European Union made it a pre condition in the last minute, requesting Sri Lanka to at least “replace the Prevention of Terrorism Act before granting the GSP+ and also make the Office of the Missing Persons fully operational, all to be delivered by Sri Lanka within clearly established time limit”. Sri Lanka sensing a way out of the hurdles, due to the softened stand by the European Union, hurriedly sent its Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Harsha de Silva, who earlier blasted European Union by saying that “Sri Lanka is under no obligation to any foreign body”. He took a half-baked secret draft copy of Counter Terrorism Act as the replacement of PTA to the European Union’s attention, the contents of which are still shrouded in secrecy unknown to the world and public.
European Union expressed its satisfaction and supported Sri Lanka to defeat the motion of 52 European Members who recommended rejection of GSP+ after an onsite in depth study and assessment of the ground realities in Sri Lanka, which were obviously disappointing.
The present President HE Maithripala Sirisena remain and continue to remain as another typical Sinhalese politician with an eye on his post and future. He has already indicated his stand on the following issues which are hostile to Tamils while underscoring the Sinhala-Buddhist supremacy:
1. No withdrawal or reduction of the Army in the North. About 160, 000 soldiers are living among 700,000 civilians; thus keeping the Tamils under Army surveillance and control.
2. No complete handing back of the lands to Tamil civilians. Out of 6200 acres seized by the Army in the North, only 400 acres have been returned to civilians so far.
3. No conferring of powers and/or allowing the Northern and Eastern Provincial Council to function with their powers over land and police.
4. No stopping of the illegal seizure of lands belonging to civilians by over-zealous monks who build Viharas and erect Buddha statues when there are only a few Sinhalese living around.
5. Refused to hold an Independent International Investigation into war crimes etc.
6. No halt to future Sinhalese settlements in Tamil areas.
7. No speedy re-settlements of the thousands of displaced Tamil civilians.
8. No proposals to solve the 60 year old ethnic problem have been laid out so far.
9. No commitment to release the Tamil political prisoners languishing in jails for more than 20 years. Now they are dubbed as convicted criminals under the legal system with no prospects for release.
10. No investigation or information as to the fate of 90,000 disappeared Tamils.
11. Appointing alleged war criminals and conferring them with titles and ranks: E.g.: Jagath Dias and Jagath Jeyasuriya
The latest visit by UN Special Rapporteur reveals the following:
The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson who visited Sri Lanka from 10th July to 16th July 2017: bares the various acts of violation and the systems prevailing in Sri Lanka. It is to be noted that this is the first occasion when a United Nations Official felt the necessity to refer Sri Lanka to the Security Council or face a range of measures if it fails to honor its commitments to the UNHRC Resolution. Among other matters the following are worth mentioning:
[A] “The PTA has fostered the endemic and systematic use of torture and the Tamil community has borne the brunt of the states well-oiled torture apparatus.”
[B] “The progress in achieving key goals set out in the UNHRC Resolution is not only slow, but seems to have ground to a virtual halt.”
[C] “There is little evidence that perpetrators of war crimes committed by members of the Sri Lankan armed forces are being brought to justice.” The government has thus so far done nothing to hold them to account for gross human rights violations during and after the conflict.
[D] Sri Lanka has fallen short of its international commitment to achieve a lasting and just solution to its underlying problems, for the benefit of all its communities, to establish a meaningful transitional system of justice governed by the principles of equality and accountability.
[E] The hands of the judiciary have been tied by the executive in a manner that is incompatible with the rule of law, or basic precepts of democratic justice.
[F] Sri Lanka has failed to deliver the wider package of transitional justice measures which it committed to deliver two years ago. This inertia reflects the continuing influence of certain vested interests in the security sector, who are resistant to change and above all to accountability.
[G] There must be prohibition altogether of the use of confessions made to the police which must conform to international human rights standards.
[H] Calls on Sri Lankan Government. Immediately to provide for effective judicial revival of the legality of the definition of those still behind bars, and submit individuals charged under the PTA to a fair trial with all guarantee of due process.
The Government is still operating the cruel and unjust PTA system, which has overwhelmingly impacted on the Tamil community.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights HE Zeid Al- Hussein while in Sri Lanka stated in February 2016 “that having an impartial and independent court is fundamental because it must address the needs of victims on all sides” and victims must feel justice is done”.
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture & Inhuman Treatment Hon. Juan De Mende who visited Sri Lanka in May 2016 “lamented the culture of impunity and lack of accountability with only six prosecutions against state security officials since 1994 and without any conviction so far”.
The Permanent Peoples Tribunal in its verdict after its hearing in Bremen, Germany in 2013 reached a consensus ruling that the “state of Sri Lanka is guilty of the crime of genocide against Eelam Tamils and that the consequences of the genocide continue to the present day with ongoing acts of genocide against the Tamils”
The Oakland Institute’s independent report published in May 2015, confirmed the “systematic violations of human rights of Tamils and other minorities which also exposed the military occupation and colonization of Tamils areas in Sri Lanka”
About the approximately 65,000 disappeared persons, Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe has stated that “most of them are probably dead” and “many have left the country”. The President and Prime Minister have again and again reiterated that ‘soldiers who participated in the war against LTTE will be protected at any cost from any prosecution for crimes committed during the war”. As such a blanket advanced impunity has been granted to the security forces defying and ignoring the criticisms of United Nations, UNHRC and other bodies.
The recent apology of the Prime Minister for the burning of the Jaffna public library in 1981 after 35 years is nothing but a shoddy exhibition of genuine regret by the government to placate and mislead the Tamils and particularly the United Nations, UNHRC and the International Community.
The statement of Madam Rita Ndiay, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues sums up the causes of malady in Sri Lanka
“A dominant Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarian leadership and the failure of successive governments precipitated the conflict and a long civil war that seriously damaged the social fabric.”
Once Obama’s secretary of defense, Robert Michael Gates, was asked by a journalist that terrorists attack schools and hospitals, so why don’t we attack their hiding places like schools and hospitals? Gate’s brief answer was “They are terrorists but we are not.”
Why the legal system of the country is biased? Why the justice is being ignored to the Tamil community of this country? With the end of the war, the problem of the Sinhalese community, the LTTE has ended. But the problems of Tamils still continue.
It is crystal clear that Sri Lanka is still pursuing it state policy of non-compliance of HUHRC Resolution and UN Special Rapporteur’s recommendations even its own Commission’s recommendations like Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission [LLRC] Consultation Task Force [CTF], with an entrenched system of impunity in force and consequent denial of Accountability and Justice it would be an exercise in futility to search for any meaningful steps taken by Sri Lanka for most of the important UN Conventions as listed by the European Union.
The recent statement of the new Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana underscores the intension of the Sri Lankan government to buy time and delaying tactics when he stated that “If necessary we will ask for another two year extension from the UNHRC to implement the October 01, 2015 UNHRC Resolution.
Since European Union is fully aware of Sri Lanka’s past record and present approach it is hoped that EU will adopt appropriate decisions to uphold its basic Human Rights and Accountability and enforce the eligibility requirement of GSP concessions to Sri Lanka in word and spirit.
His Excellency Zaid Al Ra’ad Al-Hussain UN High Commissioner for Human Rights during his opening statements at the 36th Session in Geneva on 11th September 2017 sums up the position of Sri Lanka when he stated that the “Absence of credible action in Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for alleged violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law makes the exercise of Universal Jurisdiction even more necessary”.