By S. V. Kirubaharan –
In my last article about the then impending Commonwealth meeting, written in December 2012 and entitled “Is the Sri Lankan Graveyard best venue for a Commonwealth meeting?” I stated:
“When Sri Lanka violates international human rights and humanitarian law including Commonwealth declarations and refuses to take meaningful action, will CHOGM turn a blind eye to Sri Lanka and hold their meeting there? ………… I hope the Commonwealth Secretary General will not be accused, like the UN Secretary General has been of failing in his action to discipline Sri Lanka, for failing to apply the internationally accepted principles and standards of human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and good governance.”
Despite all the warning protests made, even at the highest levels by a Head of State, the 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) took place in Sri Lanka from 15 to 17 November 2013. This could only happen with the help of the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Mr Kamalesh Sharma and the propagandist advocates of Rajapaksa’s government – AusLanka (Australia).
We take note of what happened during the CHOGM in Sri Lanka. Do you and AusLanka now feel it was all worth the damage inflicted on the long-held and cherished Commonwealth values? Don’t you feel that you and AusLanka are the root cause of that damage?
It is so obvious that the track record of Sri Lanka is 100 times worse than countries which have been suspended in the past. Once again, just to remind Mr Kamalesh Sarma and AusLanka:
It was well reported internationally that the President and his Government violates the liberty of individuals, denies equal rights for all citizens, practices vicious racial discrimination, rejects genuine and honest political negotiations and practices nepotism.
The politically motivated impeachment motion of the Chief Justice; vote rigging in the last Presidential election; the arrest and jail sentence of the person who legally won the Presidential election; corrupt and criminal activities of many Ministers and others have all been well recorded and documented by many reputed institutions including the United Nations.
The United Nations has consistently reported for more than two decades on the deterioration of Sri Lanka’s human rights record. The list of official public documents and action is long. It includes: the report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka; the UN Secretary General’s Internal Review Panel Report – Action in Sri Lanka; the two resolutions on Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council – 2012 and 2013; the Universal Periodic Review – UPR sessions on Sri Lanka in November 2012 and the UN High Commissioner for Human Right’s visit last September and her verbal report. Even your own press release of 15 November 2012: “Commonwealth Secretary-General concerned about parliamentary move to impeach Sri Lankan chief justice” along with all the aforementioned reports and actions, raised urgent doubts as to whether Sri Lanka was qualified to host the 23rd meeting of the CHOGM.
In such a situation, the CHOGM blindly took place in Sri Lanka. No comparison was made with countries which have been suspended by the Commonwealth in the past. If such comparisons had been made, you and AusLanka would have been deeply ashamed to permit Sri Lanka to host the CHOGM meeting.
Many are well aware of the honest task initiated by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group – CMAG to raise the question of Sri Lanka’s ineligibility, purely in an attempt to preserve the Commonwealth values of democracy, freedom, peace and the rule of law.
You should be brought to justice for refusing to disclose to the CMAG, the findings of two key legal opinions from eminent Commonwealth Jurists on the Sri Lankan Government’s impeachment of its Chief Justice.
Due to your partial, hard work, enthusiasm and determination along with the help of AusLanka, Sri Lanka’s track record was swept successfully under the carpet of Mr Countinghouse. It is a crying shame.
Monument in the name of Kamalesh Sarma!
Very recently when Sri Lanka badly needed Indian help, they raised a War memorial for 1200 Indian Peace Keeping Force – IPKF soldiers who lost their lives in Sri Lanka. The most interesting fact was that no Sri Lankan representative was present at the opening ceremony of this War memorial in Colombo which was opened by the Indian Ambassador.
I do not know whether Indian Congress and its leaders including Sonia Gandhi are aware that the Rajapaksas and their political party are against the Indo-Lanka accord and they rejected the presence of the IPKF in Sri Lanka.
It would come as no surprise, if President Rajapaksa raises a monument in your name, whenever a suitable opportunity to meet a need arises. For those who want to know the latest Wonder of the World, it can be none other than the hosting of CHOGM in Sri Lanka.
You, being the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, and AusLanka being the advocate of Sri Lanka will agree that the 23rd meeting of the CHOGM is not going to mark the end of the Commonwealth, CHOGM, CMAG, nor activities of Civil Society.
Happy to hear that the next (24th) meeting of the CHOGM will take place in Malta.
We take note that the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth serves a maximum of two 4-year terms. If this is the case, your term ends in April 2016 – unless President Rajapaksa teaches you how to prolong your period of office to life time, as he has done for himself, using the two third majority in the parliament.
IIGEP opened eyes and ears
Here I would like to share with you and AusLanka, my experience in the UN Human Rights forums, especially the Human Rights Council – UN HRC. Sri Lanka has had the worst record of human rights for the longest period of time.
In 2006, at the 1st session of the UN HRC, on behalf of the European Union, Finland drafted a resolution on Sri Lanka. But President Rajapaksa – man of ‘home grown solutions’ – and his government, introduced a new initiative called, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons – IIGEP. Every active member of civil society warned that this was a sophisticated duping method of the Rajapaksa government, to buy time.
The IIGEP was formed in February 2007. President Rajapaksa managed with this group for a year. But, his usual tactics of divide and rule in splitting the members of the IIGEP and buying individuals off didn’t work with the members of the IIGEP. Unlike Prof G L Peris, the members of the IIGEP were the world’s best VVIPs, each with a clean and honest record. The Chairperson of the IIGEP was the 17th Chief Justice of India, Mr P.N. Bhagwati.
The reports submitted by the IIGEP to President Rajapaksa have never been publicised because they make it clear that Sri Lankan armed forces were implicated in several of the killings to be investigated by the Commission of Inquiry.
As a consequence, the Attorney General at the time and members of Rajapaksa’s government flew to Geneva to tarnish the image and activities of the IIGEP in the UN HRC.
On 15 April 2008, the IIGEP’s decision to quit their work on Sri Lanka opened the eyes and ears of the international community and the UN HRC, as to the real nature of President Rajapaksa’s government.
Mr Kamalesh Sarma, if you would like to know more about the hypocrisy of President Rajapaksa, do contact Retired Chief Justice of India, Mr Bhagwati.
The tactics of President Rajapaksa to fool the world came to an end, resulting in two consecutive resolutions passed against Sri Lanka in the UN HRC – March 2012 and March 2013.
Still not over!
Sri Lanka managed its image vis-a-vis the Commonwealth, with your help and the help of AusLanka. Still, many do not agree that Sri Lanka totally escaped scrutiny, because one of its founder members Canada and two other members, India and Mauritius boycotted the CHOGM entirely due to Sri Lanka’s horrendous human rights record and accusations of war crimes!
Out of 53 member states of the Commonwealth, only 23 head of states have participated in the CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Compared to its meetings in the past, this is the first time in the history of CHOGM that such a small number of head of states have participated. Neither Mr Kamalesh Sharma nor Auslanka can deny that this is due to Sri Lanka’s proven human rights violations and the accusations of war crimes levelled against it.
At the same time, the United Kingdom and a few other countries participated in the CHOGM, not because of any appreciation that they have for Rajapaksa’s government, but purely due to persistent pressure from AusLanka. The British Prime Minister David Cameron, having decided to attend, wanted to draw the spotlight on the violations. He was the first Head of State to visit the North since 1948. His media team covered the anguish of relatives of the disappeared, persecution against the Tamil Uthayan press, as well as a commentary on the government organised demonstrations against Channel 4.
I take this opportunity to thank courageous international media for travelling to the North and documenting many stories and scenes.
However, as with the UN Human Rights Council, Sri Lanka cannot have a ride on the values of the Commonwealth for long. There will be a fine day when Sri Lanka will be suspended. That is when you and AusLanka will be ashamed for safeguarding Sri Lanka, especially during your period as Secretary General. It is not surprising that being a former Diplomat of India; you tried to safeguard Sri Lanka, exactly like Vijay Nambiar, who, on the staff of the UN Secretary General prevented all the actions motivated by Ban-Ki Moon.
For your information, India not only boycotted the CHOGM in Sri Lanka, they voted in favour of two resolutions passed in the UN HRC calling for scrutiny of Sri Lanka.
We can presume that during your period as Ambassador of India your activities were fully based on support for Sri Lanka. There were reasons for this. But since the end of the war in Sri Lanka, India voted in favour of those resolutions, whereas your mind-set has not changed.
I feel that past experiences and the dubious tongue and tasks of President Rajapaksa’s government have not been understood by you and a few others in India. By the time these matters are properly understood, China and Pakistan will be on India’s soil, arriving via Sri Lanka.
Mr Kamalesh Sarma, unlike those days, now-a-days retired civil servants; ex-military generals, and ministers, especially in Asian countries are writing articles and books compiling their experiences and achievements. One day, if someone from Sri Lanka writes a book on how they managed to hold the CHOGM in Sri Lanka that will be the day when many members of the Commonwealth and the Queen will feel ashamed that it took place in Sri Lanka.
In the past, I was a regular visitor to your Secretariat. My final point is that, at least now, please go through the records of what your predecessor may have written about Sri Lanka!
For more information about the CHOGM in Sri Lanka, do refer to the following links:
Sri Lanka Commonwealth summit defended
Kamalesh Sharma told BBC News that the organisation’s strength is “engagement”, and the gathering would further efforts to improve human rights in the country.
Resolution on 17 April 2013 by Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) and Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA).
South African Law society supports CLA, suspension of Sri Lanka – 23 April 2013.
Law Society of England and Wales supports CLA call for suspension of Sri Lanka from Commonwealth on 17 April 2013.
Sri Lanka CHOGM 2013: With Whom Does the Decision Lie? 26 April 2013 By Professor Philip Murphy, Director, Institute of Commonwealth Studies published