18 September, 2018

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Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu On The Resolution In Geneva And Its Discontents

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Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu is the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, the institutional anchor of Groundviews. He is today one of three human rights defenders senior government ministers consider traitors and would like to, as in ancient times, kill, and, inter alia,break the limbs of. Though Sri Lanka’s foreign minister distanced himself from these remarks, the President and his brother, the all-powerful Secretary of Defence, have not expressed a single word of condemnation, or distanced themselves from the minister’s comments, who has openly and repeatedly said he derives his legitimacy from the Rajapaksa’s.

Much of this hate and harm directed against Dr. Saravanamuttu and other key human rights defenders of late has been on account of their participation at the recently concluded 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, and in particular, supporting a US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka. There hasn’t been much informed debate and discussion within Sri Lanka on the contents and genesis of this resolution. Many who joined the protests against the resolution in Sri Lanka, and particularly in Colombo, didn’t even know what they were protesting against. State media launched, and to date, continues with, an incredibly vicious campaign of hate speech not seen since Sri Lanka lost the GSP+ status, which was also due to Sri Lanka’s non-cooperation with, as Dr. Saravanamuttu noted at the time, “what was effectively termed an affront to national sovereignty and pride”. The same ignorance, misplaced patriotism and flawed logic seemingly animated foreign policy and engagement over the US resolution in Geneva.

When Dr. Saravanamuttu is asked as to why anyone should believe his take on, and indeed, support of the US resolution in Geneva, he goes into how the resolution came about and the non-participation of the government in its framing despite an invitation by the US administration. He also flags the history of commissions in Sri Lanka, including a number set up under the present administration, which have failed to result in or influence any meaningful reform of change. We move on to three key questions – the fears of UN interference in domestic affairs as a consequence of the resolution, the perceived hypocrisy of the US in tabling such a resolution against Sri Lanka, when it’s own human rights record is far more blemished and suspect, and why the fullest implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations is championed by those, such as Dr. Saravanamuttu, who when the final report came out, flagged deep flaws and silences over, amongst other issues, the meaningful investigation of allegations of war crimes.

We then talk about how far removed Sri Lanka’s domestic politics and sentiment is from international advocacy and scrutiny of the country’s human rights record, and how whipping up the basest emotions of a largely ill-informed public through propaganda can help Sri Lanka really address outstanding concerns over governance, human rights and accountability into the future. Dr. Saravanamuttu also flags the central challenge of human rights advocacy today, where criticism of government is conflated with, and perceived to be criticism of country.

From this, we move on to address the fall-out of the growing sentiment from government that because the LLRC’s final report has somehow over-stepped its mandate, its implementation will be piecemeal. We also look at what government and some other commentators of late have noted, which is that the US resolution has already led to a hardening of the regime’s stance on reconciliation, and increased the pushback against implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations.

Dr. Saravanamuttu then addresses the question as to why there isn’t greater public agitation and demand for the implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations, and why there isn’t even interest in getting to know the contents of the final report, which to date haven’t been distributed by the government in Sinhala or Tamil (Editors note: Read Who really supports reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka?).

Even though the three human rights defenders who in the past couple of weeks have suffered the brunt of the hate speech campaign published a letter clarifying their position (Counter-productive propaganda and human rights in Sri Lanka), the attacks continue. We ask Dr. Saravanamuttu why, in the fact of such a vicious and violent response from government, he continues in his advocacy for human rights.

Towards the end of the interview, Dr. Saravanamuttu looks at the possible implications for Sri Lanka’s political stability and economic growth over the non-implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations. We also pose to him the usual response from government over the insistence of meaningful steps towards reconciliation – that it is being unfair to a government which saw the end to a nearly 30 year old war, that steps and measures are in fact being taken but under-appreciated, and that the implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations will take money the government does not have. Finally, Dr. Sarvanamuttu addresses the perception that international advocacy supporting the US resolution in Geneva and the full implementation of the LLRC recommendation is actually a guise for regime change, and ousting the incumbent government from power.

To watch the video click here 

For video of interview along same lines in Sinhala, please click here or view it directly on Vimeohere.

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Latest comments

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    Well Done Dr Sara!

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    “There hasn’t been much informed debate and discussion within Sri Lanka on the contents and genesis of this resolution. Many who joined the protests against the resolution in Sri Lanka, and particularly in Colombo, didn’t even know what they were protesting against. State media launched, and to date, continues with, an incredibly vicious campaign of hate speech not seen since Sri Lanka lost the GSP+ status, which was also due to Sri Lanka’s non-cooperation with, as Dr. Saravanamuttu noted at the time, “what was effectively termed an affront to national sovereignty and pride”. The same ignorance, misplaced patriotism and flawed logic seemingly animated foreign policy and engagement over the US resolution in Geneva.” IGNORANCE, MISPLACED PATRIOTISM and FLAWED LOGIC seemingly animates our own contributors as well :(

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    This interview fails! on many accounts:

    1. Sara should be interviewed by one of his critiques not by Sanjana. This is no difference to Namal being interviewed by the Hindu or worse President giving an interview to the ITN

    2. To me, beside all the technical aspect of Geneva, there were only two fundamental questions:

    a). Why does Paikiyasothy Saravanamuttu (I think it should spell Saravanamuththu-சரவணமுத்து-meaning a peal from Saranavanabawa- where Lord Murugan resides, not
    Muttu-முட்டு which has many other meanings in Tamil)-
    worry about HR in Lanka, while the majority of Sinhala Buddhists and their Maha Sangha are not ?

    to which Sara says his values and the school he attended..
    the question is there are others who attend the same school but work differently. This is an issue of one’s moral and ethical conviction. They do not just spring but embedded and cultivated. Sara out of his (far) liberal ideology refuses to accept that these are modern liberal values flowing from the ‘post-protestant’ social contracts under which teh contemporary west is designed and functioning . As against this the
    fundamental teachings of Theravada Buddhism urges us to withdraw from society and seek our own salvation and not to involve in a world any way full of sorrow and suffering. While caring for others may have some room in Theravadian teaching , social salvation is not. That is why it differs from Mahayaana
    I think Sanjana and Sara both avoid the hard question

    b) Why, in the south there is no major civil mobilization against such social/governance/HR issues?

    Sara says the ordinary are very busy fighting their daily survival! then by implication Sara and Sanjana are above ordinary or supra civilians whose daily survival is well established?

    it is not difficult to assume that Sara may be drawing an international NGO salary while Sanjana comes closer to that.

    The core issues is NOT how much Sara earns. Because Sara can be proud that he has NOT taken a single $ as salary from the tax payer’s money in Lanka for the last 20 + years. ( I assume his salary is paid by donors). The issue is that there are others in Lanka, especially the political machinery who draw an absolutely unjustified salary and perks
    ( has anyone seen independently audited expenses of the President’s office and other senior Cabinet ministers?)
    and why other tycoons like Harry Jayawardena and the likes who are making billions from a country that is fractured and failing? Instead factory workers, fishermen and university students come forward to protest and got shot?

    it is not the being busy with survival! it is the conviction that protesting ( and fighting is needed) is the only option. The real fact is that majority of Sinhala Buddhists have not come to the conviction that they need to improve their socio-politics on these values

    It is deep rooted religio-anthropology

    without understanding and welding with that indigenous ontology
    Sara, Sanjana, Gevena, UNHRC and many others can only be distant voices in the wilderness.

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      I agree with Suren, Sanjana shouldn’t have interviewed him. He is a paid CPA staff member and YTV also a NGO which subjected to this on going hate campaign.The claim that other media are not interested to cover this issue cannot be acceptable one.Dr Sara can write any news paper, he is already writing a weekly column. Besides I don’t see much difference between Saravanamuttu and Mahinda Rajapaksa. He gave us a talk last week at CPA exactly the way Rajapaksa talk. emotional blackmail. he said if anybody has any question come and ask him. who is going to question him.we can’t question him. we are just employees of this organisation. we are not paid to talk Human Rights. Our duties are different. But we can’t walk in the street because of Dr’s paid HR avocasy. The claim of his education is a failed one too. I don’t think it’s related to his university education. If it is true why not Sjaith Premadasa talk this issue? why not Dr Sara’s own sister who studied London School Of Economics with him is not talking human rights?? This is rubbish.

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      With better education and understanding, in time there will be many more people in the future, joining Sara and Sanjana in the wilderness, and then the wilderness will no longer be a wilderness…

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        I think it is too easy to dismiss the problem as one of religio-anthropology. Sinhalese culture has played a significant part in post-independence politics and SL has a tradition of being perhaps one of the most politically aware cultures in south Asia. Sri Lankan society has not always been politically apathetic. The present apathy may well have come about as a result of the civil war during which successive government regimes became increasingly authoritarian with the1978 Constitution providing the watershed moment. But watch as an already failing economy collapses and the community is made to bear the brunt. Political awareness will be reawakened…

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        Shehan,
        I doubt it is education, if so this cabinet is of the most educated
        ( 4 professors, 3 PhDs ) and teh parliamnet is full of “lawyers”

        Lanka’s has one of the highest literacy rates in South Asia. Beside many of the hardened advocates such as Champika, Dayan, Malinda, are at least with one university degree!

        Beliving education will change the condition is a missionary attitude and that where the INGOS go wrong. It is more fundamental than that!

        One cannot change a DNA by applying facial cream or wearing a barefoot sarong.

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      I doubt the ‘apathy’ thesis. Sinhalas are active politically. they still contribute to about 70% voter turnover. They agitate when they are convinced, – they fought one of the bloodiest, longest and ruthless terror group for 30 years and won.

      It is to do with their selection of the cause they would rally around
      and the dependent variable that triggers such mobilization

      HR, equality, democracy are still not in the priority, that is after having one of the longest (since 1927), voter based democratic ”mechanisms”

      Why?

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    Suren has given a useful reply.I don’t want to waste my time on someone who makes a living out of human rights.So i will make it brief.This Paki character is a fraud.He is shedding crocodile tears on behalf of the Tamils.He talks about human rights in the comfort of air conditioned five star comfort.Has this fellow given one single bottle of water to a Tamil refugee?If he is genuinely interested in the welfare of the Tamils,he should get a mandate from those who claims that he represent.His human rights activities are limited to a computer and having fun in foreign countries.
    During CBK’s tenure,he didn’t care a damn about Tamils.Instead he was dining,wining and dancing with CBK at five star joints.In the guise of human rights he is fattening his bank account.Just another conman.

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    Great spin….but we had the same kind of half-truths, full tosses, deliberate silence on the uncomfortable and language-twists from this man throughout the 90s and until about 2005, courtesy both state and private media and countless forums. Didn’t get them anywhere. Saravanamuttu, when he can’t take criticism (i.e. he has no answer), calls it ‘intimidation’ and ‘vilification’. During the side-events in Geneva, he kept him mouth shut for the most part. Debate and discussion are not his strong points, behind-closed-doors machination…he’s an ace at it.

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