should all have done businesses and continue to do businesses with china for the 40 years???
(5) It does not matter what we have lost “they” will not allow us to consolidate law and order…and now the church bombs and the Cardinal change of heart is a great example of how we will be milked for ever.