19 September, 2020

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Dialogue Between Government, UN and TNA Necessary To Break Deadlock

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The appointment of a new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Husseinn, presents the Sri Lankan government with an opportunity to engage with the Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner and to shed some of the negative baggage of the past.  The government’s relationship with the former UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Navanethem Pillay, was acrimonious and mistrustful.  It was bereft of the dialogue that could have helped to reconcile the differences that existed between the two sides.  The main area of dispute has been the question of an international investigation into whether war crimes took place in Sri Lanka.  The government would be hoping that the change at the top of the UN Human Rights Commission would mean that the UN investigation that has commenced might be stalled.

The appointment of an UN investigation team was not the former UN Human Rights Commissioner’s arbitrary decision.  It followed a vote by the 47 countries represented on the UN Human Rights Council. In March 2014, the majority of countries in that body approved a resolution that called for the establishment of a UN investigation into the last phase of Sri Lanka’s war to ascertain whether war crimes and other serious human rights violations took place and to recommend a course of follow up action. This being the situation, it is unlikely that the new Human Rights High Commissioner will be able to stop the investigation. The decision of a collective body will not be overridden by the personal preferences of those appointed to head that body. It is unlikely that the new UN Human Rights High Commissioner would reverse the course taken by his predecessor.

In his opening remarks, the new UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has said that ‘Moreover, I attach great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka mandated by this Council, on which OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) will report later in the session. I encourage the Sri Lankan authorities to cooperate with this process in the interests of justice and reconciliation. I am alarmed at threats currently being levelled against the human rights community in Sri Lanka, as well as prospective victims and witnesses. I also deplore recent incitement and violence against the country’s Muslim and Christian minorities.”  These words do not suggest any significant departure from the approach of the previous Human Rights High Commissioner, Navanethem Pillay.

Valuing Dialogue

However, an improved relationship with the new Human Rights Commissioner is possible if there is genuine dialogue.  Dialogue does not simply mean talking to the other with whom there is a problem to be resolved.  It also does not mean simply explaining one’s point of view to the other.  Dialogue also means listening to the other and seeking to understand the other’s point of view.  It also means looking beyond one’s own preferred solution without debunking the other’s preferred solution. Dialogue means finding a third way that is mutually acceptable to both sides.  This is unfortunately not how the Sri Lankan government has been thinking up to now. The government’s belief seems to be that the political mandate it gets by winning elections overrides all other considerations. The government’s approach to problem solving has been to present its own version of the problem and expect others to go along with it.

The government’s position with regard to the UN investigation into war crimes is to denounce it as an unjustified intrusion into the country’s sovereignty and to refuse to cooperate with it.  However, as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is part of the UN system, it is going to be harmful to Sri Lanka’s interests if its government is to go on a collision course with the UN system.  By its refusal to cooperate with the UN investigation, and denying entry visas to the investigation team, Sri Lanka is also undermining the UN system which was set up to preserve world order and peace.  This will not be an internationally acceptable course of action for Sri Lanka to follow. The government can seek to negotiate the terms on which the UN investigation is undertaken, but not by flatly rejecting and refusing to cooperate with it.   The government needs to take the opportunity presented by the appointment of a new High Commissioner for Human Rights who comes in with a fresh outlook and seek to dialogue with him on finding a third way.

It is not only with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Sri Lankan government has a new opportunity to engage in dialogue.   Another opportunity has also opened up with regard to resolving the vexed ethnic conflict within the country.   This is on account of the changes that have taken within India with the election of a new government.  The Indian government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a constructive position on the way forward for Sri Lanka to which it is prepared to give its support.  While it has not shifted from the long term Indian government position with regards to the devolution of power and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, India has also urged the TNA to engage in dialogue with the Sri Lankan government and not to look for solutions from the international community.

Political Solution

The Indian government’s invitation to the TNA to meet with its top leaders and the visit of the TNA parliamentarians to India has highlighted India’s continuing interest in ensuring that a political solution to the ethnic conflict is found in Sri Lanka. This turn of events was not anticipated by the government, which was lulled into believing that the nationalism of the new Indian Prime Minister and ruling party would resonate well with the nationalism of the Sri Lankan leadership.  There was a misplaced hope within the Sri Lankan government that a nationalist India would side with a nationalist Sri Lanka and give a subordinate position to minority rights. This view was given credence by visiting Indian intellectuals who were deemed to be close advisors to the Indian government.

The encouragement that the TNA received from the Indian government to pursue a political solution based on the principle of devolution of power as found in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, has pointed to the parameters of the possible solution. This is in conformity with the policy of earlier Indian governments. The Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, the lives of Indian soldiers lost in the vain effort to disarm the LTTE and the implementation of the devolution of power to the provinces continue to be the drivers of Indian policy towards Sri Lanka. On the other hand, India has also made it clear to the TNA that the responsibility for arriving at a settlement with the Sri Lankan government cannot be shifted to either India or the international community. The message to the TNA has been that it will have to find a solution by engaging with the Sri Lankan government, and not be disengaging with it.

The many failures of Tamil parties over the past six decades since Independence to obtain a political solution in negotiations with the Sri Lankan government have induced them to place their reliance on external powers. Even today the hope of the Tamil political leadership appears to be to find the solution to their problems through international pressure. They have even gone to the extent of openly supporting the UN investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka. But it is evident that such external pressures will be resisted by the Sri Lankan government which has long demonstrated its skill at mobilising the fears, indignation and anger of the Sinhalese majority on the harm to the national interest. Ironically, it seems that the greater the international pressure, the greater is the resistance to it from within Sri Lanka. Therefore if a solution that is mutually acceptable is to be achieved it will require dialogue between the government and TNA. The need for dialogue between the government and TNA on finding a third way corresponds to the need for such a dialogue between the government and the UN.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    2

    The govt or Raja Inc already knows probability of UNHRC finding it guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Govt not wanting to be caught pants down has now gone and recruited experts very familiar with war crimes in the name of President’s commission. Their real job is to speak to witnesses and build a defense to be used when needed.

    • 3
      2

      Jehan Perera –

      RE: Dialogue Between Government, UN and TNA Necessary To Break Deadlock

      Dialogue and Meeting Between Mahinda Rajapaksa amd Mara is Necessary To Break Deadlock.

      How long will it take?

    • 3
      2

      burt,
      All these Tamil separatist pushing the UNHRC investigation to punish MR is a waste. Even if MR is found guilty and is executed for war crimes that will bring no help to “Tamil separatism” or the so called “Tamil rights” (no body tells me what rights the Tamils do not have compared to the Sinhalese!)issue. This offensive behavior will only bring resentment from the Majority group and future SL leaders. No Sri Lankan President will favor separation of the country. The Tamil leaders and the diaspora who write here would be better off trying to negotiate something reasonable using the UNHRC and SL leaders in an amicable way.

      • 0
        2

        UNHRC investigation is called to investigate an accused crime not negotiate a deal for minorities. Justice has to be blind to be impartial and these are serious crimes therefore an investigation is a must in a civilized society irrespective of who is calling for it. If no crimes were committed the govt has nothing to worry about, its a handful that is been accused of but because the govt is protecting them the whole country is taking the blame. This issue is not between Sinhalese and Tamils but criminals and innocent civilians that were victims.
        Your asking for an amicable negotiation like telling a drug dealer that everything will be fine as long as he donates a part of his proceeds to the temple.

  • 5
    2

    “Ironically, it seems that the greater the international pressure, the greater is the resistance to it from within Sri Lanka.”

    Says Jehan Perera in his wisdom. Does he expect the international community to give in to Sri Lanka’s vehement resistance?

    Suppose the international community applies significant pressure on Sri Lanka’s lawless rogue regime, how long will they be able to resist?

    Will it resist with more authoritarianism and savage behavior?

    Suppose it the UNHCR investigation finds that genocide was committed, what next then?

    Let’s wait till the report and Mahinda is not in a hurry to solve any problem either, after all the Sinhala regimes since independence have evaded any solution. Why should Rajapakses solve it to get the blame from the Sinhala Buddhist extremists?

  • 4
    0

    “visiting Indian intellectuals”

    Who could that be?. Can this intellectual sit exams for me?

    • 6
      0

      Dr.Namal

      “Who could that be?. Can this intellectual sit exams for me?”

      Could you ask Subramanian Swamy when he comes on a bonding trip to this island.

  • 4
    8

    The guy goes on.. and on … and on .. about “political solutions”.

    The solutions are in the Parliament. Not in UN, India with Modi but with people’s reps. Furthermore, the Executive cannot make promises to “gift” constitutions without consultation of the Parliament.

    No one denied any devolution to anyone. If anyone needs devolution the solution is in the Parliament.

    It must be only in Sri Lanka where this complicated this much.

    • 4
      0

      Vibushana,

      Could you please tell us more about this –

      “No one denied any devolution to anyone. If anyone needs devolution the solution is in the Parliament. “

      Thank you very much.

  • 3
    6

    Would you recommend the Govt hold talks with Mr Anandasagaree , one of the founders of the TNA who was never a a Prabakaran supporter and wasn’t hand picked by Mr Prabakaran and his LTTE High Command and therefore has no vested interests to please the LTTE Funding Diaspora and their Western allies who want Regime Change?…

    • 2
      4

      Mr Anandasagaree does not represents Tamils. Even his son support his views. “I have disagreed fundamentally with his politics over the years.” – http://ekuruvi.com/gary-anandasangaree-2014-june/ekuruviTamilNews

      • 1
        1

        CORRECTION “Even his son support his views”
        Meant to be
        Even his son does not support his views.

        • 1
          2

          Why….

          Is he a Dalit ???

  • 2
    0

    Government must show the PTA to the TNA and not dialogue.

  • 3
    3

    Dialogue should start between Mahinda Rajapakse, Ranil Wickremasinghe, Sampanthan and Rauf Hakeem in front of UN secretary General Ban-ki-Moon, Indian PM Modi and Norweign Peace coordinator Eric Solheim. In this meeting they should discuss what was the basis agreed in 2002-2006 peace talks between Govt and LTTE, what was the assurance given by them Priome Minister Ranil and the promises given by the President to Sec. General and Indian Prime Minister on the power sharing or devolution to the North East of Sri Lanka.

    • 5
      4

      Ajith,
      You appear to be living in the stone age. Who cares about discussing peace talks of 2002-2006? Things change, those conditions or offers are null and void based on change of events and current conditions. Once Epilepsy was treated by drilling a hole in the skull. Are you saying we should stick to that kind of treatment today?
      And who is Ranil and why he discuss anything?

      • 3
        1

        So what your saying is that minorities cant have a fair deal if they are not armed and a threat, wasn’t this what created the armed struggle?

      • 1
        1

        Eusense,

        Things change. You agree. The current situation is not going to stay the same as now. The situation can become better or worse. You might get a better treatment than pre 2001 period.

        Ranil is the opposition leader representing considerable number of peace loving rational Sinhala people unlike blood thirsty racists Buddhist Sinhala people like you.

  • 1
    1

    Why cannot what is happening at all other provincial councils, be allowed to happen at the northern and eastern provincial councils for a start?
    Why, instead, is the President, through his proxies the Governors, blocking all proposals of these two councils?
    Is this not a simple solution ?

    • 2
      1

      At least in the north the govt tried all the tricks from throwing money to using the military but the people said a resounding no the Raja Inc yes men. So this is the only way of controlling with a military governor and a puppet secretary who cannot get elected even if her life depended on it.

  • 1
    1

    This is mindless nonsense. The Rajapakshes will never talk to the TNA or anybody else regarding the Tamil north. Their intention is amply demonstrated with their actions which is, to strip the north of Tamils problem solved. No Tamils or no Tamil majority and there is no more ethnic issue. The north will soon become a Sinhalese majority area. Until this happens NGOs and foreign governments can keep on paying lip service to this problem while actually doing nothing and intending to curry favor with the Rajapakshes to gain economic advantage.

  • 1
    0

    NGO Papa Jehan time to time come out with this kinds of waste talks for survival.He believes that MARA is genuine and trustworthy.He forgets the cunning tactics of Mara who even betrays his own people for his own gaining.

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