United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navinethem Pillay is now in Sri Lanka. For Tamil separatists and the opposition, she is the savior. Some ministers have rushed to make announcements expressing their confidence in the High Commissioner for her impartiality. However, nationalists are against her visit for several reasons. It is our duty to place the rationale for our protest before the public as well as Pillay.
Pillay is the Chief Executive of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which passed two resolutions against Sri Lanka in this year and the last year. According to the resolution passed this year, she should present an oral update to the UNHRC at its 24th session and a comprehensive report at its 25thsession on the implementation of the UN resolution by Sri Lanka. Hence, this is a fact finding mission on how best Sri Lanka has implemented the resolution passed by the UNHRC.
The UNHRC resolutions against Sri Lanka have alleged that Sri Lanka had violated international humanitarian and human right laws during the last stage of the war by committing war crimes on Tamil civilians. These resolutions primarily based on the report produced by a panel appointed by the Secretary General of UN, Ban-ki Moon. The panel consists of three members, namely, Marzuki Darusman, Yasmin Sooka and Steven Ratner. This panel leveled several serious allegations against Sri Lanka including killing of 40,000 Tamil civilians. Hence, Pillay is duty bound to report to the council the veracity of the report of Moon’s panel.
Pillay is not only a lawyer but an ex-judge in South Africa. Sri Lanka and South Africa are the only countries in the world which practice Roman Dutch Legal system. Hence, she must be familiar with natural justice principles. One of such principles is Nemo iudex in cause sua in Latin, meaning no person can judge a case in which she has an interest. That is because justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. Pillay has grossly violated this principle.
Although Pillay is from South Africa, she is of Tamil ethnic origin. She is a community conscious activist as reflected in her struggles against discrimination of Indian community and women in South Africa. Since her graduate studies were sponsored by her community because of her humble background, she has an emotional attachment to her community. In this backdrop, being a Tamil, she has no moral right to be in any fact finding mission on alleged killing of 40,000 innocent Tamils.
When she faced racial riots in South Africa in 1949, she was just eight years. Pillay recently recalled her shocking memories about the riots to explain how she became a victim of it in her interview with Vino Reddy on 11th August 2002. She was deprived of education, employment and social opportunities because of racial apartheid policy of then South African government. The government officially segregated the people according to their skin colors such as white, brown, black and mixed and assigned different rights and privileges to each group. Pillay belonged to less advantaged brown or Indian origin group.
Because of her enormous suffering as a minority in South Africa, she has become a sympathizer of minorities. She looks at Sri Lankan conflict in South African perspective although the Government never adopted such discriminatory policies. For her, Sri Lankan government is a reminder of apartheid South African governments. Tales of killing of innocent Tamils remind her of 1949 racial riots and her lifelong struggle for justice for oppressed ethnic groups. Hence, she is prejudiced with her own experience in racial discrimination.
Pillay’s husband, Gaby Pillay was arrested in 1971 under Terrorism Act of 1967. She wept, mourned and finally fought a successful legal battle to secure the release of her husband. Thereafter she became the most sought after lawyer for terrorist detainees. She has later explained sorrowful tales of these terrorist suspects under apartheid regime. Because of this experience, she must be seeing her husband in every terrorist. Her husband may have fought for a just cause under apartheid regime. However, generalization of circumstances may cause irreparable damage to anti-terrorist activities.
Yasmin Sooka, the second member of Moon’s Panel, is an NGO activist in South Africa. She is the Executive Director of Sooka Center for Human Rights. As the two leading women right activists in South Africa, Pillay and Sooka maintain a very close relationship. Pillay used to function as an advisor to Sooka’s NGO. Further, Pillay has frequently written to the international magazine titled “Transnational Justice” of which Sooka serves in editorial board. There was a strong rumour that Sooka was appointed to Moon’s panel on the recommendation of Pillay. In this backdrop, Pillay has visited Sri Lanka to verify the contents of the report submitted by one of her best friends.
Pillay has already displayed her prejudiced mind towards Tamil separatism. She was very critical about the conduct of Sri Lankan forces during and after the war. When the Western superpowers forced Sri Lanka to declare a ceasefire in early 2009, she supported the move. Pillay issued a media release on 13.03.2009 stating that the current level of civilian casualties was truly shocking. She warned that the loss of life may reach catastrophic level unless hostilities were suspended. She mentioned in this statement that both sides of the war may have committed war crimes. She confidently said that the government had repeatedly shelled the designated no fire zones for civilians.
She went on to mention that more than 2,800 civilians may have been killed and more than 7,000 injured since 20.01.2009. Although she stated that her figures were from a credible source, she was careful enough not to disclose her “credible source”. In this backdrop, she may use the present tour in Sri Lanka to justify her statement made in 2009 which was full of unfounded facts.
Because of the above reasons, Pillay should have abstained from involving in Sri Lanka by tasking this assignment to one of her subordinates. In fact, if she is genuinely interested in human rights, she should have visited countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Lybia and Tunisia before visiting Sri Lanka. Although western allied forces have killed more than one million civilians alone in Afghanistan and Iraq, Pillay has conveniently ignored these grave crimes.
The so called liberators in Lybia killed Muammar Gadafi, the President of Lybia, in a brutal manner in presence of hundreds of people. His female bodyguards were raped and tortured before killing publicly. Although there are hundreds of eye witnesses and video footages as evidence, Pillay does not want to take any action since these gangsters were blessed and supported by the USA.
Recently, military and judiciary of Egypt acted in concert to topple the democratically elected government to establish military rule with the blessing of the West. It was a gross violation of human rights of all citizens of Egypt. However, the so called guardian of human rights, Navi Pillay, is yet to talk about it.
In the light of above, Navi Pillay is racially prejudiced, influenced by her friend Sooka and also controlled by Western superpowers. Hence, she has lost her credentials to be in a fact finding mission in Sri Lanka as mandated by the resolution adopted at the UNHRC.
*Udaya Prabhath Gammanpila is the Western Provincial Minister of Environment and a leader of Jathika Hela Urumaya This article appeared in his official website.