By Jehan Perera –
The government has criticised sections of the diplomatic community for getting involved in events targeting a particular region and community which lead to volatile situations and urged the diplomatic community to be more conscious of local sensitivities when attending events of an emotive nature. This has followed the growing interest that some embassies have been demonstrating in ensuring that civil society space for dissent is not restricted by the government. When an event organized by a civil society group to give voice to the grievances of family members of those who had gone missing in the war was held in Colombo last week, it was broken up by outsiders. This led to several embassies issuing an unprecedented joint statement.
The embassies of France, Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland condemned the disruption of the meeting in which families of disappeared Tamils were briefing Colombo-based diplomats and civil society activists. Issuing a joint statement, the embassies stated that “an organized group including monks” had disrupted the civil society meeting, on the theme “Sharing and listening session with families of the disappeared” organized by Families of the Disappeared in the Centre for Society and Religion. The statement said that the organized group made forced entry into the room where the discussions were taking place, shouting violently and “All those present felt that their security was under threat.”
The joint statement urged the Sri Lankan government to ensure and respect freedom of assembly and expression in Sri Lanka and to ensure the safety of those who participated in the meeting. In addition, the US Embassy in Colombo also expressed concern over the incident while claiming that the initial reaction of the local police to this disruption appeared to be in “support of the mob’s efforts to shut down the meeting.” In the case of forcible disruption of events, especially by extremist Buddhist groups that are seen to be linked to the government, it has become the unfortunate practice of the Police to ensure that the event is abandoned and the parties dispersed, with both sides being summoned to the Police Station to lodge their respective complaints.
In fact the government took the statement by the foreign embassies so seriously that the External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris summoned all diplomatic missions to inform them about the limits of their mandate. The Ministry also issued a strong statement that “a certain section of the diplomatic corps appears to be involved in a manner lacking in objectivity, in events organized for a particular region and community.” It is clear that what was being referred to was the North of the country and the Tamil community who were the main victims of the last phase of the war. The singling out of the Tamil minority and the North of the country would be in conformity with the government’s domestic priority of affirming national pride and continuing to receive the political support of the ethnic majority in a time of elections.
The meeting that was broken up was convened by the Right to Life Human Rights Center and sought to give voice to the sentiments of t hose who had lost their loved ones over five years ago. While the larger Sri Lankan society may be willing to forget what happened during the war time and enjoy the fruits of peace, those who lost their loved ones cannot so easily forget, especially when they are unsure as to the fate of their missing ones. The timing of the meeting was appropriate, as it coincides with the government’s surprise appointment of three international advisors to guide the proceeding of the presidentially appointed commission on missing persons, which has recently also had its mandate expanded.
Unfortunately the meeting, which was attended by civil society activists, media and foreign diplomats could not proceed for long as it was disrupted by a group led by Buddhist monks. The intervening group from outside claimed that the meeting was to provide secret information to the international community and also that it was not providing information on those who went missing due to the activities of the LTTE. In their statements the embassies made the point that action of the Police in preventing the break-up of the meeting of the Families of the Disappeared was inadequate. They noted that all those present felt that their security was under threat.
It was not only the foreign embassies that registered their protest. The head of the Centre for Society and Religion Fr Rohan Silva also issued a statement. He said “The CSR, founded by the late Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, OMI, has earned the respect and recognition of all political parties and all religious denominations as an institution that promoted the values of democracy and for years had stood for the defence of social justice, peace, equality for all citizens in every sphere of life. Even during some of the darkest moments of the Nation’s history, the CSR remained an oasis where a modicum of sanity prevailed. It is indeed most unfortunate that these time tested values of the CSR were transgressed and its hallowed precincts violated by a group that forced itself into the premises uninvited and instilling fear and intimidation among those participating in a meeting on purely humanitarian grounds.”
The CSR statement also made the relevant point that “We live in a world where humanitarian concerns transcend national boundaries, hence the presence of non-Sri Lankans should not be construed as external interference. “ The government’s domestic imperative of showing a strong hand to the ethnic majority population and obtaining their backing goes counter to another important government priority. The government’s main foreign policy concern is accountability in regard to what happened during the war. The issue of war crimes is particularly serious because it gives the international community the power to punish according to international law. Unlike other issues of abuse of power, for which there are no international laws, where war crimes are concerned there are international laws. This explains why the government is investing heavily in opposing the ongoing UN investigation into the last phase of the war.
The media has reported that the government has recently been hiring lobbying agencies in Western countries. It has also employed the services of international experts to advise the Commission of Inquiry into missing persons. However, it is important to note that the international community is not only present in the capitals of countries. It is also present in Sri Lanka in the form of embassies and high commissions. The diplomats attached to them also represent their countries. In fact, as they are on the ground in the countries to which they have been sent, the government in the home country may take the views of their own diplomats more seriously than those of lobbyists and other international experts. It is therefore as necessary to win the support of the diplomats of foreign missions based in Colombo, as it is to woo foreign government officials in their capital cities.
It is possible that the initiatives that the Sri Lankan government is taking to gain international goodwill and support abroad is being severely undermined by what is happening within Sri Lanka itself. It would be a miscalculation to believe that it is possible to separate what is happening locally with the lobbying that is done internationally. There needs to be a consistency between the government’s conduct of its affairs locally and what it says through its lobbyists internationally. Any sharp contradiction between the two would not be helpful to the government.
In this context it is to be welcomed that a second meeting by the same organization, the Right to Life Human Rights Centre at the same venue of the Centre for Society and Religion on the issue of torture by the Police took place without disruption, although the organizers received threats not to go ahead with the meeting. The foreign diplomats were there once again. It appears that the government did not wish to be at the receiving end of more such strictures, especially when there is an ongoing UN investigation into human rights failures during the war. On this occasion the Police were present and the mischief makers had been warned off. The role of the international community, it appears, has become more important. The international community, of which Sri Lanka is a member, has come to play at least a limited role in being a check and balance in favour of protecting democratic rights.
Thiru / August 11, 2014
“…government’s domestic priority of affirming national pride ..” Sinhalese pride rather, JP don’t confuse them. Is it national pride to massacre 147,000 Tamil civilians in the war? My foot!
Sri Lankan rulers during the war used its propaganda of terrorism internationally, and in general got away with its atrocities to Tamil civilians during the war over the years: They expect to get away with the suppression of Tamils and others after the war too, and hence hiring expensive PR firms. But this time it is back firing.
The events since the end of the war and the behavior of the security forces and the police in the last five clearly shows the high probability of war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed during the war.
Mahanayakes, and the government are telling lies, hence the inconsistency, to cover up the atrocities.
Thiru / August 11, 2014
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” – Ralph Waldo Emerson. But Rajapakse doesn’t even know who Emerson was.
Rajapakse regime found that relentless PR work and international propaganda worked well in selling terrorism to the world, while the truth is that the Tigers fought essentially a war of liberation with an occasional burst of terrorism in retaliation to military atrocities.
Rajapakse regime is really consistent: They are continuing with same kind of propaganda and PR work of course, based on lies and deception.
They are confident that it will work this time too, while you are not.
Amarasiri / August 11, 2014
Jehan Perera –
“Mahanayakes, and the government are telling lies, hence the inconsistency, to cover up the atrocities.”
“This has followed the growing interest that some embassies have been demonstrating in ensuring that civil society space for dissent is not restricted by the government. When an event organized by a civil society group to give voice to the grievances of family members of those who had gone missing in the war was held in Colombo last week, it was broken up by outsiders. This led to several embassies issuing an unprecedented joint statement.”
Facts are as Follows:
1. The State lies
2. The President, the minister and MP’s lie
3. The Buddhist Monk Mahanayakas lie.
4. The Sinhala Buddhist monks lie
5. The Sinhala Buddhist organization lie
6. The Shills lie
8. the police lies.
Now Some academics try to change history by claiming Buddha came to Lanka, the land of Native Veddah Before Mahinda thera and Converted the natives “Yakkas” and “Nagas” to Buddhism.
Looks like all the above have one thing in common.
They are Sinhala “Buddhist” liars and Buddha never asked to lie.
So, they call it Sinhalese Buddhist Culture, a culture of lying and deception of teachings of Buddha.
The Fourth Buddhist Precept
The Practice of Truthfulness -not in Sinhala “Buddhism” also known as monk Mahanama “Buddhism” with its lies and imaginations.
Amarasiri / August 12, 2014
RE: Government Actions Need To Be Consistent Locally And Internationally
Yes, Consistent locally. BASL president was followed by Vehicles, and the GOSL Stopped investigating. Certainly Consistent.
DIG confident of garnering 300,000 votes
TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 2014 01:05 E-mail Print
Western Province Senior DIG Anura Senanayake on Monday told Court that going by the trust and confidence people had placed in him, he could easily be able to secure over 300,000 preferential votes from the Colombo district if he contested an election.
He said the people would also endorse him to serve the Police Department even for 100 years if he lived to reach that age. He said he decided to refrain from conducting investigations into the BASL president’s complaint since the BASL president raised some doubts regarding his involvement in the matter. He said no one should doubt regarding his investigations since he had rendered yeoman service to the country.
“I was deeply shocked after hearing that Mr. Jayasuriya was not keen over my on going investigations. I am telling the truth. I didn’t take advice from anyone to handle this case. At the same time no one has given me any instructions to handle the matter in accordance with their wishes. I wrote to the IGP stating that I want to refrain from conducting investigations into the incident for personal reasons. Then the mater was handed over to Senior DIG Gamini Nawaratne”, he said. (Lakmal Sooriyagoda and T. Farook Thajudeen)
Davidson Panabokke / August 11, 2014
Having a meeting with the Police is indirectly at least partially a meeting with the Minister (in this case the President) under whom the Police function.
Davidson Panabokke / August 11, 2014
Has the Minister ever told the Police that there shouldn’t be human rights violations by the police Force when they are on duty?
justice / August 11, 2014
“On this occasion the Police were present and the mischief makers had been warned off”.
This did not happen on the previous occasion most probably because of the presence of ‘militant monks’ – one in the photo appears to be ‘manhandling’ the cassocked priest.
Why are the many “devout” Buddhists tolerating the actions of a few monks who are desecrating Buddhism by their behaviour?
So far,this question appears not to have been asked by/of the many ‘Nilames’ – Buddhist laity in charge of temples, and even of the Mahanayakes.
The personnel of the many embassies as stated ‘have their eyes and ears to the ground’ and report all happenings to their governments.
The government hiring “opinion makers” abroad is,as stated,futile.
Safa / August 11, 2014
Govt actions are consistently undemocratic and thuggish. It seems we cannot expect anything better. GLP a shameless boot licker. Must be having Serappu Soup for breakfast everyday.
Bensen Burner / August 12, 2014
Jehan is dead right. The closest relatives of those who have disappeared will want to know of them at any cost at least to get a closure. It is not known whether these unidentifiable men with shaven heads dressed in yellow robes were real holy men or criminals in disguise like those of the Ku Klux Khan with their faces covered and or distorted. Indeed some of them would be having children on the side.Bensen
Lanka Watch / August 13, 2014
Your writings on the rights and wrongs fall on deaf ears among the administrators of this country and its like pouring water on ducks back. Tell me a Country, even in volatile Africa, or Middle east, where the embassies of many countries in unison criticise the action of the govt. In this case,the prevention by force, the meeting which was scheduled to have taken place in Colombo between the authorities and the people who lost their loved ones. The result was the Police stood watching the drama while the Buddhist monks attached the elderly, mostly women.
The police does not move, the security services do not move when perpetrators of crimes have a field day like what they did in 1983
communal riots and followed same almost every other day and the verdict is self inflicted wounds & arson by the affected when the cases come to courts. The funniest thing is that the people come to know the verdict before the judge delivers it.