By Dayan Jayatilleka –
Firstly, that the 2015 UNHRC resolution was actually drafted by Sri Lanka and not just co-sponsored by it. On the contrary, apparently, it was the other states that co-sponsored Sri Lanka’s resolution at Sri Lanka’s invitation.
Secondly, that the 2015 resolution was one of the ‘golden moments’ of Sri Lankan foreign policy.
Let the record show that he says the following:
“So, we said, give us a little more time until September where we will present our resolution for a national independent judicial mechanism and the Prime Minister along with a group of top-level experts drafted this resolution and then we invited the US Ambassador and UK High Commissioner to co-sponsor this resolution.
This whole idea that we sponsored a foreign resolution is an utterly misleading lie. We managed to get the powerful countries to back us and each and every word in that resolution was approved by President Sirisena…”
If we take him at his word, then the PM at the time, Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the foreign minister Mr. Samaraweera himself are fully responsible for the following words in Operative Paragraph 6 of the 2015 resolution:
“…notes with appreciation the proposal of the Government of Sri Lanka to establish a judicial mechanism with a special counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable… and also affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defense lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators”. (My emphasis-DJ)
This is the very first time that Sri Lanka made a commitment to accept “the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defense lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators”.
Some ‘golden moment’, that.
Operative Paragraph 1 (OP1) of the 2015 Resolution, now disgracefully claimed as having been authored by the then PM of Sri Lanka, read:
“Takes note with appreciation of the oral update presented by the United Nations High Commissioner to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-seventh session, the report of the Office of the High Commissioner on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka and its investigation on Sri Lanka requested by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 25/1, including its findings and conclusions, and encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations contained therein…” (my emphasis-DJ)
In March 2021, Michel Bachelet, helpfully described the OISL conclusions: “The report of the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), released in September 2015, found credible evidence that both Sri Lankan security forces and LTTE were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Here are some of the findings of the OISL which OP1 of 2015 i.e., Mangala’s “golden moment”, “took note with appreciation”:
“The sheer number of allegations, their gravity, recurrence and the similarities in their modus operandi, as well as the consistent pattern of conduct they indicate, all point to system crimes… these findings demonstrate that there are reasonable grounds to believe that gross violations of international human rights law, serious violations of international humanitarian law and international crimes were committed by all parties during the period under review.”
“On the basis of the information obtained by the investigation team, there are reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lankan security forces and paramilitary groups associated with them were implicated in unlawful killings carried out in a widespread manner against civilians and other protected persons.” -Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) [My emphasis-DJ]
* If as Mr. Samaraweera alleges, President Sirisena approved every single word of the resolution, why then did he clearly state in interviews given to the New York Times and the BBC’s Sandeshaya within days of the passage of the Resolution that he opposes and shall not permit any participation by foreign judges?
* If the resolution was authored by the PM and Sri Lanka, how did it come to pass that Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinghe was attempting to negotiate the text, line-by-line, and was overridden by the PM? Didn’t Foreign Minister Samaraweera inform the Sri Lankan PRUN-Geneva that this was a GoSL-authored resolution which should be piloted through together with those who were co-sponsoring and ‘fronting’ it, chiefly the UK?
* Why did the Yahapalana government and indeed the UNP itself partially retrench from the Geneva 2015 resolution, with Mr. Samaraweera’s successor as foreign minister, UNP veteran Tilak Marapona walking back in his address to the UNHRC, the Government’s commitment to implementation on the grounds that the Resolution’s commitments were not within the parameters of the Sri Lankan Constitution?
Mr. Samaraweera states that:
“…Sri Lanka got the friendship and the support of the whole world. In fact, when our joint resolution was presented in Geneva in September, not one country opposed it. Now this time when an investigation was initiated in Geneva, Pakistan and China got up and opposed that. However, all power blocs supported us in 2015. We had the support of the USA, the European Union, the UK, Japan, India and most of all China and Russia. Forgive me for saying so but I believe this was one of the golden moments in the history of foreign policy in this country. Whatever anyone says, I will challenge them anywhere to argue that this was actually a golden moment where we stuck to our words carrying out a balanced foreign policy which all countries appreciated.”
* There was no question of any country opposing the 2015 resolution when Sri Lanka itself co-sponsored it, or as Mr. Samaraweera says, was its author!
* The question is: why didn’t India, an ally of the Yahapalanaya Government, and Mr. Samaraweera’s ‘sister’ Sushma Swaraj, its Foreign Minister, not sign the 2015 Resolution as a co-sponsor? Was it not because it went beyond the boundaries that India thought prudent and set a dangerous precedent of external intrusion?
* Why didn’t a single country from the Global South (as represented in the NAM and G-77) co-sponsor it? Where did Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mangala Samaraweera think they/we were living? The EU?
Every time the UNP fared disastrously at elections, colossal foreign policy blunders had fed into the mix. Mr. Samaraweera will doubtless designate them “golden moments”.
Golden Moment I: The Sinhala nationalist-populist wave of 1956 had as a propellent, the appellation of “Bandung Booruwa” stuck to UNP PM Sir John Kotelawala for his anti-India, anti-China behavior as a boorish western proxy, at the historic Afro-Asian Bandung Conference of 1955. Unsurprisingly, his international affairs advisor at the time was Esmond Wickremesinghe, the father of former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, the alleged author of the 2015 Geneva resolution.
Golden Moment 2: The 1970 wave that swept the UNP of 1965-1970 out of office, also had as an ingredient, nationalist indignation over the Vietnam war and the UNP government’s perceived tepidness and lack of firm solidarity with the Buddhist people of Vietnam being bombed by the US.
Golden Moment 3: The Jayewardene UNP Government’s mismanagement of the ethnic issue resulted in the Indian airdrop, the Indo-Lanka accord and the entry of the IPKF, all of which triggered a huge nationalist wave which almost consumed the UNP and the democratic system in a fiery finale, if not for the patriotic intervention and course-correction by Ranasinghe Premadasa (whose Presidency, Mangala Samaraweera, a convinced federalist even at the time, campaigned heavily against).
Golden Moment 4: Ranil Wickremesinghe’s CFA with Prabhakaran, facilitated by Norway, going way beyond the parameters that SL’s most outstanding Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar prescribed (he attacked the CFA on grounds of sovereignty, in Parliament and the Sunday Times), contributed mightily not only to his ouster but to the UNP’s defeat in 2004 (Parliament) and 2005 (Presidency).
Golden Moment 5: The Ranil-Mangala authorship of the self-incriminatory 2015 Geneva resolution, with its “foreign judges” terminology, added to the Sinhala nationalist wave that utterly swamped the UNP in 2020. Mangala’s assertion in the middle of Sajith’s presidential campaign that the UNP will sign the MCC, hurt the latter’s campaign and helped Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s, enhancing his appeal.
Golden Moment 5 of (Geneva) 2015 turned out to be the one that hastened the final moment of the UNP in Parliament after seven decades. Ex-President Sirisena and the SLFP, having backed away from that Golden Moment, actually survived.
A democratic opposition exists today instead of a one-party state, because Sajith Premadasa finally formed his own party instead of inhabiting the UNP wrecked and submerged in toxicity by Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mangala Samaraweera.
With “golden moments” like Ranil’s and Mangala’s in 2015, the majoritarian-ultranationalist autocrats don’t need friends and allies.