By Laksiri Fernando –
It cannot be just an accident that the main drafter and the promoter of the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka was Britain, the country’s colonial master from 1802 to 1948, and even thereafter until 1972. It appears that neocolonialism still prevails. Introducing the draft resolution, the British representative Julian Braithwaite has said, “Our Core Group is not anti-Sri Lanka. We are friends of Sri Lanka.” This is his guilty consciousness.
We do not know about him much. But we know about Britain’s atrocities in Sri Lanka and other colonies (see British War Crimes – Wikipedia). After taking over the maritime provinces from the Dutch, they invaded and destroyed the multi-lingual Kandyan kingdom. Was it done in the name of human rights? Those days the nomenclature was ‘civilizational mission’ or ‘white man’s burden.’
British Crimes Against Humanity
Let me quote from Sydney Criminal Lawyers under the titled “Crimes Against Humanity: The British Empire.”
“It was the largest empire ever to have existed. And as the saying used to go, the sun never sets on the British Empire. At its height in 1922, the colonial power was lording it over a fifth of the world’s population and for many of them, the sun never rose again. Under the policies of British colonialism, people around the globe were subjected to mass famines, atrocious conditions in concentration camps, and brutal massacres at the hands of imperialist troops. The Brits also played an integral role in the transatlantic slave trade.”
Where was the accountability? When the UN was formed in 1945, the Fascist atrocities were correctly punished. But the British and other colonial atrocities were completely spared. When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted in 1948, still there were many colonies under the British and others perpetrating henious crimes. What a hypocrisy and double standards! This is the same today.
Most of the roots of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka goes back to the policies and practices of the British. Divide and rule, encouraging the minorities against the majority, 50-50 policies, the brining of Indian labor as slaves to the plantations, and the imposition of English only against Sinhala and Tamil are only some.
Some Current Violations
Britain is preaching Sri Lanka about human rights. But even at present gross violations are happening in Britain. Sarah Everard’s case and the police handling of the protesters is one. Now the police powers have been expanded by legislation. Britain preaches the freedom of journalists to Sri Lanka and other countries. But the way Julian Assange was treated is completely despicable.
Now through the UNHRC resolution, Britain and others want justice to the victims of the past civil war in Sri Lanka (1983-2009) on their terms and dictates. Undue pressure has been the main stumbling block in investigations, accountability, and reconciliation during the last 12 years in Sri Lanka.
The Brits were directly involved in supporting and harboring the LTTE terrorist operatives from the beginning. Anton Balasingham was operating from there and Adele Balasingham is still living in Britain. Our colonial master has also allowed the Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) to freely operate in Britain. If they do not support separatism, why should they allow the TGTE to operate in Britain?
The above are some circumstances under which hypocritical British resolution was rejected by Sri Lanka at the UNHRC. And there are clear indications that the main purpose of the British promoted resolution is to overthrow the present government (1) through international pressure, (2) sanctions against those who defeated the LTTE in 2009, and (3) discrediting Sri Lanka as a gross human rights violator to keep it under their hegemony and control. Be sure that neo colonialism is still operating in the world and neocolonialism is the main violator of human rights even today. For their purposes, a divided country and a separate state is the most useful.
Voting at the UNHRC
It is true that the UNHRC resolution was formally approved with 22 countries in favor, 11 countries against, and 14 countries abstaining. There are many interpretations given why Sri Lanka failed to defeat the resolution. Some are about the failures of the foreign policy and diplomacy. Antagonizing some Muslim countries through short sighted policies is another explanation. And some others are about getting caught up in international power struggles (between US, China, and Russia).
All may be true to different extents. It is also obvious that under the circumstances of Covid-19, a poor country like Sri Lanka was greatly disadvantaged in campaigning among 47 countries, scattered around the world, particularly in Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe. It was obvious, that European and Western countries were the main culprits against Sri Lanka.
The attached is a Table where the list of 47 member countries of the UNHRC are given with their respective per capita GDPs. The figures are in US$ terms. The reason to relate the economic status is to see whether there has been a division between the rich (high income) and poor (low income) countries in this voting.
From these figures, it is very clear that the very rich Western countries were overwhelmingly behind the resolution against Sri Lanka. While the average per capita $GDP of those who voted against Sri Lanka was 21,791, just look at the per capita GDPs of countries like UK (39,229), Netherlands (51,290), Germany (45,466), France (39,257), Denmark (58,439), Austria (48,634), and Italy (30,657).
As we know, Sri Lanka’s per capita GDP is around $3,373. This is very much similar to the average GDP ($3,996) of the countries who voted against the anti-Sri Lanka resolution on behalf of Sri Lanka. These are mainly the poor countries in the global context with enormous socio-economic and thus political problems. The 14 countries who abstained from voting for various reasons have slightly a higher average income but in general terms are the same as who voted for Sri Lanka, except Japan and Bahrain. The India’s position is dubious to say the least.
What does this show? There are enormous economic disparities in the world today impinging on human rights, differently and paradoxically. One thing clear is that the rich Western countries are ‘weaponizing human rights’ to keep the poor countries continuously poor, through international pressure, engineering conflicts, and even directly and indirectly supporting terrorism. Although rich, the countries like Japan obviously have a different and a compassionate attitude. It is unfortunate that poor countries like Malawi or some other middle-income countries go behind rich countries for various perks or because of misinformation.
The way forward for Sri Lanka might be difficult. The main resolve however should be to develop the country economically on a sustainable and an equitable basis for all communities without distinction to ethnicity, region, religion, or gender. Both the government and the opposition should get together for this task as much as possible. The accountability process has continuously been sabotaged by the international community through unreasonable and unrealistic demands perhaps for the purposes of separatism. In this context, any external mechanisms for so-called accountability should be strongly opposed and resisted.