24 September, 2021

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Responding Successfully To International Pressures Is Possible With Internal Unity

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government’s first reaction to the passage of the UNHRC resolution was to make the point that there was no unanimity within the international community with regard to it. Government spokespersons pointed out that the countries pushing for the resolution came from the Western bloc and that those non-Western countries that voted in favour of it were dependent on Western patronage and themselves not implementing human rights in an acceptable manner. Of the 10 or so countries subjected to resolutions at the recently concluded UNHRC session, only of them was a Western ally, and that was Israel. The other countries were Belarus, Burma, Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, South Sudan and Yemen. This and similar observations have enabled the government to convince the majority of the population that it is being found fault with for defending Sri Lanka’s national sovereignty and for not falling prey to the demand to take sides in geopolitical rivalries.

Most of the commentary in Sri Lanka on the issue of the UNHRC resolution and the High Commissioner’s report from which it draws inspiration take the position of the government and agree that there is a double standard at play with regard to Sri Lanka. On the one hand, there is a problem within Sri Lanka as evident in the long-standing campaign on behalf of missing people and the many national commissions that have been appointed to inquire into war-time violations. On the other hand, in comparison to violations taking elsewhere in the world, there are violations taking place that can be considered be on a much larger scale. These include countries such as Saudi Arabia with regard to the war in Yemen, India with regard to the Kashmir problem or China with regard to its Muslim minority. However, the UN human rights system has not made similar heavy-handed threats of referring the leaderships of those countries to the International Criminal Court, imposing travel bans and freezing their bank accounts or having them subjected to the principle of universal jurisdiction.

With the UN consisting of 195 countries the focus upon Sri Lanka since the end of the war in 2009 has given rise to the belief within the country that there is more at stake than human rights. Despite the regression that is currently taking place Sri Lanka still remains one of the better countries in the world in terms of political freedoms and personal safety. Indeed, Sri Lanka has always been special, and internationally in the spotlight, from having had the first woman prime minister in 1960 to being a model of social welfare in the 1970s and then getting trapped in a destructive internal war. Although the trend line in the past year has been negative it can be argued, as the government and majority public commentary does, that Sri Lanka does not merit the special attention it is receiving if the only criterion is the scale of human rights violations and absence of good governance practices. This accounts for the anger that opponents of the UNHRC actions have that Sri Lanka is being repeatedly challenged by the international community on human rights issues.

Governent Restrictions 

Among the first acts of the government in the aftermath of the UNHRC resolution was to ban seven Tamil Diaspora organisations and 399 individuals based abroad. The previous government, which committed itself to following the UNHRC mandated path to national reconciliation, to which it had also contributed and which it co-sponsored, had de-banned those organisations and individuals in order to enlist their support for the reconciliation process. This created a visible rift within the Tamil Diaspora which was visible at UNHRC sessions where those who were no longer under the ban were criticised and ostracised by those who continued to be subject to the ban. The re-banning of Tamil Diaspora organisations and individuals will not make them go away but will instead make it more likely that all factions work together in a common cause.

A second sector that is under pressure in the aftermath of the passage of the UNHRC resolution are civil society groups within the country that are working for human rights and peacebuilding. Their work is not easy in a society in which government leaders at various times have denied there is an ethnic conflict and there is no need for a political solution. In any country that is polarised on ethnic and religious lines, and not only in Sri Lanka, each community will believe that the problems and threat lie with the other communities. To mitigate this problem there is a need for consciously creating opportunities for inter community mixing and joint activities.

The ground reality in many parts of Sri Lanka is that society at the community level is plural, with different ethnic, religious, class, caste and gender groups seeking to coexist peacefully and productively. This diversity is a reality from the overall perspective of the country also. It is important that these different communities should not remain in their own compartments but should actively engage with one another in a constructive way. Without such positive engagement the engagement can take a negative form through competition over resources, to discrimination and even to violent conflict. Peacebuilding organisations seek to promote positive engagement by forming inter-religious and inter-ethnic groups at multiple levels who can engage in common problem-solving activities. However, there is a view within the government that this work is no longer necessary as there is peace in the country.

Information Flow 

In terms of the UNHRC resolution, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has been mandated to set up a special investigation unit to collect information on violations that have taken place and continue to take place in Sri Lanka. One of the concerns expressed by government members is that such information will be provided by civil society organisations and this should be stopped by restricting the scope of their activities. There was a recent media report that an environmental organisation had provided its donor agency with reports detailing corrupt practices taking place in the country. However, these are not secrets known specially to only civil society groups but are being reported every day in the national media by investigative journalists. These news reports are available on the internet for any competent researcher to collect in any part of the world.

The same holds true for allegations of human rights abuses which are also reported in the media with varying emphasis in English, Sinhala and Tamil language. The flow of adverse information will continue through the mass media which includes the social media which is virtually impossible to control. Rather than seek to control the flow of such information with a heavy hand the better way is to reduces it by ensuring that the media or civil organisations have not such incidents to report. This calls for improvements in the practices of governance which includes strengthening the systems of checks and balances and also the resolution of deep-seated political problems by means of negotiated settlements.

The government’s rejection of international strictures regarding the human rights and governance problems within the country will become more convincing if there is true healing and peace within the country. On the other hand, the international community is likely to hold to its positions if the opposition political parties and minority parties are complaining that they are being disregarded and that the human rights of their constituencies are being violated. It is therefore necessary for the government to reach out to these political parties and to enlist civil society support its efforts to bring healing and reconciliation to the country through domestic mechanisms as it has proposed in order to meet the challenge posed by the UNHRC resolution. Pointing out that the Western bloc of countries have a geopolitical agenda and practising double standards will not change the situation for the better as much as unifying the country internally will.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    11

    Internally we are more divided.

    e.g. China. Some Sri Lankans love China while others hate China.
    e.g. India. Some Sri Lankans love India while others hate India.
    e.g. UNHRC. Some Sri Lankans love UNHRC while others hate UNHRC.

    Should we all hate UNHRC?

  • 3
    27

    JP,
    What they say is right. This country does not have an ‘Ethnic Conflict’. Sinhalayo who are the native people and majority have a problem with a small group of racist separatist Malabar Vellala Tamil politicians who keep on talking about their aspirations and a political solution. It is clear that their aspirations are not the aspirations of a large majority of Tamils scattered in this country. Unwillingness in the part of Sinhalayo to fulfill the aspirations of this small group should not be interpreted as an ‘Ethnic Conflict’.
    If there is an ‘Ethnic Conflict’ how come more and more Tamils from North East move to the South and live amongst Sinhalayo?
    How come these Malabar Vellala Tamil politicians who use anti-Sinhala rhetoric when they go to Yapanaya looking for votes live in Colombo with Sinhalayo without moving to Yapanaya?
    Please visit You Tube and listen to what Arun Siddharth say.

    “Their work is not easy in a society in which government leaders at various times have denied there is an ethnic conflict and there is no need for a political solution.”

  • 18
    3

    Jehan, when it comes to minority rights violations, SB politicians have been always united covering each others back, and never of those who were affected. GR is covering MS, RW shielded MR. I remember when RW took over the first thing he said was “he will not allow international bodies to punish MR ‘. MS said he will not allow any rights violators to be punished under his watch”. MR covered CB who in turn covered RW. During 84 Bandas did not raise any rights concern other than their own. JR poured gasoline into fire initiated by SWRD, who inturn created fire from the sparks left by Senanayakas. In between JVP went around creating minor fires. And many minority leaders, used it to wardeoff the cold seasons.cold. People who got burned are those citizens who kept cheering and applauding. Read Bopage,s article for facts.

  • 12
    1

    When people say U.N should look into both parties (LTTE/Rajapaksas) for human rights violations, I say look into all atrocities caused by all parties since independence.

  • 10
    3

    ‘Responding Successfully To International Pressures Is Possible With Internal Unity’, attacks UNHRC.
    It creates an impression that UNHRC is setting up a trap and that our good Jehan Perera out to rescue us is showing a path to avoid falling prey. It is just the opposite.
    SL has gone on digging a massive grave to bury us alive; UNHRC is persuading us to fill it up quickly!

  • 3
    15

    “To mitigate this problem there is a need for consciously creating opportunities for inter community mixing and joint activities.”
    —-
    Who prevented inter-community mixing? Racist Separatist Malabar Vellala Tamil politicians starting from SJV Chelnanayakan who was an illegal immigrant from Malaya and formed the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi. Language is the main barrier for inter-community mixing. Who created that barrier? GG Ponnambalam who told Tamils not to learn Sinhala. Even now Tamil politicians try to prevent Tamils learning Sinhala to keep the two communities apart for their political survival. NPC responsible for recruiting Sinhala teachers to schools in Yapanaya did not do that.

  • 18
    3

    You sermons are like blowing the conch shell horn at a deaf man.

    The Sri Lankan state and its agents are hell bent on destroying the minority Tamil nation and other minority communities.

    Sri Lanka has to learn the bitter lesson that it cannot go against the wishes of its big neighbor:
    Accommodate the aspirations of the Tamils of the North-East of Sri Lanka.

    Several small countries like Sri Lanka took the confrontational road like Sri Lanka and realized afterwards that it was a folly. Examples include Georgia, Ukraine and Cyprus.

    Hubris comes before the fall!

  • 13
    2

    In a country in which dissent is coming to be squeezed, the natural tendency would be to look for support from foreign agencies. This happened before and it is happening now. Sinhala nationalism created a Tamil diaspora which is now active in seeking change through international pressure. It will grow in strength as years go by. The Sinhalese who go abroad do so in disgust of the corruption and maladministration of successive governments in Sri Lanka and have no desire to counter the activities of the Tamil diaspora. Inside Sri Lanka, there is an ongoing slide which politicians on both sides will not stop. One probably has to be grateful for international concern. Saudi Arabia, etc. are gone cases which cannot be helped. Sri Lanka is not. Hence, the desire to stop the slide which needs to be encouraged. the writer is becoming an apologist. why?

  • 4
    2

    What we are looking for is unity in diversity.
    ..
    We humans are naturally inclined to greed of many kinds.
    ..
    Hence, without an external force, we will go from order to disorder.
    ..
    Only way to successfully apply pressure in positive direction is to have an achievable goal, which will help all the communities.
    ..
    Everyone must learn to compromise.
    ..
    To ensure this process will succeed, we require genuine leadership.
    ..
    To get rid of foreign obstacles, we must step towards self sufficiency, at least in our basic needs.
    ..
    Within 5 years we can rise above the vicious debt cycle.
    ..
    More than 50 percent of our imports are food products.
    ..
    So in simple terms, self sufficiency is the best goal.

  • 18
    2

    If Sri Lanka can crush the small Tamil nation within, the same logic can be applied by a big nation on Sri Lanka. Inside and outside do not matter in the interconnected world today.

    What is wrong with it? Sinhalese need to learn this lesson.

    If Might is right for the Sinhalese vis-à-vis the Tamils, bigger fish can use the same logic to eat a small one in the Indian ocean.

    • 2
      7

      Crush!

    • 2
      9

      The only ‘Tamil Nation’ is the one in the deluded brains of the Tamil diaspora.

  • 11
    3

    Jegan,
    I don’t know who choose the title of this article but the fact is that war crimes and human rights violations and ethnic cleansing are committed by Rajapaksa regime cannot be changed or altered by internal or external unity. As a Buddhist Monk accepted that Gota proved himself that they committed crimes during their regime and will do it again and again. After the recent UNHRC resolution he intensified his brutal anger against Tamils in and out means that he will do more violations again and again. He is now more angry with not only Tamils but also Sinhalese who now started to raise questions over questions about Corona vaccine deals, Sugar import deals, Coconut oil import deals, cost of livings and militarisation and family rivalry. People are even accuse him of Easter Bombing? He successfully eliminated Mahinda Rajapaksa family from politics and now his focus is other challenging brother Basil. God Bless Sri Lanka!

  • 8
    2

    Ajith summarises the issues very nicely. True healing and reconciliation can only HAPPEN if both parties accept their wrong doings over the last 73 years.
    Can EE or any other Sinhalayo tabulate their WRONG DOINGS so far as well as what wrong thingsthey are continuing to do? I just wonder how much dravidian blood runs in these people?

  • 5
    1

    The Rajapaksa’s have been ruthless in more ways than one. Whether it was the Sinhalese people protesting their contaminated water, or the Tamil civilians who were supposed to be taken care of in the safety zones, the Rajapaksa’s brutally gave the military the orders to kill civilians, going against all international laws.

    From the time Nandasena was given power, he has implemented racist policies, further dividing this country, and even denied the minority the right to bury their dead, according to WHO regulations.
    He has imprisoned professionals from the minority without reason, and have kept them jailed without due legal rights. He has kept his Buddhist base content by attacking the minority, and doing the bidding of extremists Buddhist priests. We have yet to hear strong speeches supporting unity, and explaining to the people that as a country we cannot succeed or progress without unity by any of these selfish politicians. Who can blame the international organizations for believing the Rajapaksa’s are racist and that minorities are discriminated?
    Actions speak louder than words.

    • 1
      4

      Ashan
      “…the Rajapaksa’s brutally gave the military the orders to kill civilians, going against all international laws.
      —-
      You seems to be having a serious mental problem. You blame Rajapakshes for the wicked things Prabhakaran and LTTE did. It was LTTE cadres who were hiding behind the human shield and opened fire at Sri Lanka Army who went to rescue Tamil civilians. When Tamil civilians tried to escape and run to Sri Lanka Army for safety, LTTE barbarians shot the civilians.
      Rajapakshes did not give orders to kill civilians. Under the guidance of Rajapakshes Sri Lanka Armed Forces liberated about 300,000 Tamil civilians kept as a human shield by LTTE Tamil terrorists.
      Rajapakshes are not racist. Racists are Malabar Vellala Tamil politicians. All the people in this country suffered for three decades because of those racist separatist Tamil politicians.

      • 3
        0

        Blind eye
        You may.be bashing all about the past what is the way forward for your faraway native country where you born ,still repatriation going on why all those have to leave the.country like you sheltering under the skirts of.whites and happy to serve them

  • 8
    0

    SL’s response for the UNHRC accusation was a counter attack, accusing the countries that did not support SL as hypocrites & bullies or bum suckers. The fact is, people disappeared & that is not limited to only terrorists or ethnic minorities either, critics or those considered working against the govt. are banged up indefinitely without charge, the country is run by military cronies & corrupt oligarchs, the judiciary & the media is biased & state controlled. In this context, ‘Responding Successfully To International Pressures Is Possible With Internal Unity’ is utter rubbish. In my thinking, such ‘internal unity’ would be sucking up to the ruling regime, which, is probably happening now with no effective opposition, apart from, perhaps, the JVP. Opposition parties should act with integrity & honesty, to stand up for what is right, not supporting atrocities in the name of ‘internal unity’. When the country is divided, thanks to the current regime, what is internal unity?

  • 2
    0

    Internal unity is already there among all singalayas political parties such as UNP,SLFP,MEP,LSSP,JVP AND SLPP As to reduce the political ,social and using tamil with communication with the government .the need of the hour after UNHCR RESOLUTION IS TO HEAL THE WOUNDS OF TAMILS AND MUSLIMS WHICH IS NOT POSSIBLE AT ALL UNDER ANY SINGALA MODYAS GOVERNMENTS.THEY SHOULD LEARN A LESION AND CORRECT THEIR MISTAKE BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

  • 1
    0

    Blind eye
    You may.be bashing all about the past what is the way forward for your faraway native country where you born ,still repatriation going on why all those have to leave the.country like you sheltering under the skirts of.whites and happy to serve them

  • 0
    0

    Jehan PhD wants to have all Jaffna converted to Buddhism, staring from UOJ. From 1956 to 1983 Tamils lived mixed within Sinhalese and returned to North East. Only leader Piraphaharan stopped the annual celebration of pogroms to steal Tamil properies and enjoys Tamil women unlimited and murder. Now he is calling to populate North with Sinhalese because Tamil don’t want to go to South even if they are not getting any jobs. by eye for eye way. No Tamils in the world going to believe Jehan PhD’s gimmicks. He went to UNHRC with Tilak to withdraw Lankawe from UNHRC. He lives on Western donation and does this their way of lives and interest.
    For Buddhist Sinhalese, the only solution reaming is reaching UNHRC.

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