26 May, 2022


Realistic Assessment Needed Of International Intervention As An Option In Sri Lanka 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

In a change from the past the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is no longer generating political passion at it did in the past. There is a sense amongst most people that the present government is on good terms with the international community unlike the previous government. Therefore they see no real threat emanating from Geneva. This has enabled the government to engage in a flurry of legislative activities that have not attracted so much of public interest. The government has drafted legislation to amend the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) Act and a gazette notice has been issued in this regard. The draft legislation will be presented in Parliament shortly. The government has also presented a Bill to parliament to ratify and implement the ‘International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance’. Sri Lanka became a signatory of this Convention in December 10, 2015.

In the past, the resolutions passed by the UN Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka have generated huge amounts of political controversy. Beginning with the first in 2009, a few weeks after the end of the war, they were directed against the former government for having fought the war in the way it did, with high levels of civilian casualties and human rights violations. These resolutions were strenuously resisted by the government, which also utilized the resolutions as yet another opportunity to mobilize popular sentiment in its favour. Prior to 2015, every session of the UNHRC in Geneva was an occasion for a whipping up of a sense of national crisis and accompanying nationalism. There was certainly a lot of sympathy for the government within the country, when it made its case that it was being unfairly persecuted for ending the military threat to the unity of the country from the LTTE.

While the former government was able to use the successive Geneva resolutions of 2012-14 to consolidate its nationalist credentials amongst the general population, it lost the sympathy of the international community, especially the countries aligned to the Western bloc. Sri Lanka was repeatedly defeated when it tried to contest those resolutions. As a result, Sri Lanka’s image as a post-war society that respected human rights took a dip. Some of the Western countries even had travel advisories that described the country as risky to travel to. This had repercussions on the country’s economic development. It made it more difficult for Sri Lanka to attract the foreign investments it needed to boost the economy.

Unhelpful Legacy 

The present government has had to deal with this unhelpful legacy of the past. At the end of 2014 it appeared that Sri Lanka was heading in the direction of economic and political sanctions. It had already lost the GSP Plus tariff concessions from the EU. There was concern that there could be other countries applying unilateral sanctions. The government’s decision to co-sponsor rather than acquiesce or oppose the UNHRC resolution of 2015 helped it to become a partner to the new resolution. This led to a downscaling of demands placed on the country from the international community. But it also created expectations on behalf of the war affected people that their problems would be resolved soon due to the partnership between the Sri Lankan government and the international community. This time around, in 2017 too, Sri Lanka is planning to co-sponsor the latest UNHRC resolution. But this time the expectations are much less.

The government has requested a two year extension to meet the commitments made in the co-sponsored resolution of 2015. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has pointed in his report on Sri Lanka’s performance to many unfulfilled promises. These include the main components of the transitional justice process—truth seeking, accountability, reparations and institutional reforms. The government has not yet operationalised the four mechanisms it promised in October 2015—the truth seeking commission, the office of missing persons, the office of reparations and the special courts. Although an Office of Missing Persons was passed into law by Parliament in August last year, it has yet to be operationalised. Despite these significant failures, it appears that the extension sought by the government will be granted by the UNHRC.

The new government’s readiness to stop confronting the international community on the issue of UNHRC resolutions reflects the change that has taken place at its highest levels. There has been a change of direction in which one of the most commendable changes is that ethnic and religious minorities are no longer singled out for hostile propaganda and violent action by government leaders. The hate campaigns go on at the local level, which are difficult to snuff out immediately, but they have no support from the highest levels of the polity. Therefore the hate campaigns currently lack the energy to burst forth as mass campaigns. They have been localized. On the other hand, those at the receiving end of the hate campaigns are often dismayed by the lack of leadership given by the government leadership to suppress the hate campaigns and their campaigners. Similarly the victims of the war are greatly distressed at the slowness of implementation of their basic grievances, such as not knowing where their missing family members are, and seeing their lands continuing to be occupied by the Sri Lankan military.

Time Frame 

At the root of the problem is a basic fact that Sri Lanka continues to be an ethnically divided society. This is not a new phenomenon. This division existed even prior to Independence from the British in 1948, as manifested in the Pan Sinhala Board of Ministers in 1936 (that had no Tamils or Muslims) and the 50:50 demand of 1939 (which sought to equalize the numbers of Sinhalese and minority MPs in parliament). While the top government leadership today can be considered to be liberal and non-racial minded, their vision of what political form a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society should take is not clear. They have yet to spell out their vision. This is evident in the stalled constitutional reform process where the government leadership has yet to set out its own position. In the absence of a clear vision they will not champion the cause of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious polity and combat the ethnic and religious polarizations in society.

There is a dichotomy between the North and East and the rest of the country on the issue of the UNHRC resolution. Although the ongoing session of the UNHRC is not exciting much public passion in the rest of the country, in the former war zones of the North and East, and amongst the Tamil Diaspora, the passion still continues. Many of the people living there have been direct victims of the war that lasted nearly three decades. They look to the process unfolding in Geneva to obtain justice for them and for their kin. They are hopeful that international intervention will resolve their problems and bring justice to them. The problem with their hopes is that there are many countries that are far worse than Sri Lanka in terms of human rights violations where the international community has done little or nothing.

A Joint Appeal made by Tamil Civil Society Organisations, Political Parties and Trade Unions calls on the UNHRC to deny the government the time it seeks and to conduct an independent international investigation instead. They see a repetition of broken promises by successive Sri Lankan governments where it concerns political solutions to the ethnic conflict. However, Sri Lanka is likely to get another two years. While agreeing to this two year extension, the Global Tamil Forum, a leading diaspora organization led by Fr S J Emmanuel, has requested the UNHRC to formally ensure that Sri Lanka makes a time bound delivery commitment to implement requirements of resolution 30/1 in full, without any exceptions. Whether or not this is included in the new resolution of the UNHRC, as a confidence building measure and an expression of its commitment, the government can set itself a plan and timeframe with regard to the implementation of its promises.


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Latest comments

  • 5

    I cannot understand why this ignoramus cannot understand this UN venture is nothing but politics harming Sri Lanka’s interests. Well if not he barks for the owners who feed him dollars he would have to go with a begging bowl.

    That is a different story. If the government is passing acts keeping the public in dark, that itself is a infringement upon democracy and right to information of the public. Well the western funded NGOs would support such infringement as long as it serves its masters. Dont they?

    Well as patriotic people, what we should do is block any attempt by the government to do this

    • 3

      I clearly understand your barking because you may have to feed yourself from the Rupees Mahinda & Co stole from the people. That is the different story. This govt thorow away a moster lead govt and people endorsed their approach at the UNHRC. It is not a secret that Mahinda & Co used illegal, immoral and unlawful acts to win the war and masscred thousands of civilians to create a dictatorship. They stole billions of pubic money which is now used to feed people like you. Ask your conscience?

  • 2

    How about the Cyprus Model… mate..

    Then our great Sinhala majority sans the UNP can live in peace and harmony ever after.

    One snag though,, Will the vellala community of Dr Jehan absorb the Estate Tamil Community in Pussellawa into the North ?.

    Or will they be located in the East?.

    Will the Wahabi community agree to take them?.

    Bedouin Prince has his work cut out if he takes this NGO’s advice..

    Wonder whether the UN dudes who did the Cyprus job are still around?.

  • 3

    “While the top government leadership today can be considered to be liberal and non-racial minded, their vision of what political form a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society should take is not clear. They have yet to spell out their vision. ……… In the absence of a clear vision they will not champion the cause of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious polity and combat the ethnic and religious polarizations in society.”
    well said Jehan, but even these leaders are depending still on other politicians, but not lk beyond the boundaries of party politics into their personal conscience, moral and religious values. Why not invite these great leaders for a day of self reflection as to how they can move from being party-politicians to become greater statesman at the service of all in the country!

    • 2

      “”Don’t judge Sri Lanka on the broken promises of the past” : FM Mangala Samaraweera at UNHRC” sept 14 2015

    • 2


      How can we trust My3?

      Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has asked Donald Trump to pressure the UN Human Rights Council to drop war crimes allegations against the country’s troops. Sirisena’s office said today he had sent a “special message” to president-elect Trump seeking US intervention at the council, where Sri Lanka faces censure for wartime atrocities.

      “I sent a special message to Donald Trump asking him to support us at the (council),” the President said. “I am asking him to help completely clear my country (of war crimes allegations) and allow us to start afresh.” Sirisena said he was making a similar appeal to the incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
      However, during a visit by outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Sri Lanka last month, Sirisena had asked for more time to investigate war crimes, a sensitive political issue in the majority-Sinhalese country. Sri Lanka has said it will set up special courts to address issues of accountability, but the promised judicial mechanisms have yet to be established.
      There have been allegations that troops killed up to 40,000 minority Tamils during the final battle against separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, a period when Sirisena’s predecessor and strongman leader Mahinda Rajapakse was in power. Sirisena said he had been able to “tone down” a US-initiated censure resolution soon after defeating Rajapakse and coming to power in January 2015. But he was keen to secure Trump’s help to have the allegations against Sri Lanka dropped.
      The rights council has asked Sri Lanka to ensure credible investigations into war crimes, pay reparations to victims and their families and ensure reconciliation after 37 years of ethnic war which claimed at least 100,000 lives. Troops still have a large presence in the former conflict zones in the north and east and keep a close watch on the local Tamil population, seven years after the end of the war.

    • 0

      This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2

    Finding out where the leaders standing is not too hard.

    New King said in Palalai last week that he has backbone to save the his soldiers. Here he what he did for the to save his soldiers:
    He refused to accept the report produced by the committee appointed by Yahapalanaya – Special Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms. But he is awaiting to receive a report produced Old Brother Prince called “Witness of the Soldiers” to be submitted to UNHRC. This the man claimed the war was with Zero Casualty. It was when his government was in power they spent Millions of dollars to Bell Pottinger and to produce and submit to UNSG Ban Ki Moon, a fraudulent movie called “Lies agreed upon”. These witnessing soldiers are the beast raped the girls when the girls were take their last breath in the war. Now the Old Brother prince is using the beastial soliers to save him from Electric Chair. The New King, another war criminal who oversaw the white flag Murders is flocking with the same feathered beast by agreeing to receive the report and pass it to NHRC.

    All what the big ones, who are bigger in their own perception, do is only whitewashing the war criminal New King.

    • 0

      Mally, Daispora Suren and UNP London thought Sira is a Jelly Back ,as one commentator called him.

      But JB Sira is having the last laugh now,

      Daham is a Royalist but dumb as dog shit.

      But Chattau looks more and more like foreman material. And most probably will end up as the CEO of a “Yahapalanya.”

      In contrast, see the UNP Boss Dr BR . He is looking more and more like a Dr Ra bada. with a PhD. But acting like a a real RB after a fill.

      In the meantime His Golayas are raking in big time, while Dr BR is singing MaaaLeeee . But even can’t clap to the tune..

      JB Sira is on the hustings in the South handing out free land to Dalits.

      In contrast RB wants to do is give Sampathar’s mates, free lands to rule ,even the old LTTE Air strip in Mulivaikal..

      But UNP losers are now bragging that they can form a Government on their own.

      What do you think Mally.l

      I think they should and get what ever more they can, along side Mahendran’s loot, Siva’s Land and so many other delals like the Srilankan. .

      Because they will never have a chance again for a long while, as your mate Sampathar is pissed off as it is.

      And won’t be around to muster the Vellalas to tick the UNP how to vote cards next time.

  • 4

    Peaceful relocation of Tamils to Tamil Nadu is the only lasting solution.

  • 0

    Rajapakses did not go for a political solution after May 19th 2009. They enriched themselves and their close friends & associates and consolidated their hold on the power between 2010 and Jan 2015.

    In the interest of the future of the country at least one member from each MaRa’s & brothers must become Buddhist Monks and create a new young political class representing all races and religious groups.

    These monks can use the smart patriot philosophy and internationalism preached or written by
    Reverend Dayan Jayatilleke son of Mervyn de Silva and transform the political culture that has been in practice since 1948.

    I hope with the help J. O , Dr.DJ can lead a procession together with new Rajapakse monks from Anuradhapura to Kandy via Dambulla.

  • 0

    S.J.Emmanuel….. What kind of father are you ??
    This Government is bogged down to spell out their vision… just as your vision is bogged down what to believe when you consecrate Bread & Wine at Holy Mass you theologian.

    The Israelites betrayed their GOD for an object of Gold they called BAAL…..
    Judas betrayed JESUS CHRIST for thirty pieces of Silver……..
    S.J.EMMANUEL BETRAYED BOTH FOR A PIECE OF LAND CALLED TAMIL EeLAM and destroyed the basis of the Catholic Faith and equated Velu Baby to be that of Jesus Christ.

  • 0


    Your pay masters involvedin Sudan, New guinea, former Yugo slavia, so many times in the middle east, Korea and German in those days and you know the results. Even LTTE could not help that. but, Mahinda Rajapakse either did not handle it well or did not do it, left another thread so that your pay masters could catch.

  • 0

    The number of civilian casualties from airstrikes by the US-led coalition in the Iraqi city of Mosul exceeds the numbers reported by the media during the operation to retake Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces.

    March 16th is the anniversary of the 1968 massacre of innocent Vietnamese by predominantly white, almost all Christian American troops. Not one was brought up on war crimes charges. One was given a mild sentenced and pardoned by President Nixon.

    So many other war crimes were committed by predominantly white christian American soldiers. They dropped millions of bombs on Cambodia from 30,000 feet altitude knowing very well innocent civilians were the biggest casualties. They raped women and cut off ears of VC suspects as souvenirs. They dropped Agent Orange and Vietnamese children are still born with grotesque deformities as a result. No one cried. You the Catholic agent funded by the US never had the balls to talk about these issues. Yet you call yourself a global humanist. How many innocent Libyans died at the hands of US bombs and where there is no ISIS now there is. How many died in Iraq. 23rd March is the anniversary of that great crusade. Where there was no Islamic terrorism there is now.

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