By S. V. Kirubaharan –
It has taken more than three decades for the International community to understand the attitude of Sri Lanka, which is unbending and characterizes each and every Sri Lanka government through history. Better late than never, two consecutive resolutions have been passed on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council – HRC.
Now there are rumours, talks and discussions about a resolution on Sri Lanka in the forthcoming 25th session of the HRC. If so, this 3rd resolution may call for an ‘international independent inquiry’. Well and good.
As a person working on the Sri Lankan situation for more than two decades, writing appeals, producing reports, meeting VVIPS, VIPs, experts and others, I am not jumping to say there will be a resolution or what the contents will be. However if a resolution is put forward, I am 100% sure that it will go through without any hurdles. The Rajapaksa government may be good at vote-rigging and manipulating the counting, but are they capable of doing this in the HRC?
Some are concerned that China, Russia and Cuba are back in the HRC. So what? Not only these three countries, but also Venezuela and Pakistan are there to save Sri Lanka. Out of these countries for Human Wrongs, many were members in the 19th session in 2012, when the 1st resolution was successfully passed.
Before we deal with the members of the UN HRC and the reality of voting, let me consider the Tamil Diaspora and the Sri Lankan attitude.
Many grass-roots diaspora activists who have become involved lately, have personalized the Tamil ethnic issue and the accountability issue. They think that if there is a news item about them in the media it is an achievement of the Tamil Nation. This is a selfish thought.
Whoever it is, Tamil diaspora activists should learn to promote affairs concerning the Tamil Nation in the Island – war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Sri Lanka during the last days of the war and before, rather than promoting themselves.
There was a time when some of us were not present in the UN Human Rights forums; no information was available about the situation of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Today this situation has changed. Now there are international human rights organizations and even States working on the atrocities committed by Sri Lanka. Therefore diaspora activists should not disturb the genuine efforts of these powerful parties.
It is ugly for any diaspora activist to mark their presence in the HRC in Geneva purely for their own purpose. If anyone’s motivation is for their personal glory, political ambition or aiming at a Nobel Prize, it would be better for them to shine in their own field, rather than misusing the affairs of Tamils.
The HRC is a politicised organ of the UN, but not a political forum. Even though the UN Charter; article 1 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – ICCPR and International Covenant on Economic Social Cultural Rights – ICESC all enshrine the right to self-determination, the HRC does not focus on this collective right. There are many reasons for this.
Therefore, there is no point for any Tamil representatives, especially unelected representatives to lobby purely on right to self-determination in Geneva. This will sabotage the recent fruitful development in the HRC on accountability – an international independent inquiry in Sri Lanka. The UN General Assembly and the Security Council are in New York. That is the best place for any lobby on the right to self-determination.
Sri Lanka attitude
Concerning the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the attitude of Sri Lankan governments has not changed since independence in 1948. From time to time there has been regime change, but their attitude is always based exclusively on the path of Buddhist chauvinism. Therefore it is very clear that no Sri Lankan government is going to do any good for the Tamils.
Their path is war and aggression. Every Sri Lanka governments’ hands have been covered with Tamil blood. Tamils have no good memories of any Sri Lankan government. I could write pages about their strategies and actions but here I will be brief.
To aid so-called development in the North and East, the government wants the diaspora to fund rebuilding projects and reconstruction. But developments in other regions are done with State funds. When the diaspora spend their money to renovate the churches, temples and schools in the Jaffna peninsula, at the final stage of the renovation, the military personnel go with a readymade stone demanding that it be set in the wall. The writing on the stone says that the renovation was done by the government of Sri Lanka. This is presented to outsiders as ‘development’ in the North.
It is well known that the government has been preparing some videos to show in the 25th session of the HRC. These are to counter a few well-documented incidents taken up by some international NGOs and certain States. Sri Lanka has forced some people to say utter lies and exaggerations to include in this video. This so-called evidence has been given under duress and at gun-point. Evidence collected in Sri Lanka, especially under military control is not coming from free voices. Sri Lanka will earn even more shame when they try to show this footage in the 25th session or elsewhere.
According to Defence Ministry sources, now they are considering rehabilitating those who missed the government rehabilitation project, in which even Advanced Level qualified surrendees are taught carpentry, masonry, hairdressing, etc. This project is meaningless.
If they are seriously thinking of undertaking this rehabilitation project for those who are in foreign countries, we would welcome it – provided they can arrange a few charter flights. This will give those people a chance to see how their villages were demolished in the process of Sinhala colonization, buddhisation and militarization in their land.
Members of the HRC
Mr Ndong Ella, the Permanent Representative of Gabon is the President for the year 2014 – 8th Cycle of the HRC. Member states of the Human Rights Council on regional basis from 1 January – 31 December 2014 are:
African States – Algeria (2016); Benin (2014); Botswana (2014); Burkina Faso (2014); Congo (2014); Côte d’Ivoire (2015); Ethiopia (2015); Gabon (2015); Kenya (2015); Morocco (2016); Namibia (2016); Sierra Leone (2015) and South Africa (2016)
Asia-Pacific States – China (2016); India (2014); Indonesia (2014); Japan (2015); Kazakhstan (2015) ; Kuwait (2014); Maldives (2016); Pakistan (2015); Philippines (2014) ; Republic of Korea (2015); Saudi Arabia (2016) ; United Arab Emirates (2015) and Viet Nam (2016)
Latin American & Caribbean States – Argentina (2015); Brazil (2015); Chile (2014); Costa Rica (2014); Cuba (2016) ; Mexico (2016) ; Peru (2014) and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) (2015)
Western Europe & other States – Austria (2014); France (2016); Germany (2015); Ireland (2015); Italy (2014) ; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2016) and United States of America (2015)
Eastern European State – Czech Republic (2014); Estonia (2015); Montenegro (2015); Romania (2014); Russian Federation (2016) and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2016)
During the voting on the 1st resolution in the 19th session in March 2012, all 47 members cast their votes. The result was 24 for the resolution ‘Yes’, 15 against ‘No’, and 08 abstained, neither yes nor no.
For the 2nd resolution, in the 22th session of the HRC in March 2013 – only 46 members cast their votes. The result was 25 for the resolution ‘Yes’, 13 against ‘No’; 08 abstained. Gabon didn’t take part in the voting.
Since 31 December 2013, out of 47 members, 14 members have left the HRC and another 14 new members have joined the HRC for a period of 3 years. This rotation happens on a regional basis:
African states – Angola, Mauritania, Libya and Uganda have completed their period and Algeria, Morocco, Namibia and South Africa are newly elected.
Asia-Pacific states – Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar and Thailand have completed their period and China, Saudi Arabia and Viet Nam are newly elected. Maldives has been re-elected.
Latin American & Caribbean States – Ecuador and Guatemala have completed their period and Cuba and Mexico are newly elected.
Western Europe & other States – Spain and Switzerland are outgoing. France and United Kingdom which both have strong links with many colonial countries in Africa and Asia, are in the HRC.
Eastern European States – EU member country Poland and Republic of Moldova are out going and Russian Federation and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are newly elected.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a semi EU country. The Council of the EU decided in December 2005 to grant it candidate status. Due to an un-resolved dispute with Greece over its name as “Republic of Macedonia”, Greece is blocking Macedonian accession to the EU.
Remaining 33 members
Now let’s look at the remaining 33 members who are still in the HRC:
Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Gabon, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Montenegro, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, United Arab Emirates, United States and Venezuela.
For the last resolution on Sri Lanka, out of 33 members – 19 voted in favour; 07 voted against and 06 abstained. Gabon didn’t take part in the voting.
Considering the voting on the earlier two resolutions on Sri Lanka and in the forthcoming 25th session, there are possibilities that only 3 or 4 votes may change. These are: Russia in place of Poland will vote against; South Africa in place of Uganda, Namibia in place of Libya will either vote ‘Yes’ or ‘abstain’. Malaysia which abstained in the last resolution, but the replacing country will certainly vote against.
The South African voting may need a detailed explanation. Libya voted ‘yes’ for the last resolution and Namibia is most likely to follow South Africa.
During the past two resolutions, my predictions were never wrong. My position is not about the number of votes, but about the result of the voting. After the last voting, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, H.E. Ravinatha Pandukabhaya Aryasinha asked me in the corridors, ‘where are those 33 votes’? I told him ‘I never said the number of votes in any of my articles, but of course I wrote about the result of the vote’. Anyhow, the voting in the 25th HRC may differ. There may be more abstentions than ever before, but beyond doubt the resolution will go through.
South African Tamils
There are over 500,000 Tamils living in South Africa and they are well respected by all communities. Like the Plantation Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Tamils in South Africa were brought by the British to work in the Sugar Cane plantations as indentured labourers. But today they are prospering at all levels in South Africa – academics, educationalists, businessmen, politicians, professionals, bankers, and serving in the National Defence etc. Presently you hardly find any Tamils working in the Sugar Cane plantations.
Compare this with the pathetic situation of the Plantation Tamils in Sri Lanka. Apart from less than 10% of this population, all the others still work in the tea plantations picking tea leaves for very low wages, in desparate housing and social conditions. This is one of the indications that the racism in Sri Lanka is even worse than apartheid was in South Africa.
In South Africa, there are more than 150 Saiva (Hindu) Temples; Tamil schools; Tamil language, cultural and religious organizations.
South Africa will never vote against anything which is good for any oppressed people. If bad comes to worse, they may abstain from voting. If Sri Lanka believes it can convince South Africa, this means, they know neither the history of South Africa nor politics.
In my view, the ‘Standardisation’ introduced in 1971, gave birth to militancy and resulted in 30 years of armed struggle. If the International independent investigation does not take place, or drags its feet, this will give birth to another war at some stage. Certainly it will have the support and recognition of many!
The Standardisation system introduced by the Education Ministry of Sri Lanka, was directed against Tamil-medium students. For example, University entrance for the medical faculty required 250 out of 400 for Tamil students, whereas only 229 for the Sinhalese students. Students sitting for the examinations in the same school, but belonging to two different ethnic groups (Singhalese and Tamils) needed to gain different qualifying marks. This is the Sri Lankan racial educational system.