By Kumar David –
The Rajapakse government suffered a massive setback, ameliorated by India’s abstention, at the UNHRC on March 27 when a harsh resolution sponsored by the US and the UK was carried 23-12-12. It hoped to recover part of its losses by convincingly winning the Southern Provincial (SPC) and Western Provincial Council (WPC) elections strategically timed for 29 March. The counterpunch failed exposing the UPFA’s soft underbelly. The regime now faces a perilous future because the impact of the UNHRC resolution on the people of the country, not just the Temple Trees Clan and the military brass current and retired (who scares for them?) and the UPFA’s weakening hold on the local electorate add up to a severe double whammy. Let me take this one step at a time.
The operative parts of the UNHRC resolution consist of Clause 2 and Clause 10b which I reproduce below.
Clause 2: Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable; to hold accountable those responsible for such violations; to end continuing incidents of human rights violations and abuses in Sri Lanka; and to implement the recommendations made in the reports of the Office of the High Commissioner.
Clause 10b: (Requests the Office of the High Commissioner) To undertake a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability, with assistance from relevant experts and special procedures mandate holders.
These two clauses overlap, they appear to duplicate each other; there is ambiguity whether the High Commissioner’s investigation is to be undertaken only in the event that the government of Sri Lanka turns down the call “to conduct an independent and credible investigation”, or only if a local investigation is not independent and credible. The opening sentence of Clause 10 suggests that the ambiguity is deliberate. It reads as follows: “Takes note of the recommendations and conclusions of the High Commissioner regarding ongoing human rights violations and the need for an international inquiry mechanism in the absence of a credible national process with tangible results, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner”.
Are we to read this preamble to mean that the High Commissioner’s investigation will be undertaken only “in the absence of a credible national mechanism” or is the underlined passage merely a reference to Ms Pillay’s report which said “National mechanisms have consistently failed to establish the truth and achieve justice”? If we go along with the former reading, the international investigation will take place ONLY if the local one is bunkum; if we prefer the latter interpretation, then the international probe is a separate matter and will go ahead in PARALLEL anyway. I believe this ambiguity is deliberate as it is not possible, after a local enquiry commences, to declare it to be a sham, but it is possible if it is unsatisfactory to commence a probe under 10(b) and say that a parallel probe was always intended. The Commissioner and the West are keeping this card up their sleeves.
The ball is now in the Rajapakses’ court; they can temporarily preserve their skins by feigning to cooperate with the resolution and buying time. In the midst of this there are maladjusted Tamils who say that the UNHRC resolution and the to-and-fro swings in India are irrelevant; nothing useful will come out of either they argue. I guess they are smarting from Delhi’s and Washington’s role in wiping out Prabaharan and the LTTE. In truth, quite to the contrary, Indian and international pressure were imperative in getting the Northern Provincial Council in place, and will be in pushing for a political solution, and ideally, in bringing about regime change. I say this, Delhi’s duplicity in abstaining in the UNHRC vote, not withstanding.
The PC elections
In my column about a week ago I said there were three crucial issues to watch in the SPC and WPC elections whose results were declared on Sunday. The government hoped to whip up post-Geneva xenophobic frenzy, win the PC elections by a landslide and stabilise itself in preparation for Presidential and Parliamentary elections. It could not mobilise its base; there was not enough juice in the works. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the election results say it all. The three criteria that I proposed were; (a) how much will the UPFA vote decline, (b) what will be the trade off between the UNP and DP (Sarath Fonseka) and, (c) how will the JVP fare. The answers to all three questions have turned out to be most felicitous.
The percentage of votes obtained by parties that obtained at least one provincial council seat in 2009/2014 is as follows. # means the party did not exist in 2009.
DP (Sarath Fonseka): #/8%
Mano Ganesan: 0.5%/2%
All Ceylon Makkal Congress: #/0.6%
The Southern Province results are even more remarkable.
DP (Sarath Fonseka): #/6.3%
The felicitous features of these numbers is that (a) the UPFA vote in the WP has declined by 12% and, remarkably by 10% even in the SP; (b) the UNP, the historical party of the bourgeoisie has been able to hold off a challenge from the personally dicey and politically chauvinist Sarath Fonseka party, and (c) most pleasant of all, the JVP has increased its vote share by 3 to 3.5%. These trends are crucial because they are the start of a process that will demoralise the rotters in the UPFA, energise the JVP and knock common sense into the Sarath Fonseka party. Where did Sarath Fonseka’s 6 to 8% vote come from? Fairly obviously half came from the UPFA and the other half from the UNP.
The JVP vote in absolute numbers rose remarkably despite the lower numbers voting this time. In the SPC it rose from 72,000 to 109,000 and in WPC from 56,000 to 156,000. Conversely the UPFA vote declined in absolute numbers from 1.5 million in 2009 to 1.4 million in 2014 in the WPC and from 804,000 in 2009 to a remarkably low 699, 000 in 2014 in the SPC. The UNP vote in absolute numbers remained unchanged in the WPC and rose by a small amount in the SPC.
The writing on the wall is pretty clear. This is the first crack in the dam. The Rajapakse goose is cooked; let us expedite its departure.