Sri Lanka marked another phenomenal low point in multilateral diplomacy by defending the appalling human rights record of one of the worst dictatorial regimes on the face of the earth.
Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, C. A. Chandraprema made a statement at the human rights council defending North Korea, led by third generation dictator by Kim Jung-un. During an interactive dialogue after a Special Rapporteur presented a damning report on the appalling human rights situation in North Korea, Chandraprema who is himself an accused executioner allegedly involved in at least three assassinations of human rights lawyers, urged “All UN human rights mechanisms to engage in a genuine and constructive dialogue with the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea based on mutual respect and cooperation.”
A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry found that the government of North Korea committed gross, systematic and widespread rights abuses, including extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence. North Korea operates secretive prison camps where perceived opponents of the government are sent to face torture, starvation and forced labour.
The shocking statement by Chandraprema comes the same week Sri Lanka became the first and only country in the world to recognize the military Junta Myanmar which staged a coup d’etat to unseat the democratically elected administration on February 1.
Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena formally invited the purported Foreign Minister of the military regime, U. Wunna Maung Lwin for a The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) meeting to be chaired by Sri Lanka.
No other government in BIMSTEC which also includes India, Bangladesh and Thailand have recognized the military regime in Myanmar. The formal invitation by the Foreign Minister – Sri Lanka’s top diplomat has granted recognition to what the rest of the world considers an illegitimate regime.
Meanwhile in Geneva, President Nandasena Rajapaka’s handpicked Ambassador has been aligning Sri Lanka with some of the worst human rights violators in history. Last week Colombo Telegraph reported how Candauda Chandraprema similarly defended Eritrea, a country that had openly supported the LTTE even facilitating 10 aircraft to be smuggled to the terrorists’ organization. Foreign Ministry sources confirmed to Colombo Telegraph that Secretary to the Ministry, Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage has approved Chandraprema to defend the human rights records of some of the worst violators in the world including North Korea, Syria, Eritrea, Belarus and Nicaragua.
These actions however will most likely backfire on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council. The resolutions on North Korea at the UN General Assembly in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva are championed by Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). These countries also happen to be two of Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral donors. Both South Korea and Japan are current members of the HRC which is due to vote on a resolution concerning Sri Lanka next week. Bangladesh, which too is a member of the council, will be concerned by Sri Lanka’s recognition of the military junta in Myanmar which it accuses of gross violations which may even tantamount to genocide of the Rohingya community. Nearly a million Rohingya refugees who were chased out of Myanmar since 2017 are looked after by Bangladesh.
A very senior diplomat with previous experience in the Geneva processes commented to Colombo Telegraph that the ‘the inexperienced and cavalier Colombage-Chandraprema combo have managed to drag Sri Lanka to the nadir of multilateral diplomacy and made it impossible even for our friends in the international arena to vote in our favour at the upcoming resolution.’
A resolution on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka is due to be taken up for a vote on either 22nd or 23rd of March. See video of Ambassador Chandraprema’s intervention on behalf of DPRK (North Korea) here (time stamp 47.40-48.25). (By Chinthika De Silva)