14 October, 2019

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Commonwealth Fails Sri Lanka Test

By Frances Harrison –

Frances Harrison

Sri Lanka is a test case for reform of the Commonwealth, intended to produce a renewed commitment to rule of law, democracy and human rights. It looks as if the 54-nation body is already failing dismally.

The custodian of the Commonwealth’s political values is a rotating group of Foreign Ministers gathered in what’s called the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. Last year its role was strengthened by new guidelines. It was not enough to deal with military coups – the Commonwealth decided it needed to tackle situations where its political values were undermined without a government being actually overthrown. After all, the Commonwealth claims to be an organisation based on the “shared values of peace, democracy, development, justice and human rights” as the Queen, its head, tells us.

And yet we have a country about to head the Commonwealth for two years and host its major heads of government meeting in November, that stands accused (in two UN reports) of crimes against humanity and murdering possibly seventy thousand of its own citizens. This is perhaps the worst bloodshed of this century and certainly not your run of the mill human rights problem – it is something quite out of the ordinary. Perhaps that’s the problem. As Samantha Power writes, “policymakers, journalists and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil”.

The scale of the crimes in Sri Lanka is so shocking that it’s easier for many nations to overlook them. It is hard to understand how a military could repeatedly and deliberately target hospitals but Human Rights Watch documented more than thirty such attacks in six months – hardly accidental. Even more difficult to accept that a government would announce civilian no-fire zonesand then attack them again and again.

It’s almost inconceivable that every man, woman and child who staggered out of the war zone was forced into detention to be security screened but thousands escaped by paying bribes to the same security forces. Eleven thousand suspected combatants were locked away for years in what was at the time the largest mass detention without trial in the world.

And why didn’t we hear about it at the time people ask. Well a UN internal inquiry last year revealed how senior United Nations officials suppressed casualty and war crimes information, slanting the reporting of the war. Most telling is survivors of that war are still too scared to come forward in public and relate their ordeal four years later – fearing for extended family still in Sri Lanka.

It’s much more comfortable to ignore such horrid goings on and believe the soothing lies of the Sri Lankan government that claimed nobody was deliberately killed as they rescued Tamils being held hostage by terrorists.

To its credit Canada has been lobbying for action on Sri Lanka – the first step would be putting the country on the agenda at the next meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to be held on 26 April. Bizarrely the Commonwealth Secretary General has decided not to do this. And yet the guidelines stipulate that he should consider any “undermining of the independence of the judiciary”. Somehow he’s overlooked the biggest constitutional crisis Sri Lanka has faced – the impeachment of Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice earlier this year, which every international legal andhuman rights body has condemned as gravely undermining the rule of law.

The Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, himself said in mid-January this year that Sri Lanka’s impeachment “could be perceived to constitute violations of core Commonwealth values and principles.”

According to the Commonwealth’s new guidelines (para 18, x and xi), if after two months the Secretary General has exhausted his efforts at engagement and there is no progress, then Sri Lanka should be put on the formal agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. Two months have passed and yet Mr Sharma is inexplicably delaying. In fact his spokesman has confirmed Sri Lanka will not be on the agenda of the meeting.

Under the new guidelines the Secretary General of the Commonwealth is also supposed to reflect on “the systematic violation of human rights” and the “denial of political space, such as through detention of political leaders or restriction of freedom of association, assembly or expression” (para 18 vi).

He should read the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which said survivors of the war in Sri Lanka were not even allowed to gather in churches and temples to mourn their dead. Mothers and wives of the disappeared were recently blocked from travelling to the capital for a peaceful protest to ask where their loved ones were. Journalists continue to flee or self censor. Sri Lanka is 162 of 179 countries in terms of media freedom this year, according to Reporters Without Borders.

The Human Rights Council just passed a second resolution against Sri Lanka backed by 25 countries that speaks of continuing reports of:

“enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as intimidation of and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society and journalists, threats to judicial independence and the rule of law, and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief”.

Eight Commonwealth members sponsored this Resolution: the UK, Canada, St Kitts, Cameroon, Malta, New Zealand, Australia and Cyprus. Two more who sit on the Human Rights Council voted in favour: Sierra Leone and India.

So why is the Commonwealth Secretary General not following the organisation’s own guidelines? The fact that its major meeting is due to take place in eight months in Sri Lanka is an organizational hurdle but surely values should come above logistics. Perhaps the Commonwealth isn’t that keen on reform after all.

*This article is first appeared in Huffington Post.

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    FRANCES

    “Why is the Commonwealth Secretary General not following the organisation’s own guidelines?”

    Because Mr. Kamalesh Sharma has found out all the stories you have been spinning are half-truths. First get your numbers right. Now you are saying “possibly seventy thousand” but elsewhere you have mentioned vastly different figures. Also on the pages of this very website people have been mentioning all kinds of fancy numbers.

    Also you have run out of stories to tell. So you make up another story saying “survivors of that war are still too scared to come forward in public and relate their ordeal four years later – fearing for extended family still in Sri Lanka.” No, people are scared to talk to you because you will use them for your ulterior purposes.

    Well as far as Canada is concerned, it has the largest Tamil ethnic vote bank in the diaspora and the most reprehensible Prime Minister the country ever had who will go down to any level to exploit that vote bank.

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      Rambler

      Please stop posting rubbish!

      Number of civilians killed in the Vanni war has not been formally varified. People make assumption based on various factors. Estimated deaths might vary. GOSL is blocking any tranparent and reliable mechanism to find out measured deaths

      Yes survivours are terrified to come out and tell what they want to tell. You should know how peaceful demonstrations to reclaim lands and for missing people were brutally disrupted by the military/paramilitary.

      Canada has the largest Tamil ethnic vote bank in the diaspora and the most reprehensible Prime Minister the country promptly banned the LTTE. It was the right decision and Canada did it without worrying about the vote bank…….!!

      Rambler, stop rambling and please think about growing up

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      Rajiva Wijesinha described this lady in his work press article as the most hysterical against Sri Lanka …. RW says …

      “…. She sells herself as a former BBC correspondent based in Sri Lanka and Iran. Unfortunately she seems to have no regard for truth whatsoever, and cares little for consistency either. One of her more melodramatic statements is that ‘Unable to dig bunkers because the dry sand just collapsed, women chopped up their best silk wedding saris to stitch sandbags’, despite which she later talks of .grenades being thrown into bunkers ‘where injured rebels lay, unable to flee.’ She talks of a priest whose leg was amputated, without noting that most witnesses (as cited in the US State Department Report) thought that attack was by the Tigers, angry that the priest was trying to limit their conscription.

      Frances is perhaps the most hysterical of those currently on the warpath against Sri Lanka, as I noted when she twittered madly to object to my being interviewed by the BBC on Hard Talk. But the general level of honesty of those attacking Sri Lanka is indeed shocking…..”

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        BBC journalist had been asked to leave Srilanka many many years ago.
        Srilankans would either kill journalists or keep the journalist away from the crime site. ( the worst massacre of the century did take place in Tamils area. No one is allowed to see certain places where the massacre took place- mass graves.) how many BBC reporters were there in Tamil areas when the massacre took place in 2009 compare to the publicity to Syria and Irag. The BBC is to be blamed for ignoring the extent of the crime at the early stages. Is that too difficult to understand what was and is happening in Srilanka?

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          @sinhala friend .. Fool How many BBC and western Journalist sold the story of Lies about WMD in IRAQ???????? And There are many BBC scum journalist in Lanka.. how do you think Francis got so close to the LTTE.. few nights in the wanni does one wonders i hear.. Ohh Journalist in Iraq were denied access by the USA.. When one UK ITN journalist.. Sneaked IN and Reported the truth he was accidently killed by the USA army.. Friendly fire.. And you say ‘ massacre’ 2009.. are you Talking about the cowards of the LTTE or the Human shields.. Since the 1980’s The LTTE cowards In Civilian uniforms among civilians can only fight.. Sources.. IPKF, The Broken Palmyra.. and even the civilians of the 80s and 2009.. Facts.. When Tamil civilians Broke out and told the stories how the LTTE were using them in Combat formation Visvanathan Rudrakumaran made his infamous speech ‘ THOSE TRAITORS DONT SEND A PENNY TO THEM’ but hey no bbc journalist to cover that.

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      Thank you very much Frances for this excellent article!
      The Commonwealth is an totally IRRELEVANT and useless British COLONIAL organization headed by the Queen of England that is now used by third world military dictator’s as a platform to grand stand and show off to their deprived and traumatized citizens. It should be SHUT DOWN.
      Citizens of Lanka have had to fund Rajapassa’s ego boosting extravagance on the Commonwealth of Clowns Parliamentary Circus and Commonwealth games bids.
      As the debt-ridden Sri Lanka economy crashes, there is no need for yet another Commonwealth circus in the country to boost Rajapakse’s military dictatorship and looting of public funds.
      Kamalesh Sharma an Indian national is playing the same old dirty Indian Government double speak on human rights. GOI hates human rights as much as the GoSL because its troops have committed war crimes in Kashmir and Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram, and in the Maoist belt.
      Kamalesh Sharma is a DIRTY CLOWN that is bring even more infamy on the irrelevant outfit known as the Commonwealth Circus!

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      Rambler

      Your comments on this article and others only serve to demonstrate a universal truth about the mindset of you and your ilk. Aptly described by an anthropologist of international repute, Professor Bruce Kapferer as ‘demonic’-Prof K had spent an extensive time in Sri Lanka in the 1980’s . The description of your mindset as ‘demonic’ is to be found in Kapferer’s book”Legends of People, Myths of States”.

      It is this mindset that is primarily responsible for barbaric acts perpetuated in the island of Sri Lanka 1the 1950’s and continues to-date.The victims have been both Sinhalese and Tamils.And soon the Muslims too!

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      Commonwealth failed longtime ago. When UK along with war criminal Tony Blair was not kicked out of the group. For massive war crimes during the illegal invasion of Iraq.

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    This fellow Sharma who is an Indian is very close to Sonia Ghandi and takes orders from her.

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    “Why is the Commonwealth Secretary General not following the organisation’s own guidelines.
    Because Mr. Kamalesh Sharma is taking instructions from India.

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    This is a move by the Indian Government to calm Sri Lankan government’s rhetoric against India as they have voted against Sri Lanka at the UN. India on one hand is showing its hard on Sri Lanka to satisfy the Southern Tamils in India, on the other hand its satisfying Sri Lanka by allowing Sri Lanka to have the Commonwealth meeting.

    India too is responsible for the atrocities committed in Sri Lanka and therefore India is playing safely. If there is an international inquiry then India too will come under fire.

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      Over 50% of Indian MP’s from both parties are either common criminals or murders – check it out if you like BJP; Congress etc. So what does it care about any international inquiry? Anyway this government will not last beyond 2014 and then hopefully follower of Swami Vivekananda Narendra Modi will become the PM. He is transparent and accountable and that has shocked the western journalists who wrote sick things about him and had his visa to the US cancelled. If that happens mythology may repeat in the land of Ravana but in a different way maybe another Bangladesh or state of India. Why not if it can govern Andaman and Nicobar so far away or UK having Falkland’s or Gibraltar?

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    “Well as far as Canada is concerned, it has the largest Tamil ethnic vote” Canada is a land of immigrants very cold and not kangaroo land of the thieves where you con your way through.
    It’s not Canada having the largest vote bank of ethnic Tamils. According to the Global Tamil diaspora in the West they have 270k voters same as what the TNA received. The Tamils in Canada have done very well in a short time which other races have not accomplished and become responsible citizens so every party there likes to associate with professionals and to top it the Tamils only request is Independent International Inquiry not housing, medicine, and education like the commoners. It’s the same situation in the UK but UK is the master of hypocrisy not democracy. It’s a very cold climate and you Sinhalese cannot perform and proof of that is the Tamil tea pluckers who were bought in by the British to work in that cold starting at 4:00am with bare feet and a baby. Most Tamils vote for the cause not any party- the first Tamil MP is a liberal and in the opposition like most However the centre right is not woeing them but have a bone to pick- SL detained the former PM of Canada at the airport and refused him entry- A man loved and respected by all parties of Canada. He died recently and its the promise they are keeping- you never abuse an englishman but reason out however right or wrong they are.

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      I see you still haven’t taken those ESL classes.

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      Wuliangguobinjiu or whatever

      Who allowed an ignoramus like you to advocate for Tamils? You are only causing damage. Canada has the largest Tamil diaspora. Don’t you understand the word “diaspora”? Canada’s Tamil MP is from NDP, not from the Liberal Party. It was Bob Rae, leader of the Liberal Party, who was detained at the airport in Sri Lanka. He has never been the Prime Minister of Canada. The man who was loved and respected by all parties in Canada and who died recently was the leader of the NDP Jack Layton and he was never Prime minister of Canada either. Tamils are wooing (not woeing, there is no such word in English, or may be you are trying to say the Tamils are always causing trouble/woe to everybody) all the parties all the time, but only Steven Harper, Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative Party who is so unprincipled as to bend backwards to Tamils in order to get their votes. And get this simple fact into your knucklehead: Canada has the largest ethnic Tamil vote bank in the diaspora.

      Based on your inability to get the above simple facts straight nobody is going to believe your funny statements that all Tamils are hardworking professionals even in cold weather, and Sinhalese cannot work in the cold. Are you a comedy writer? In Canada some Tamils are professionals of course, but sadly Tamils also have very high rates of crime (credit card, passport, insurance, mortgage, immigration and welfare frauds), human smuggling, drug offences, gang violence, domestic violence – you name it.

      If you want to be effective in your propaganda, be serious. Don’t joke around.

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    Frances’s Canadian threat has been fatally undermined by Canada’s undermining of the International Criminal Court. The dozy Canadians are threatening the Palestinians with unspecified “consequences” if they bring a case against Israel at the ICC.
    http://justiceinconflict.org/2013/03/13/canada-threatens-to-undermine-the-icc/

    And the same super-smart Canadians are currently walking the moral high ground against Sri Lanka’s acknowledged abuses etc which will allow Gota to lecture the Canadians about double standards.

    Frances gets ever more hysterical, saying “The scale of the crimes in Sri Lanka is so shocking..” Nah… she obviously hasn’t been out on Friday nights in London.

    The CHOG must come to SL to ask questions about illegally detained prisoners, the BBS’s activities etc.

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    are Mr Kamalesh Sharma and Vijay Nambiar relatives?
    Ban Kee Moon and Vijay Nambiar are relatives and they played a key role in 2009 massacre.

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    “Commonwealth Fails Sri Lanka Test”
    Undoubtedly it’s the hidden hand of the UK that gives Sharma the prick to do what he is doing. Because Belfast is the 2nd largest yacht building site in the world NI will stay British never Irish until UK falls like Rome fell. Presently most British are fed up with EU laws that are imposed and the cheap labour so they are clamoring to opt out and run the commonwealth. But little they know there is no master slave and even the white commonwealth were disappointed when UK joined the EU and left them dry trade wise. Now the countries down under have found their own markets and doing well while UK is on deficit- what goes round must come round. It’s just UK’s interest to have the commonwealth and its puppet rulers. Rajaporkistan has his own House of Lords man doing the PR for a couple of millions. All wars are economic in nature. UK and India are SL’s major suppliers of tourism and trade so where is the trust of any investigation coming through.
    You can be certain the meeting will be held as they had in Australia by gagging the inquiry on Rajaporkistan. Above all Camoron did not do well on his trade visit to India – the young and bright Indians demanded executive positions in exchange which is very sticky but why not because when it comes to technology its always referred to India not SA, Philippines, Malta etc. Only complaints go to Ireland- Irish eyes are smiling.

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    If the commonwealth abandons its values and principles it becomes and empty shell. More apt to call CHOGM a tea party for the colonial master and subjects. The coolies can do as they like. They are still to learn manners and etiquette, leave alone values and principles.

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    is this news site
    owned, run by the now defunct
    tamil tiger terrorists?

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      Drbde, what makes you think that this Web site is owned by defunct Tamil tiger Terrorists? Is it because all shades of opinion is allowed, unlike your master’s where all except yours are permitted? Why don’t you move out, if it is not palatable as this Website will not shut, if you do.

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    Chase this Kamalesh Sharma motherfucker from Commonwealth! This backboneless pimp is no use!

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      Are the above comments allowed? Comments policy says ‘Don’t be unpleasant’. Why use dirty words to describe a person??

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    The Commonwealth needs a conscientious SecretaryGeneral so that it can swallow bitter pills, if needs be, to become a better organisation to uplift the members.

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    Commonwealth is a toothless talkshop.

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    Whilst Ms Frances has the interests of the LTTE and its Diaspora at heart, the Commonwealth Sec General has to do the right thing by the inhabitants of at least 30 to 40 countries who have been or are affected by terrorism and or destabilization.

    It is a pity that Ms Frances has no concern whatsoever about the tens of thousands of innocent mums, dads kids and monks who were murdered in cold blood by the Diaspora financed terrorists.

    Probably her knowledge about caualties is all gained by Ms Pillay’s Report and CH4.

    Never knew Mulikavil had 30 hospitals.

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    The beauty of BBC staff is that whilst they are working for the BBC, they are unbiased in their reporting. It’s only once they leave that they can express their personal opinions.

    It’s because of the world class training we give them.

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      World class training you had given her is unparalleled in the history of journalism … Otherwise, how could she produce the kind of reporting she does day after day …
      Taste a few of her excellent reporting and the Rajiv W’s unnecessary digging …..

      “….‘Unable to dig bunkers because the dry sand just collapsed, women chopped up their best silk wedding saris to stitch sandbags’, despite which she later talks of .grenades being thrown into bunkers ‘where injured rebels lay, unable to flee.’ She talks of a priest whose leg was amputated, without noting that most witnesses (as cited in the US State Department Report) thought that attack was by the Tigers, angry that the priest was trying to limit their conscription….”

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    This woman is ..

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    One problem for Frances Harrison is that she has such a notorious record for trying to sex-up various reports from the UN and elsewhere that even when she might be writing something partly truthful, she will not be believed by those with knowledge of her writings.

    She seems to have degenerated into a sort of journalist-for-hire whose services are available to anyone who wants to stir up hatred between Tamils in South India and Sri Lankans as well as make problems for the Indian central government.

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