By Thambu Kanagasabai –
The opening statements of Human Rights Commissioner and Core Members (UK, Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Malawi) sum up Sri Lanka’s hollow and dismal performance and the disappointing compliance of Human Right Council’s Resolutions and Recommendations issued against Sri Lanka since October 2015.
The Commissioner of Human Rights “called on Sri Lanka to focus on deeper institutional reforms to ensure greater transparency and accountability in governance, reduce inequalities and advance reconciliation and justice for all communities”.
Her statement has confirmed and buttressed the failings of Sri Lanka to ensure discernible accountability, justice and reconciliation due to bad governance affecting all communities.
These frank and forthright allegations expose Sri Lankas’ total contemptuous disregard and cavalier attitude and humiliating respect to the noble UN Human Rights Council and its reputed High Commissioner.
This article analyzes the performances of Sri Lanka briefly since the Human Rights Resolution 30/2015 and its Recommendations along with others.
The statement of Core Group members also “Expresses concerns about Government Politicians and their supporters launching attacks on protesters at Galle Face on May 9th 2022 when they were exercising their right of freedom of expression and the perpetrators must be brought and held responsible.
“Democratic human rights, rule of law, independence to protest, impunity and corruption must be ended and solved including continuing humiliation and harassment of civil activists, groups and institutions including necessity to allow proper environment for civil societies and organizations.”
This forthright and frank statement of Core Group has without any reservations exposed Sri Lanka’ s abject failure of commitments to comply with and implement the Recommendations of UNHRC. Instead, Sri Lanka has been launching flagrant acts of human rights violations and exhibiting its obduracy and defiance of UNHRC and its Recommendations. The truth and reality is that Sri Lankas’ compliances of the UNHRC’S Resolutions and Recommendations are executed with defiant beaches of same nullifying the purposes and objectives of the Recommendations including their values.
Only two Recommendations out of more than twenty five have been carried out by Sri Lanka, one being the establishment of the Office of the Missing Persons [OMP] and the other being the passing of the Enforced Disappearances Act in 2016. However, Sri Lanka’s compliance of these recommendations as usual has ended in a fiasco as these two offices have failed miserably to serve the victims of the disappeared as one victim recently remarked that not even the whereabouts of one person has been discovered and identified so far. It appears that currently these two offices are in a state of coma without any revival.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s entrenched culture of impunity is also still in full swing. Instead of prosecuting and punishing the alleged war criminals, most of them being security personnel, promotions and decorations are being showered on them as punishments for the alleged commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity etc.. The recent promotions of Savendra de Silva as Chief of Staff, an accused war criminal as General and Lieutenant General Chandra Wickremasinghe as Major General and Vikum Liyanage being promoted as the new Army Commander who is also alleged to have committed war crimes when commanding the 14th and 8th Divisions of Army as Major General show the low depths of criminal and judicial system in Sri Lanka.
As stated earlier on many occasions by human rights activist and human rights Commissioners accountability and justice is simply an anathema in Sri Lankas’ political system and history which is only aiming to make Sri Lanka as a country belonging to Sinhalese and Buddhists as claimed by many south politicians including some Buddhist Priests.
To state briefly, Sri Lanka has failed to implement the majority of the Recommendations including the Core ones. For example;
* No independent, internal mechanism has been set up so far as this is a dead promise from the very beginning.
* The Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1978 will not be repealed as promised and it continues to be vigorously applied mostly targeting the Tamils, Muslims, Political and Human Rights Activists and those who raise their voices against the present government.
In this respect, foreign minister G. L. Peiris as usual and habitual unfolded a tissue of lies at Geneva on June 13, 2022. The most diabolical lies are when he said:
“We have made significant progress in some key areas like the releasing of 92% of civilian lands seized and occupied by the military”.
The truth is that the military is still occupying about 28,990 Acres of forcibly seized private lands. Adding insult to injury, Buddhist Maha Sangha has requested the Army to start cultivating those seized lands, dealing a body blow to the livelihood of the owners of those private lands.
The Minister also said that the “Office of Missing Persons has met 83% of persons invited by them”. Assuming this is true, the hidden truths are that so far not a single person captured and or surrenderd to the security forces has been identified and produced alive as the mother of a disappeared victim recently lamented her grief regarding her son who surrendered to the security forces. The other truth is that not one single case has been resolved so far.
The recent statement of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirms the sorry state of Human Rights in Sri Lanka when it “When it called on Quad countries(Australia, India, Japan and USA) to stand together this year at the Human Rights Council when the Body receives “HR Commissioner’s report on war crimes committed during “Sri Lanka’s civil war”. Diplomatic unity would help demonstrate the Quad’s commitment to Accountability and respect for International Humanitarian Laws.” (Tamil Guardian of June 16, 2022).
There is no doubt that the UN Human Rights Commissioner is fully cognizant of the persistent and continuous failings and breaches of Sri Lanka of its commitments to comply with the HRC recommendations and the blatant lies poured out by the Foreign Minister will neither hold water nor be bought by any country which upholds Accountability, Justice, Human Rights and Rule of Law.
It is hoped that the Human Rights Council while living up to its standing, status and reputation will unreservedly and unhesitatingly initiate whatever steps available and necessary to mete out justice to the war victims and rein in Sri Lanka to ensure the respect and the application of Human Rights to every citizen in Sri Lanka by defeating the dilly-dallying, procrastinating and dismissive deceptive tactics of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s much touted Reconciliation among all sections of communities was once again breached with impunity when on June 16, 2022, despite Court’s ban on erection of any statues, several Buddist Monks accompanied by the Army with the participation of Archeological Commissioner attempted to consecrate a Buddha’s Statue at an ancient Hindu Temple site at Mullaitivu Kurunthur Malai area on June 11, 2022 which is an act of cultural genocide. However, this attempt to kill the reconciliation was thwarted by the public and Tamil politicians and some Tamil members of parliament.
In this respect, the letter of the Head of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Quad countries rightly and correctly highlights the important roles of these countries when the Committee requested them to “Take a more proactive role in addressing Sri Lanka’s political and economic crisis”.(Tamil Guardian June 16, 2022).
*Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM [London] Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka & President, Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Organization.