By Rajeewa Jayaweera –
UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon has bombastically declared, “In an ideal world, we should not need this Council. In an ideal world, states would meet the human rights obligations they have to their people. States and non-state actors would not abuse the vulnerable, persecute certain communities or silence those who speak out. In an ideal world, those who did such despicable things would face justice. Sadly, we do not yet live in an ideal world. That is why this Council is important, and why the UK is and will continue to be one of the most steadfast supporters.”
The UK Minister spoke of persecution of Religion and Beliefs in China and Russia. He also spoke of violations of human rights in Syria, Burma, North Korea, South Sudan, Libya, Iraq and finally in Sri Lanka.
According to a GoUK media release, Ahmad has stated, “Finally, to end on a more positive note, we welcome the decision of the Government of Sri Lanka to return more land to its people, and to establish an Office of Reparations and we encourage them to implement in full the commitments made to this Council to secure long-term reconciliation.” He made this hypocritical declaration recently during his address at the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
This is the Council the former US Ambassador to the United Nation, Nikki Haely, in June 2018 branded as a ‘Cesspool of Political Bias’ and a ‘Protector of Human Rights Abusers’ before announcing America’s withdrawal.
In another development, the UN’s highest court, the International Court of Justice, by an overwhelming 13 to one majority (only dissenting judge was an American) has passed judgement, UK’s administration of Chagos Islands as “an unlawful act of continuing character.” The judgement concluded, UK should end its control of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean “as rapidly as possible.”
UK’s response to the ICJ judgement has been, “This is an advisory opinion, not a judgement.” It added it would look “carefully” at the detail of the opinion, which is not legally binding.
The case was referred to the court, which hears legal submissions over international boundary disputes by the UN General Assembly. In 2017, Britain suffered a humiliating 94 to 15 defeat at the UN General Assembly attempting to prevent the Mauritius sponsored resolution to seek an advisory opinion from ICJ. A further 65 countries including France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Greece and Finland, Canada and Switzerland abstained.
UK blackmailed Mauritius in 1968 to give up its claim over Chagos Islands when negotiating for independence. It paid a princely sum of GBP 4 million to Mauritius. It was in breach of UN resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence.
The Chagos People were forcibly evicted by Britain before leasing out the island of Diego Garcia to the Americans as a military base for which Britain received a USD 14 million discount for the submarine launched Polaris missiles it obtained from the US.
What ever land occupied by the Sri Lankan military in the North or else where in the island is Sri Lankan territory. Needless to say, land occupied by the government and its branches, if illegal must be challenged in court and a solution found by either returning the land to its rightful owners or compensation paid if acquired for reasons of national security.
However, Ahmad’s assertion has no basis and only goes to confirm Nikki Haely’s statement of the UNHRC being a cesspool of political bias. If not, how can a junior minister of a nation even speak of the land issue in Northern Sri Lanka when it has exiled an entire people from their native land, gained financial advantage by leasing such land as a military facility to another country and has failed to return the Chago Islands to its rightful owners for 51 years?
Why is Britain, whilst pontificating in Geneva, “In an ideal world, states would meet the human rights obligations” ignoring the fundamental right of the Chegos People to return to their land of birth?
As we say in Sinhala, it is a classic case of ‘Loketa Purasare, gedereta madagathe’ (boasting to the world, chickeneray at home).