24 May, 2022

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Diplomacy To Encourage Change On The Ground

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government would be relieved by the non-critical assessment by visiting UK Minister for South Asia, United Nations and the Commonwealth, Lord Tariq Ahmad of his visit to Sri Lanka. He has commended the progress Sri Lanka had made in human rights and in other areas as well, such as environmental protection. He has pledged UK support to the country. According to the President’s Media Division “Lord Tariq Ahmad further stated that Sri Lanka will be able to resolve all issues pertaining to human rights by moving forward with a pragmatic approach.” The minister, who had visited the north and east of the country and met with war-affected persons tweeted that he “emphasised the need for GoSL to make progress on human rights, reconciliation, and justice and accountability.”

Prior to the minister’s visit, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had announced in Parliament that his government had not violated nor would support “any form of human rights violations.” This was clearly an aspirational statement as the evidence on the ground belies the words. Significantly he also added that “We reject racism. The present government wants to safeguard the dignity and rights of every citizen in this country in a uniform manner. Therefore I urge those politicians who continue to incite people against each other for narrow political gains to stop doing so.” This would be welcome given the past history especially at election time.

The timing of Lord Ahmad’s visit and the statements made regarding human rights suggest that the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, commencing on February 28, loomed large in the background. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be presenting a written report on that occasion. A plethora of issues will up for review, including progress on accountability for crimes, missing persons, bringing the Prevention of Terrorism Act in line with international standards, protecting civil society space and treating all people and religions without discrimination.

The UK government has consistently taken a strong position on human rights issues especially in relation to the ethnic conflict and the war which led to large scale human rights violations. The UK has a large Tamil Diaspora who are active in lobbying politicians in that country. As a result some of the UK parliamentarians have taken very critical positions on Sri Lanka. Lord Ahmad’s approach, however, appears to be more on the lines of supporting the government to do the needful with regard to human rights, rather than to condemn it. This would be gratifying to the architects of the government’s international relations and reconciliation process led by Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris.

Reaching Out

In the coming week the government will be launching a series of events in the North of the country with a plethora of institutions that broadly correspond to the plethora of issues that the UNHRC resolution has identified. War victims and those adversely affected by the post war conditions in the North and livelihood issues that arise from the under-developed conditions in those areas will be provided with an opportunity to access government services through on-the-spot services through mobile clinics. The programme coordinated by the Ministry of Justice called “Adhikaranabhimani” is meant to provide “ameliorated access to justice for people of the Northern Province.”

Beginning with Kilinochchi and Jaffna there will be two-day mobile clinics in which the participating government institutions will be the Legal Aid Commission, Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, Office for Reparations, Office on Missing Persons, Department of Debt Conciliation Board and the Vocational Training Authority to mention some of them. Whether it is by revising 60 laws simultaneously and setting up participatory committees of lawyers and state officials or in now launching the “Adhikaranabhimani” Justice Minister Ali Sabry has shown skill at large scale mobilization that needs to be sustained. It is to be hoped that rather than treating them as passive recipients, the governmental service providers will make efforts to fulfill their need for justice, which means that the needs of victims and their expectations are heard and acknowledged.

It will also be important for the government to ensure that these activities continue in the longer term. They need to take place not only before the Geneva sessions in March but also continue after them. The conducting of two-day mobile clinics, although it will send a message of responsiveness, will only be able to reach a few of the needy population. The need is for infusing an ethic of responsiveness into the entirety of the government’s administrative machinery in dealing with those problems that reaches all levels, encompassing villages, divisions, districts and provinces, not to mention the heart of government at the central level.

The government’s activities now planned at the local level will draw on civil society and NGO participation which is already happening. Government officials are permitting their subordinate officials to participate in inter-ethnic and inter religious initiatives. It is in their interest to do so as they would not wish to have inter-community conflicts escalate in their areas which, in the past, have led to destruction of property and life. They also have an interest in strengthening their own capacities to understand the underlying issues and developing the capacity to handle tensions that may arise through non-coercive methods.

Building Peace

Many of the institutions that the government has on display and which are going to the North to provide mobile services were established during the period of the previous government. However, they were not operationalized in the manner envisaged due to political opposition. Given the potency of nationalism in the country, especially where it concerns the ethnic conflict, it will be necessary for the government to seek to develop a wide consensus on the reconciliation process. The new constitution that is being developed may deal with these issues and heed the aspirations of the minorities, but till that time the provincial council system needs to be reactivated through elections.

Sooner rather than later, the government needs to deal with the core issue of inter-ethnic power sharing. The war arose because Sinhalese politicians and administrators took decisions that led to disadvantaging of minorities on the ground. There will be no getting away from the need to reestablish the elected provincial council system in which the elected representatives of the people in each province are provided with the necessary powers to take decisions regarding the province. In particular, the provincial administrations of the Northern and Eastern provinces, where the ethnic and religious minorities form provincial majorities, need to be reflective of those populations.

At the present time, the elected provincial councils are not operational and so the provincial administration is headed by central appointees who are less likely to be representative of the sentiments and priorities of the people of those provinces. In the east for instance, when Sinhalese encroach on state land the authorities show a blind eye, but when Tamils or Muslims do it they are arrested or evicted from the land. This has caused a lot of bitterness in the east, which appears to have evaded the attention of the visiting UK minister as he made no mention of such causes for concern in his public utterances. His emphasis on pragmatism may stem from the observation that words need to be converted to deeds.

A video put out by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirms a positive approach with regard to engaging with the Sri Lankan government. In it Lord Ahmad says “the last three days illustrated to me that we can come together and we can build a constructive relationship beyond what are today with Sri Lanka. We can discuss the issues of difference and challenge in a candid but constructive fashion.” Lord Ahmad’s aspiration for UK-Sri Lankan relations needs to be replicated nationally in government-opposition relations, including the minority parties, which is the missing dimension at the present time.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    2

    “We reject racism. The present government wants to safeguard the dignity and rights of every citizen in this country in a uniform manner”
    Does it help when the police produce two confessions from two different people over the All Saints bomb, and arrest a third with air guns and water pistols?
    Apparently the police are trying to pin the bomb on the Catholic Church.

    • 10
      5

      Trying to discredit church by arresting caretaker is the threat to Cardinal to stop asking justice for the innocents killed by easter bombs before elections. But karmic justice is waiting.

    • 0
      0

      old codger

      Breaking News:
      Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa underwent a minor spinal surgery at the Nawaloka Hospital on Monday and is recovering well from the procedure, health sources told Daily Mirror today.

      The spinal procedure called Laminectomy which lasted for over an hour was performed by a leading orthopaedic surgeon who practices in the UK but is of Sri Lankan origin, Professor Hilali Noordeen.
      …..
      ….
      https://thesinhalanews.lk/2022/01/25/pm-undergoes-minor-spinal-surgery-sri-lanka-news/

      It appears that we have to send all our high-achieving professionals abroad for safe keeping. Else those professionals would have been demoralised and destroyed by dumb ass colleagues.

      I wonder why Mahinda didn’t request the public racist Channa Jayasumana to perform the operation as he too was trained abroad in the UK?

      The Hindu God from India has sent a British Muslim Surgeon to Perform a difficult operation on a Sinhala/Buddhist while SJ’s Chinese rulers are watching ….

      I wish him a speedy recovery and early retirement.

      Was our Surgeon General Shavendra directing Professor Hilali Noordeen as to how best to operate on Mahinda?
      I am curious.

      Eagle Blind Eye must have gone to Nallur in Jaffna to pray for Mahinda.

      • 0
        0

        Native,
        Haven’t you noticed that many good Sinhala Buddhists prefer to send their offspring to evil schools like St.Thomas’ or St. Bridget’s?

  • 10
    1

    I wish …….. Buddha, Christ, Mohamed and Ranil Wickramasinghe was never born.

    It would’ve been a much better world. …………. People would have had to take ownership of their crimes.

    • 3
      1

      ” I wish …….. Buddha, Christ, Mohamed and Ranil Wickramasinghe was never born. ”
      nimal, spare me a chance to take a different route and to do so, I need to remove the nasty, foxy crook Ranil out of that list. So, my assumption will be, failed or successful, outdated by millenniums or relevant, the others attempted to guide human society within their possible capacity. The question is how big a flat balloon can be blown, before it breaks? In Tamil they say, anything in the pot only can come out when you pick with a ladle. A man’s perception of justice is born in his/her heart at the time of his birth. There is a limit the in-sincerity can be educated and eliminated within the constraint of resources available to human beings. Ramakrishna said it is not possible to set fire on fresh wood. If you give me rice, I can make Pittu for you in two hours. If you give me a rock, what do I do? If you are a mother lioness, you would try to protect the calf after hunting the mother deer for food.

    • 0
      0

      If one claims who is a descendant of a woman who slept with a lion, there is no wetness in those who create these lies to destroy human society. If you want to agree with me unto this, how do you expect Buddha to move Jehan PhD or Ranil’s thoughts? Jehan PhD advised the New King to take the hand of Lord Neasby to defeat the British effort in UNHRC to investigate the war crime. Here, he is celebrating that with the mobile service, in the month of UNHRC sitting, the Tamils’ need for Justice is knocked out. Lutheran Pastor, poet Martin Nemollier is more prophetic to Langkang than Buddha, because he predicted that Viyathmaha will roast the Sinhala Buddhists in a famine in a year like 2022. This is the destiny we sought from 1948. Jehan PhD has reached his comfort zone. So, he is unwilling to abandon it. Unless the impunity that Jehan PhD and Ranil Mahata like the ones pamper and protect is destroyed, Lankawe history is at an end.

    • 1
      0

      Buddha, Christ, Mohamed and Ranil Wickramasinghe…
      An impressive line-up!

  • 7
    3

    Have you not read lorad agameds twitter message
    You prefer to rely on war criminals media division

  • 9
    4

    It’s not just the Tamils, today Sandya Eknaligoda went to Kali Amman Temple in Modera to invoke curse on those who were responsible for the disappearance of her husband. The poor lady feeling helpless and hopeless shaved her head in conducting such ritual. Now where will MR and GR go, to safeguard them from curse striking ???

  • 12
    2

    I am a bit shocked to note that Lord Tariq has congratulated the Govt for its progress in human rights. We all know even in the recent past how racism has been spread by the Govt. First by appointing Thug Gnanasara as Chair of the committee, not appointing any Tamil speaking members to this committee, not allowing those who died to be remembered in the North, etc. Further, we also note that all senior appointments made by the President including Judges, only Sinhalese and Tamils are not given the same proportion as the percentage of Tamils in the whole population. Is Lord Tariq so blind?

  • 3
    2

    They way you are trying to white wash GOTHPAIYAS Double talk bull shit ITS LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO BE APPOINTED AS ASSISTANT SPOKESMEN TO MR.GILL GILL GOYABALS PERIS.

  • 2
    7

    Their present Indian flag represent King Dharmaahoka. This king is is not Indian but a Sinhla king that lived in the Eastern regions of the island. When the British rewrote Sri Lanka’s history they gave away the Buddha and all associated history to India. This includes King Dharmaahoka. The reconcilliation needed between UK and India will be huge and unprecedented. Everything from the Indian flag to teching materials at schools will have to be changed.

    • 0
      0

      Jambu,
      Absolutely spot on.
      The earth too is not a globe, it is flat.

  • 3
    2

    “Diplomacy To Encourage Change On The Ground”

    Even before opening the piece ……… when I read the title, I knew who had written it ……….

    I suppose, everyone in Lanka is corrupt to the core ………. except the animals in the jungles ……… even that, one can’t be sure, these days ……..

    • 1
      0

      nimal,
      ‘The Title revealed who the author is’, is identical to my reaction.
      Not just now; Jehan Perera causes such a reaction in me, every time!

    • 0
      2

      “I suppose, everyone in Lanka is corrupt to the core”
      It may be precise to speak for one’s self.

  • 0
    0

    ”…. government had not violated nor would support “any form of human rights violations”, “We reject racism. The present government wants to safeguard the dignity and rights of every citizen in this country in a uniform manner. Therefore I urge those politicians who continue to incite people against each other for narrow political gains to stop doing so”

    Seriously? Do people really believe this rubbish?

    In the 80s, the UK govt. paid millions to an ex GM VP to build a car factory in Northern Ireland. Every time a govt. official visited the factory to check the work in progress at various stages, he was shown a part finished prototype of another British super car which was actually in production else where. The UK govt. was taken for a ride & it looks Lord Ahmad is being taken for a ride as well. If I remember correctly, the Commonwealth even wanted SL out after MR became its head. Has our record really been better since then?

  • 1
    0

    A handful of people like Nelson Mandela who let the white supremacy oppressor in his country to live side by side with ab origins of South Africa. Therefore, relatively less post colonial issues compared to other african countries like Zimbabwe. In Sri Lanka, the acting colonial masters of English (tamils) decorate all high positions of thier administration pave way for the Sinhala people to work under them. Post independent era, sinhalese forcibly or by merit reverse that situation and make the tamils work under them or listen to majority orders. This mentality and woes among communities not going to go easily. So any issues including Human Rights which closely link with human behaviours and animal instinct within ourselves never let to create a peaceful environment. So it’s a waste of time without a charismatic and courageous leader like Nelson Mandela who can think about all communities and sincierity in his/her action. All what we can do is dream and pray for a gifted leader like him born in Sri Lanka to take up the political leadership.

  • 1
    0

    Some commentator has brought it here already. I couldn’t resist so I am following it. It is widely reported in media that Sandhya has sacrificed her hair to Colombo, Kali Temple. Amman. This is not Old Rowdy flying private jet to Thirupathi or Ranil donate equal wight of gold to Thirupathi. Unlike men, Women sacrificing their hair to goddess Kali is extremely rare, even in Hindus. In my case, this is the first time I heard a Buddhist lady doing that. So many has sacrificed their wealth, happiness, properties, and many more they owned to bring a life to this Island. Local suffering and pain has surpasses to unbearable level Time to International Community to end their spectator status and act on the International Investigation and bring justice to the victims.

    • 0
      0

      Well said Mallai , amidst JP is discussing diplomacy and change on the ground like pretending to tweak PTA just before Geneva Sessions.

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