19 April, 2019

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Early Warning On Likely Voting Pattern In Geneva And Its Remedy

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The opportunity that President Mahinda Rajapaksa may have had last week to visit New Delhi and canvas Indian government support for the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva had to be abandoned due to protests that erupted from Tamil Nadu state in South India. The President’s brief trip triggered protests in Tamil Nadu as well as in New Delhi and Tirupati over allegations that he was denying Tamils in his country equal rights. The President’s declared purpose in visiting India was to go on a religious pilgrimage to the place of Enlightenment of the Buddha in the north of India and to a Hindu temple in the south of India.

It was the timing of the visit that gave rise to speculation that the primary purpose was otherwise.  The Sri Lankan government would be keen on ensuring Indian support for itself this time in Geneva.  On the last occasion in March 2012, the Indian vote went in favour of the US-sponsored resolution, much to the dismay of the Sri Lankan government.  The Indian vote was seen as a breach of trust by Sri Lanka’s closest neighbor.  But of more consequence was the moral support that India provided to the United States.  There is no doubt that undecided third world countries were more prepared to yield to US pressure after the Indian decision to vote in favour of the resolution became known to them.

This time around the government’s hope will be that India breaks ranks and does not support the resolution that the US is preparing.  A face-to-face meeting between President Rajapaksa and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have provided the Sri Lankan government with the opportunity to exercise pressure for such an Indian concession.  However, the manifestation of public opposition in India to the President’s visit was dramatic.  Despite the security arrangements and prohibitory orders, protestors managed to reach close to the road route before the Sri Lankan president’s convoy passed and raised slogans.  In both New Delhi and Tirupati, police arrested over 100 protesters.

In Chennai, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha blamed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the watered down US resolution at the UN Human Rights Council meet last year.  The chief minister urged the Indian government to table a resolution on violation of human rights in Sri Lanka at the UN.  This is similar to what happened in March 2012 also where the Indian government cited domestic compulsions in justifying its act of voting against Sri Lanka on the issue of the US sponsored resolution.  The furor over the President’s visit to India provides the Sri Lankan government with a useful early warning as to the pressures on the Indian government and how it is likely to vote on this occasion too.

GOVERNMENTAL DEFENSES

On the other hand, the Sri Lankan government has also been active in fortifying its defences against the prospective US-sponsored resolution. This includes the sustained campaign to win friends and influence fellow third world countries by setting up newly forged diplomatic relations with them.  Government leaders notably External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris have been making cogent arguments for the benefit of members of international bodies, educating them about the meaning of their charters and how they include the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

A second governmental initiative has been to provide progress reports that highlight the implementation of its action plan pertaining to the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.  The UN Human Rights Council resolution of March 2012 called on the Sri Lankan government to implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC.  For a still unexplained reason only about 80 of the LLRC recommendations numbering over 160 have been mentioned in the government’s action plan.  Only 3 of the 18 LLRC recommendations that called for participation by civil society have been included in the government’s action plan.

The government recently invited foreign diplomats to a presentation of its implementation of its action plan.  It is ironic that the government has neither discussed progress report with the general public or with civil society nor has given publicity to it.  Neither has the government publicized nor distributed copies of the LLRC report and its recommendations to the general public in the Sinhala and Tamil languages, even though  these are the official languages of the country in which the vast majority of people are conversant, unlike the English language which is accessible to only a relatively small minority.  It is doubly ironic that a government as nationalist as the present one should be so intent on catering to the international community and not to its own people.

Those in the government charged with implementing the LLRC recommendations, or even the limited number of recommendations of the government’s action plan, ought to read and internalize what the LLRC report so earnestly states. The LLRC commissioners were handpicked from amongst the most eminent of Sri Lankan public servants and professionals. In their report they provided a methodology of implementation that involves the whole of Sri Lankan society.  The government has to bear the main responsibility for implementing the recommendations, but in addition there are recommendations that are addressed to the political parties, religious leaders, civil society organizations and artistes.

TRUSTING PEOPLE

At the time that President Rajapaksa was experiencing the hostility of Tamil activists in India, I was in Batticaloa in the east where I was reminded of the need to work in reconciliation with all communities.  A Muslim participant at a discussion on the LLRC that I was participating in said he wanted to show me the town of Kattankudy.  I thought he would show me its new developments and prosperity.  But instead he took me to the Meera Grand Jumma Masjeed where in 1990 over a hundred worshippers were killed by the LTTE.  He also showed me the bullet holes in the walls that had not been closed up and which serve as a reminder of wounds that have not been healed.  In the mosque I met a Moulavi who had been a little boy with his father when it was attacked, and saw his father being killed.  So would it be in the case of other massacres that Tamils and Sinhalese also have experienced.

It is worth noting that the LLRC report itself makes the point that reconciliation is not only implementing a series of administrative actions.  It is also a process of healing to be administered with empathy, care and compassion.  The report also calls for a full understanding of the grievances of the victims and the intensity and magnitude of their suffering.  All parties to the conflict need to acknowledge their part in what happened and express remorse for the suffering that was inflicted on so many people.  There needs to be special attention given to the personal tragedies and traumas of the victims and their families for which civil society organizations are best suited.

The government’s failure to take the people of the country into its confidence on the issue of the LLRC report is all the more perplexing as it is the outcome of a process initiated at the instance of President Rajapaksa himself.  Whether in Batticaloa in the east or Matara in the south, the participants at discussions on the LLRC report are impressed by its wisdom and ask why the government is not implementing it in full.  This is testimony to the spirit of moderation and justice that continues to inhabit society at all levels but which has been suppressed by the aggressive nationalism brought about by the war and its triumphal aftermath.

In this context the national interest will be better served if instead of being preoccupied with justifying itself to the international community, the government focuses its attention on creating awareness about the LLRC report and the reasons for implementing its recommendations amongst the Sri Lankan public.  Sri Lankans of all ethnicities want a new future that overcomes and transcends the past. The moral power and achievements that flow out of implementing the LLRC recommendations with people’s participation will speak for themselves in a manner that the international community will have to recognize and respect. Deeds always speak louder than words.

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Latest comments

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    Hey Jehan, thanks for this but why don’t you NGO wallahs organize a protest against Commonwealth (CHOGM) support to the Rajapassa dictatorship?
    The Commonwealth of Nations aka. Commonwealth of Clowns is an obsolete, irrelevant British colonial remnant which even the British do NOT take seriously!
    The Commonwealth of Clowns is an organization that gives third world dictators a stage to STRUT ON and feel important, headed as it is by KS a national of the wanna be South Asia regional super power Indian which is a basket case of war with its own people’s Human Rights in Kashmir, Northeast, and the Maoist belt that traverses 12 states…
    The collusion between third world dictatorships in Asia and Africa to keep this Commonwealth Circus going is to boost their egos.
    Sri Lankan Tax payers have spent massive sums on Commonwealth Games circuses – bids and Commonwealth Parliament circus in Colombo last year with no payback. Latimar House rules are not worth the paper they are printed on! The Rajapakse Dictatorship has gone from strength to strength in Lanka with support from Commonwealth of Clowns supports viz. impeachment of CJ, militarization and power grab by Rajapassa family Dictatorship/

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    Hope you translate and publish your articles in Sinahala and Tamil!

    Why don’t the Colombo HR NGOs get together and translate the LLRC into the national languages and have a dissemination campaign to educate the people since the upside down Rajapasksa regime will not?
    Trouble is that like the UNP, the govt and other political parties in the country, the NGOs cannot be bothered to educate the people and do the job that they are supposed to because they are busy on the international conference circuit!

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    Can I make a suggestion? Colombo Telegraph should take a lead in translating the LLRC into Sinhala and Tamil by asking its commenters to lend their language expertise. It would be a good collaborative project for CT’s commenters and a genuine contribution to improved information access to SL’s non-English speaking majority.

    http://www.ehow.com/how_7714016_set-wiki-collaborative-essay-writing.html

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      If a Sinhala and Tamil web site is started with translators paid for I for one, am willing to pay a subscription.

      Colombo Telegraph must be willing to vouch for the authenticity of the translation.

      It is vital that the thinking of the “rational” people, for want of a better word, is circulated among the voting majority. At least those who have computers which is a significant number and increasing at a fair rate, I believe.

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        You are absolutely right. Not only websites, which are accessible only to a few, it is important to reach the grassroots with this information. The Sinhala and Tamil mainline media has failed to present balanced facts to its readership and viewers. The very use of partisan language has only helped to wreak suspicion between the communities, not bring about healing.

        The NGO’s which take these discussions outside Colombo are doing a good job in attempting to disseminate rational thinking. However, more needs to be done to make this information easily available to everybody.

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    India’s first priority and the main concern is to retain the Tamil votes in forth coming elections that are expected in next year.They never worried about Tamils plights in Sri Lanka.They used the Tamils issue for their own political and geographical needs for decades.This is just like MARA using the Tamil issue for his own political gains in the south of Sri Lanka where Sinhala racist Buddhists live in large scales.

    India never talked about war crimes committed by the MARA regime (Johan Perera also do not put more weight on this issue for his NGO survival)Mara uses China to threat India and China uses Mara for its regional power against India.People like Johan should stop singing Bila and try to use at least 20% of his NGO money to defend people from MARA’s policy.

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    The govt should reap as it has sown. GLP asks for emapthy from the IC, whereas the govt has non for the tamils in the north. GR asks for constructive engagement with the IC, but offers non for the tamils. ‘Do as you would be done by’ is a lesson we were taught when we were 5 yrs old. Our leaders do not seem to have been taught or learnt that lesson.

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    Commonwealth Clowns, NGO Clowns, HR Clowns… Clowns… clowns everywhere devourvering $$$$$$$$$………

    What an appetite

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    When the President of the country is met only by the Chief of intelligence what does it say? It says the host country has reduced the status of the President to that of a senior government official.

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      Absolutely CORRECT.
      Wachala WIMAL, REPLY.

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    Reading some of the comments above I feel that there is a genuine desire by some of our Sinhalese brotheren that there needs to be accountabilty and a willingness to address the Tamil grievance but sadly they are in the minority and the vast majority of the Sinhalse masses are inherently racists. I am sorry to say this but sadly it is true and MR is using this to maximum advantage to turn Sri Lanka in to a Sinhalse state which the Sinhalese rulers tried for the last 3000 years but failed. MR is ruling by deception coupled with employing thugs to enforce his brand of brutal dictatorship. Where else do you find other than in Sri Lanka that an ordinary citizen is fearful of showing any disent and even a four star general and judges are not safe.
    I am not sure what benefit would transaling LLRC recomendation into Sinhalse bring as the masses would never agree to giving equal rigths to Tamil minority and it will simply be a waste of money and a futile exercise.
    But simply giving equal rights without the means to protect it will be meaningless. For me the solution is not going to come from a voluntary change of heart within the country but by pressure from the international community and no do doubt some sinhalse will say that is counter productive but I disagree for the following reasons.
    1) Sri Lanka relies on trading with western countries which is a vital market and the removal of that concession by EU countries is begining to hurt which in reflected in factories closing down and businesses moving elswhere.
    2) USA is the biggest contributor to the IMF and we can see signs of USA flexing its muscles and IMF putting conditions resulting in the cancellatio of £2.5 billion worth of fund which is definitely going to hurt growth but as expected MR is putting out mis information for local consumption whic is to be expected.
    3) Sri Lanka is already finding it difficult to repay interest on the Loan from China and it is not a bottomless pit and definitely not free . USA is already talking about economic sanctions and MR will no doubt pretend that he can weather the storm but he cant.
    4) The only thing which is helping MR is the corrupt Indian government which is soon likely to change and once that happens the penny will drop and Sri Lanka will be in a Sh.. whole and economic snctions will follow.
    4) During MRs recent visit the only people he saw in India was Lord Buddha , God at Thirupathi( reluctantly) but more worryingly the RAW chief and this was not for tea and biscuits but to be told and given a warning that he was getting too close to China which threatens Indias security. Why else would an elected politician refuse to see him in Delhi with the next UNHCR meeting a few weeks away but an Intelligence chief meet him for 30 mins surely it cant be to discuss Sri Lankas vital role in patroling the Indian Ocean. Or it may be to tell him either how to keep the LTTE on check or to tell him how India can reactive the LTTE ( In Sinhalese the terror group but in Tamil Fredom Fighters).
    5) But my hope is that there will be a change at the top in India which is more sympathetic to the Tamil cause but I am a realist and the Tamil race may be completely wiped off the face of Sri Lanka and then MR ould have achieved his goal satisfying the wish of the vast majority of the( 99.9% ) Sinhalese who have been dreaming of this for th last 3000 years.
    6) But I pray to god that Mr.Modi and Miss.Jeyram get elected and save us from extinction.

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