4 December, 2020

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Observations On Geneva 2014

By Izeth Hussain

 Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

OHCHR Mandate

Operative paragraphs 10 and 10(b) of the US-led Resolution reads “requests the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR):

(b) To undertake a comprehensive investigations into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and to establish facts and circumstances of such alleged violations and of the crimes perpetrated with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring accountability with assistance from relevant experts and special procedure mandate holders”.

When I first read the above I mistakenly thought that not much more was envisaged than some token action by the OHCHR. It turns out, on the contrary, that the OHCHR is being mandated to take full-scale action towards international investigation of alleged war crimes etc. The reason for my initial mistake was that it seemed to me inherently absurd that the mandate was being given on so serious a matter, not by the UN Security Council or by the General Assembly, but by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. I must explain for the benefit of the average reader who is not familiar with the world of diplomacy that the post of Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva is a relatively minor post. The reason for this is that nothing really important for the world transpires at the UN in Geneva unlike at the UN in New York. The action on human rights in Geneva has been confined for the most part to shaming errant Governments into correcting their evil ways.

Apart from all that, it is now quite clear that OHCHRC has no mandate to take on the responsibilities assigned to it under the US-led Resolution. This point was made by the Indian and other delegations, and we now have an informative article by Neville Laduwahetty in the Island of April 1. This must be seen in a perspective going back to the Panel of Experts set up by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2011. It was made out at that time that the PoE was no more than a body set up to advise the Secretary General, and should therefore be of no concern at all to Sri Lanka and other countries. Later, I and doubtless others as well pointed to the process whereby the Report of the Panel of Experts came to be given the imprimatur of the UN. It seemed clear that the Western big-shot powers had been engaged in an exercise to circumvent the UN General Assembly where they did not have a majority, and the Security Council where the Chinese and Russian vetoes would go against them. It is the same process that has been at work at Geneva, a process that is thoroughly inimical to the sovereignty of weak states. Perhaps this should be taken up by the Non-Aligned member states that are represented at New York.

The British Role 

The first US-led Resolution, which envisaged no immediate action and in effect provided a year’s reprieve for the Government, was a diplomatic triumph for the Government, unless we choose to believe that this that and the other factor were operative behind the Resolution but never the Government’s diplomacy! Credit should be given for that triumph above all to Foreign Minister G.L.Peiris. But the triumph was a short-lived one, and the Resolution finally adopted was a serious defeat for the Government. However, there were a couple of mitigating factors. The votes for the Resolution were 23 while the votes against and the abstentions totaled 24. It would be absurd to say that we won the vote, but it is true that the votes for the Resolution were in a minority. Above all, India abstained, and furthermore it voted against operative para 10. India has more importance for our ethnic problem than all the other countries of the globe put together. The Government’s diplomacy surely counted in the Indian abstention also.

What led to the reversal? An important factor would have been the Government’s horrible record in reneging on commitments. The widespread expectation would have been that the Government would use the year’s reprieve to shilly-shally over moving towards a lasting political solution and ethnic reonciliation. But it is generally understood that at Geneva the most important determinants behind the votes are not really human rights and all that but the changing configurations of power in the international arena. What really counted finally was Britain’s determination to push through a Resolution with munching crunching power in it. And what lay behind that British determination was the power of the Tamil expatriate lobby.

Here we come to what looks like a new factor in our ethnic imbroglio that requires scrupulous analysis. In 2009 the Government troops annihilated the LTTE internally, but externally the rump LTTE has continued to function. It would probably be a mistake to equate the entirety of the expatriate Tamils with the rump LTTE, and the Government may be acting precipitately in proscribing certain Tamil groups. It remains however that any power that the expatriate Tamils are able to exercise has to come to a substantial extent from the money power of the LTTE. As Minister G.L.Peiris put it in the interview he gave to the Ceylon Today Sunday of March 30, the financial resources that the LTTE formerly spent in funding the war is now spent in exercising influence.

That influence is exercised mostly in the western countries whose Governments must understand one fact above all about the LTTE: it cannot be expected to be satisfied with anything less than Eelam, or at the very least a confederal arrangement that would amount to a de facto Eelam. The reason for this is historical. It can be argued that after the insensate violence against the Tamils from 1977 to 1983 the Tamils had no alternative to taking up arms against the State. But the prolongation of the war after 1994 was mainly due to the intransigence of the LTTE. It rejected all the handsome offers of devolution from 1995 to 2000, and it made a farce of the peace process, all in the expectation that it could establish Eelam through military victory. It is estimated that around 100,000 died during the 30-year war, the majority of them being Tamils. If a lasting political solution can be worked out on the basis of 13A plus a fully functioning democracy, and ethnic reconciliation takes hold as has to be expected, the LTTE will stand condemned for the deaths of scores of thousands of innocent Tamils. It cannot therefore reconcile itself to anything less than Eelam. Its immediate tactic will probably to keep the ethnic imbroglio going.

The US Role

Public attention is coming to be focused on one question, a very perplexing question for the public: why is it that the US, the sole super-power with vast responsibilities and interests, is giving so much attention to Sri Lanka, a small and weak country with no resources that are worth coveting, with no power worth bothering about in the international arena, a country furthermore where violations of human rights are not so horrendous as in some other countries? Many members of the public may jump to the conclusion that what the US really wants is a base in Trinco. If so, I don’t see why it should go about it in so devious a way, alienating the Sri Lankan public in the process. I have never believed – for reasons that I cannot go into here – that the US has ever wanted a base in Trinco.

I would stand by the analysis I made in my article Ban Ki-moon conspiracy in the Island of May 2, 2011. Sri Lanka has a special significance as the immediate neighbour of India, a country that can be regarded as a regional great power and that is going to emerge as a great power. The US had for many years wanted a special relationship with India, and the West as a whole would want India to be on their side to counter-balance both China and the Soviet Union. Against this background, the US and the West have wanted to help India solve the ethnic problem, as a contribution towards the evolution of a new world order. A glitch has occurred – I refer to the Indian abstention – but I believe that if India insists the West will ultimately go along with it on our ethnic problem.

However, I would now answer the question, Why is Sri Lanka being given such importance internationally? In a way significantly different from the way I did in 2011. I would now give a very special importance to ethnic problems in the international context. In the last century the great black ideologue W.E.B. du Bois wrote that the greatest problem of the twentieth century would turn out to be the problem of the colour line. It is an arguable point. I would say that the greatest problem of the twenty first century will turn out to be the problem of minorities – ethnic, racial, religious, cultural minorities – in their struggle against majorities. The underlying reason for this, I believe, is that economic development is taking place on a global scale, and with it there is a revolution of rising expectations which makes minorities no longer satisfied to remain in their socio-economic niches in a traditional ethnic division of labour. The crux of the problem is that minorities too want to go up the socio-economic ladder, and that brings then into rivalry and conflict with the majorities. It is a process that is taking place on a global scale. The importance that is being given to Sri Lanka’s ethnic problem has to be seen in this global context.

Both the draft Resolution and the final one adopted in Geneva were US-led. It raises the following question: Why is the giant US bullying the dwarf Sri Lanka? Let us acknowledge the fact that although the US has done much good for humanity, it has also established itself as the world’s most excruciating pain in the anatomy. Minister Peiris’ answer to the question – in that Sunday paper interview – was that Sri Lanka is a soft target. It was the thesis of Emmanuel Todd in his brilliant and insightful book After Empire that since the US has been declining militarily, it wants to give the impression of strength by attacking military dwarfs such as Iraq. It is time for the Davids of the world to get together with their slingshots. We must rejuvenate the Non-Aligned Movement.

The Indian Role

Why did India abstain? I believe that I can be very brief in providing the answers as they don’t admit of much controversy. Firstly, India gives priority to solving the ethnic problem over human rights and investigations into war crimes. India knows that the latter will envenom ethnic relations and make movement towards a political solution more difficult. Secondly the Resolution will allow the West too intrusive a role in Sri Lanka. That will be incompatible with Sri Lanka being in India’s legitimate sphere of influence – – though of course India will diplomatically eschew such language.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    There you again Mr. Houssain, making another mistake in the article that is supposed to correct your first mistake.

    Do you really believe in what you are saying:

    “Apart from all that, it is now quite clear that OHCHRC has no mandate to take on the responsibilities assigned to it under the US-led Resolution.”

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    Well said Izzeth. It’s very apt and timely to revive and re-juvenate the non-aligned movement. As we can see with the partitioning of Ukraine (a relatively insignifcant economy), only the ants get tramples when elephants collide.

    The ants need to gang up against the trampling elephants!

  • 2
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    This is what happens when a significant number people are attacked and driven out of the country. July 83 is coming back to haunt us on an international scale. This is why justice and closure of the conflict is important.

  • 4
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    Considering the nature of the UN Security Council where the Veto held by five states, frequently distorts decision making and prevents what is right being done, the trend is for measures to be taken against errant states through other mechanisms. The UNHRC has increasingly become one such mechanism, as only a majority vote is required to pass a resolution. Once this stage is passed, powerful countries and power/ economic blocks can apply the screws to force compliance on provenly errant countries. This is what is unfolding in the case of Sri Lanka. The government should accept thus reality and respond intelligently, without engaging in games that cannot be played beyond the shores of this island, as they are being played within.

    Further, it is not a battle between a giant and a minnow as is being portrayed, but an issue that concerns the committee of nations, where the US has the same voting rights as Sri Lanka. The US may wield more influence no doubt. I do not think this influence is being misused at present. Sri Lanka has been given much support to win the war by the same international players and subsequently her government has been given much time to mend its ways. The failure to mend its ways is what has precipitated the present situation. This truth has to be accepted. I think the giant in this instance is trying to help the citizens of Sri Lanka get better governance from their government, which is being portrayed quite wrongly as an innocent and harmless minnow . Good governance and human rights are no longer internal affairs of a country, but those that are of concern to the world. The instances of failure of this paradigm in some instances cannot negate right actions being taken in other instances.

    Izeth Hussain has of course failed to notice or highlight the newly emerging trends in world affairs.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
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      Dr Narendran – it is best that I should set out very briefly my position on “the newly emerging trends in world affairs”, on which I have written several articles in recent years.
      The US and the West are engaged in a program to establish a new world order based on liberal democracy with a special emphasis on human rights. They are very much in earnest about that – not hypocritical at all – and I myself believe that that program offers the best hope for humanity. It entails an erosion of sovereignty, and the eventual disappearance of the nation-state.I am in favour of that too because the nation-state in the third world as a whole tends to privilege the majorities at the expense of the minorities.
      But I have held that the the New World Order has as its obverse side a New Imperialism. There is no stark dichotomy, no binary opposition, and the one can slide into the other. As to what a new imperialism could mean, a horrible illustration was provided by the way the US ravaged Iraq.
      We are living in a transitional phase going towards a new world order. In this phase we have to be wary about a new imperialist drive. I am in favour of persuasion, even coercion, to make our Government behave properly towards the minorities. What I am against is war crimes investigations at the present stage.

  • 2
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    When someone like Mr Husain underestimates an organisation like the UNHCR;God help us! Clearly, Mr Husain has been out of the loop too long.

    • 0
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      “…for the benefit of the average reader – who is not familiar with the world of diplomacy, the post of Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva is a relatively minor post” counsels our friend Izeth Hussain. It is such a pity the Rajapakses were not given the benefit of this superlative advise. The country would have saved billions of rupees the Rajapakses illegally squandered to save their neck in Geneva delegating the Professori, several clueless Ministers and even the many visits to unknown places Mahinda R undertook to unsuccessfully change the voting in Geneva in March.

      “The reason for this is that nothing really important for what transpires at the UN in Geneva unlike at the UN in New York” continues our senior ex-diplomat Mr. Hussain. Dayan J and Ravinath A are not going to like this misguided missile.

      “The action on human rights in Geneva has been confined for the most part to shaming errant Governments into correcting their evil” fumes Hussain making one wonder if he now plays the role of
      Stand-in Comedian. Clearly this oblique comment is made to please the Rajapakses at the expense of their nemesis Navi Pillay

      The rest of his “analysis” is a confused muddle of a man who does not know if he is coming or going. And to know an English daily in Colombo, widely known to be a mouth-piece of the Rajapakses, provides regular space for this worthy for his analysis on political matters is not merely baffling but symptomatic of the decline of our journalistic standards.

      Backlash

  • 2
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    Izeth Hussain,

    Clearly from what you wriet here you are also a lackey of the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan state and its lawless rulers.

    You says following:

    “It remains however that any power that the expatriate Tamils are able to exercise has to come to a substantial extent from the money power of the LTTE.”

    Did LTTE come down from the Heaven or from the Tamil people’s utter frustration with the Sinhala state oppression? There is no such thing as money power of the LTTE stupid, it’s the power of the diaspora Tamils both financially and intellectually: Their intellectual power is based on universal justice that the enlightened world shares. In fact it is the other way about: The LTTE’s finance was not even a small fraction of the Diaspora’s financial strength, which is increasing with the emergence of muti-millianaire enterpreneurs. The businesses that the Sinhala rulers destroyed back home by periodic pogroms, they excelled in when they are free in the West.

    “What led to the reversal? An important factor would have been the Government’s horrible record in reneging on commitments.”

    Your statement above says it all: From 1956, all Sri Lankan governments have been reneging on their commitments to political settlement with Tamils, and that is the truth from SWRD to Mahinda Rajapakse.

    “… a country furthermore where violations of human rights are not so horrendous as in some other countries?”

    Are you the judge who is qualified to pass judgements on International HR violations including genocide? Don’t be dishonest Mr Hussain! Let the UNHRC investigators decide the gravity of the crimes committed and the criminals.

    ” The crux of the problem is that minorities too want to go up the socio-economic ladder, and that brings then into rivalry and conflict with the majorities.” he says: I say that is bull shit:

    Take Singapore where the Malay and Tamil minorities want to go up the economic ladder and they are going up on par with the majority Chinese. Lee Kuan Yew saw to that there is no majoritarian oppression as Sinhalese do in Sri Lanka. Mohamed Mustapha is a Tamil Muslim who stands as shining example.
    Singapore built/building a nation from scratch, whereas Sinhalese destroyed, and destroying it from the beginning.

    “Why did India abstain? I believe that I can be very brief in providing the answers as they don’t admit of much controversy.” he asks and gives some convoluted reasoning. The answer is simple: India is involved in war crimes and genocide in Sri Lanka and also gross HR violations in Kashmir, Manipur and elsewhere.

    To conclude: Mr Hussain is singing for his supper; after all would he want to bite the hand that feeds him even in his retirement from his Sri Lankan diplomatic position?

    Mr Hussain, you are either intellectually dishonest or you are in an “prison of imagination” that you cannot see justice glaring at your face.

    Let there be justice to Tamils, dead in hundreds of thousands massacred by the Sri Lankan state, and those alive under oppression.

    • 0
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      I note the poorly concealed racial prejudice of this Hussain is coming out – slowly and surely. Fortunately alert readers are seeing him for what he really is – a rabble rouser. Reading important events wrong is bad enough but trying to promote prejudice and preach wrong notions is not on – particularly for one of Hussain’s service background and learning. I do not mean to discourage him from writing for he has much to offer. But, please, stay within the rules and with less rancour.

      Dr. B.I. Passe

      • 0
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        Dr Passe – you make extremely insulting charges against me without the slightest attempt at substantiating any of them. What ails you? I have to request you not to waste my time.

        • 0
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          Hussain, This is not a polite reply from a senior recognized diplomat.

          • 0
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            UOFCOL,

            I share your views. I note when Hussain is caught on the wrong foot or his errors are pointed out, he goes bonkers and comes out with drivel. Poor loser.

            Hooker

    • 0
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      This Thiru has been among the very worst of the many with Tamil-sounding nom de plumes who have been attacking me, frequently with extreme hatred and almost always with an irrationality verging on lunacy that I believe goes integrally with racism. Sometime ago I hit back, after which his responses became sober. But again his venom is bursting forth.
      He writes that it is clear to him that I am “a lackey of the Sinhalese-dominated State”. That’s insulting surely. He doesn’t explain why that is clear to him. I want to be fair-minded and non-partisan, and therefore I want to give credit where credit is due, such as over what honestly seems to me the Government’s relative and temporary success in diplomacy.Does that make me a “lackey”. What about all the articles I have been writing against the Government, regularly calling it neo-Fascist and racist? None of that matters to Thiru. He wants to believe that I am a lackey. The irrationality and hatred that goes with racism has destroyed his balance.
      Later he writes”To conclude:Mr Hussain is singing for his supper; after all would he want to bite the hand that feeds him even in his retirement from his Sri Lankan diplomatic position.” I retired in 1989 with a negligible pension. I would have starved to death if not for help from my family.Since then I have not got even one cent from the Government.But Thiru wants to believe that I am singing for my supper. The facts don’t matter to him. Only his racist hatred does.
      I will illustrate his irrationality from what he writes. He quotes me as follows: “,,,a country furthermore where violations of human rights are not so horrendous as in some other countries”. He asks whether I am a judge qualified to decide on human rights violations.I was merely making the commonplace point made by innumerable others as well that HR violations in SL are not so bad as in Saudi Arabia etc.But his irrational hatred makes him find fault with that also.
      I wrote that minorities too want to go up the socio-economic ladder, and that brings them into rivalry and conflict with the majorities. That is a sober statement of a fact that is well recognized in race theory. But our Thiru yells “That is bull shit” The reason for that yell is that race relations have been handled very well in Singapore. But I did not deny that race relations have been handled very well in some countries. The truth is that facts and rational arguments don’t matter to Thiru. Only his racist hatred does.I must explain why I use the term “racist”. The attacks against me have been overwhelmingly from persons using Tamil-sounding nom de plumes. They seem to be expatriate Tamils. I hope to write about that in a separate article.

  • 0
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  • 0
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    Izeth’s comment: “But the prolongation of the war after 1994 was mainly due to the intransigence of the LTTE. It rejected all the handsome offers of devolution from 1995 to 2000, and it made a farce of the peace process, all in the expectation that it could establish Eelam through military victory”;is absolutely correct. Bensen

  • 0
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    Hussain are you out of your mind? What was the handsom offers of devolution you are referring to. There was nothing offered to the Tamils except blood sweat and tears.

    • 0
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      Ragavan,

      Don’t waste your time. The man is an out and out Tamil-hater. Only his cover is now coming out. But one more exposed serpent will hardly hurt
      the noble Tamil cause. The good Sinhalese are coming our way – finally, despite the Rajapakses inevitably on the run.

      Hooker

  • 0
    0

    Tamils are like the Taliban. EXTINCT!

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