20 May, 2022

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Second Chance In Geneva: Some Reflections

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

On 28th February 2022 at the 49th session of UN Council for Human Rights, its High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet would submit her report card on Sri Lanka’s performance over human rights and other associated issues, in accordance with the landmark resolution 46/1 passed a year ago, a copy of which was received by the government and response dispatched a couple of days ago. That resolution was passed with 22 votes in favour, 11 against and 14 abstentions. For the Rajapaksa government what happened in 2021 was a debacle resulting from amateurish diplomacy and unsolicited jingoism.

To fulfil the stipulations contained in that resolution, few measures were introduced in the parliament such as to reform the PTA and the Internal Security Act. These were cosmetic in essence and halfhearted in commitment and were aimed at satisfying the form and not the substance of what was required. Similarly, the delayed release on bail such victims as the Muslim poet Ahnaf Jazeem and human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, who were arrested on trump up charges in the first place, and permission granted to Muslims to bury the Covid-dead on condition that they should do so only in one exclusively designated cemetery in a far-off place in the Eastern Province, demonstrate not a genuine willingness to improve the regime’s human rights record, but a display of the deceptive side of its Janus face. Geneva gave a second chance for the regime to come clean. Will it pass the test? Leaked documents indicate a negative answer.

Yielding to pressures from UNHCR or any other foreign forces, would be a climb down to the regime’s and particularly its President’s self-portrayal as defenders of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism. It was GR’s determination and promise to his voters to protect and strengthen Sinhala-Buddhist supremacy that caused violation of human rights to start with. In the name of protecting national sovereignty and strengthening internal security all religious and ethnic minorities with international links fell under the radar of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Defence Ministry. Therefore, to expect him and his regime to relent in the face of UNHCR pressure and dilute their supremacist ideology to accommodate the minorities on equal terms as partners in national development is to expect the impossible.

In a recent press conference, Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris while appealing to UNHCR to understand and appreciate measures taken by his government’s “internally structured mechanism” to tackle and resolve issues raised by resolution 46/1, reminded that apex body “not to substitute the country’s parliament”. He and the Minister of Justice reiterated that those issues could only be resolved in the long-run. How long would that long-run be is anybody’s guess. But the problem with the parliament is that it has lost all its powers and become virtually a rubber stamp approving whatever diktat that comes out of the President’s office. GR on different occasions had warned international bodies like UN, to respect his country’s sovereignty and its elected government, and not to interfere in its domestic affairs. It was that jingoism which made foreign powers to take serious notice of the cries for help that came from the regime’s victims. Resolution 46/1 was the result of that appeal. More resolutions could follow if the regime’s hawkishness continues. However, given the clash of interests among members of international bodies like UNHCR, there is a possibility that the regime may get away this time with a slap on the wrist. But what if it fails the test?

Following President GR’s 2022 Independence Day address, Prime Minister MR challenged his opponents for an electoral showdown. The fact that he issued that challenge from Anuradhapura, the Buddhist cultural capital, has its own significance. However, one would have thought that it was not the right time for MR to call for any poll, national, provincial or local, because of his government’s disastrous handling of the economy and peoples’ dissatisfaction. With a bankrupt treasury running dry of precious dollars to service national debt, let alone settle it, and pay for vital imports; with rampant corruption in governance and mafia groups dictating policies to government; and with bickering divisions within the ruling coalition, government’s popularity has ebbed to the bottom. However, MR, a seasoned politician and master of electoral manoeuvres seems to have detected in the gloomy environment an opportunity for a surprise victory. What could have been the reasons for his optimism?

As afar as the regime is concerned, economy, corruption, foreign debt and internal divisions are all nonissues. For instance, when a TV journalist recently interviewed Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa (BR) and asked him whether there was an economic crisis in the country, BR dismissed that question by answering that it was a global crisis, that it had been present in Sri Lanka for a long time, and that it had only worsened recently. Surprisingly, he did not blame the pandemic this time. Even GR on an earlier occasion considered the current economic difficulties as short-term challenges that would be overcome in the long-term. Once again one is not clear of the length of that long-term. Likewise, corruption is not new but endemic to this country, and borrowing and spending had been the pastime for all governments. When did this country ever had a surplus budget except once when Dr. N. M. Perera was Finance Minister in Sirimavo’s leftist coalition? MR knows all this, and he could point his finger at his opponents as sharply as they are doing at him. And more importantly, none of the parties that are vying for power has so far presented any alternative plan or strategy for a quick economic recovery. Even the manifesto of NPP/JVP was more an ideological criticism of economic liberalism and free market than a categorical framework of practical measures to overcome the crisis.

In addition, there is one crucial issue on which all opposition parties, except the Tamil and Muslim parties, remain rather muted and would dare not challenge the regime openly. Even NPP/JVP has not been honest and categorical on this issue. This is the commitment by Rajapaksas to protect and promote Sinhala-Buddhist supremacy and its preparedness to make Sri Lanka a Buddhist state eventually. For example, when Gnanasara Thera, the obstreperous Secretary General of Bodhu Bala Sena, declared in Kandy in 2018 that Sinhala Buddhists are the true owners of this country and that the minorities are long-term tenants allowed to live at the behest of the majority, none of the opposition members in parliament including those from JVP refuted that claim. Now that the same Gnanasara is heading a task force to advise GR on the infamous one-country-one-law (OCOL) agenda, attempts are under way to homogenize the country’s cultural heterogeneity and achieve not unity but uniformity in diversity. The forthcoming constitution may facilitate the possibility of reaching this worrying destiny. Unless the opposition declares its categorical commitment to do away with Sinhala Buddhist ethno-nationalism and its majoritarian counterpart, Sri Lanka would go the same way as Modi’s Hindutva India. MR obviously sees in this Buddhist demagoguery backed by hardline members of Sangha the winning trick to beat his opponents, and hence his confidence and challenge.

In the meantime, the Foreign Minister seems to be optimistic about the outcome in Geneva. But the prognosis does not look healthy. However, if the regime failed the test that may be turned into another propaganda weapon by its apparatchiks to warn the masses against external threats and the need for a strong man like GR to lead the country. BR also in that interview reiterated this point and said that the country should be thankful for having strong leaders like GR and MR at this troubled time. A disunited opposition without any concrete alternative to offer would be caught on the hop when the time of choice arrives.

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business & Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 18
    1

    Dr.Ameer Ali,
    You have correctly identified that why Sri Lanka cannot be in peace or developed that is none of the major Sinhalese political leadership whether it is JVP or SJB or UNP or SLFP or SLPP or LSSP or CP cannot question the wrongs of the Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism which does not accept Tamils, Muslims and Christians (including Sinhalese) are people belong to this island. You are right that Mahinda Rajapaksa is confident that they can use Buddhist Sinhala Ethno -Religious- Nationalism to beat the economic and other challenges. In addition he is confident that he has the enough financial wealth to buy few opportunistic Muslim and Tamil Politicians as they always did in the past.

    • 12
      1

      Ajith you say:
      “…why Sri Lanka cannot be in peace or developed that is none of the major Sinhalese political leadership whether it is JVP or SJB or UNP or SLFP or SLPP or LSSP or CP cannot question the wrongs of the Buddhist Sinhala Fundamentalism which does not accept Tamils, Muslims and Christians (including Sinhalese) are people belong to this island.”
      ~
      You are spot on Ajith! In my view this issue of Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism has absolutely been the bane of Sri Lanka’s existence since Independence. When I left Sri Lanka at the age of 21 years it was there then. I am now 75 years of age and it is still there. In those 50 or so years every generation has been a lost generation. When will the fathers and mothers of Sri Lanka realise this loss and change course? I won’t be around for another 50 years to see.

      • 2
        10

        KP,
        “In my view this issue of Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism has absolutely been the bane of Sri Lanka’s existence since Independence.”

        At the time Sinhalayo gained independence Tamils in Yapanaya who scratched the back of British were the most privileged group in Sinhale. They dominated the public administration and helped British to oppress and discriminate indigenous Sinhalayo.
        Racism and separatism promoted by Tamil politicians in Yapanaya have been the bane of Sinhale even before Sinhalayo gained independence. Their racist anti-Sinhala campaign started in 1930s. GG Ponnambalam started the anti-Sinhala Buddhist campaign in 1939 by delivering a racially charged speech at Nawalapitiya ridiculing Mahawansha and denigrating the Sinhala-Buddhist culture, its history and the people.

        Racism and separatism of Tamils did more harm to this country than Sinhala-Buddhist ethno-nationalism.

  • 9
    0

    A disunited opposition without concrete alternative is the exact picture. Cannot take up one or two issues but need complete change of policy with a renewed mindset. Leave the past behind and put on a fresh selfless robe. All cant be president but one at any given time. Last time battle Ranil vs. Sajith should not be repeated, but agree on power sharing to serve nation and not self. I see defeat when the opposition competes with each other.

  • 14
    1

    The UNHRC must be aware of the pathetic state of the Police . Is there any country of our size where so many senior officers are in jail for murder, or under investigation for misconduct? Strangely enough, no policeman is being investigated for the extra-judicial killings which are so common now.

    • 12
      2

      old codger

      “Strangely enough, no policeman is being investigated for the extra-judicial killings which are so common now.”

      Are you being serious?
      Once you start investigating policemen then who is going to investigate the last policeman? There won’t be a police department.

      By the way policemen are rushing to serve in the Northern provincial force. Do you know why?

      • 6
        0

        Native,
        Overtime? Hardship allowance? Palmyrah toddy?

        • 7
          0

          old codger

          “Overtime? Hardship allowance? Palmyrah toddy?”

          Motorists, …. smugglers, ….. criminals, …. availability of free drugs in fun houses, …

          Had Eagle Blind Eye joined the police force, by now he would have become a filthy rich person with very little effort.

    • 1
      2

      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

  • 1
    5

    Dr Ameer Ali,

    Is it is not prudent for a developing country to have a deficit budget? A deficit budget actually stimulates aggregate demand especially during recession and demand and boost the economy and the economy will become buoyant. Deficit budgeting is beneficial to a developing country despite Dr N.M.Perera’s prescription.

  • 8
    3

    “Even the manifesto of NPP/JVP was more an ideological criticism of economic liberalism and free market than a categorical framework of practical measures to overcome the crisis.”

    Spot on! ………. just another “vista of splendour”

    • 7
      0

      Dr. Ali.
      You say “Will it pass the test? Leaked documents indicate a negative answer.”

      Please elaborate.

      Thanks.

    • 4
      1

      nimal fernando

      “Spot on! ………. just another “vista of splendour”

      For normal people reading the manifesto of NPP/JVP itself is a painful experience.
      Only the sadist or a masochist would find it stimulating.

      Perhaps the old guards within the party use it as stimulant before they go to bed.

      • 5
        1

        Dear NV: You said: ” For normal people reading the manifesto of NPP/JVP itself is a painful experience. Only the sadist or masochist would find it stimulating”.

        To me it is “Stimulating” and in your estimation as per above “Findings”, I am a “Sadist” or “Masochist”.

        Could you please educate me on your findings that make a person reading it “Sadist” and or “Masochist”. I thank you and appreciate your input on the subject so that a Simple Simon like me could reform myself being “Sadistic” and/ or “Masochistic”.

    • 2
      0

      Anonymous nimal fernando,
      .
      At least given the cloak of your anonymity, living abroad, but with connections to many walauwwas (imposing Lankan residences of compradors who betrayed their people), you are in a position to speak independently, but you don’t.
      .
      The current NPP is doing its best to be honest. Their voter-base is essentially Sinhalese who practice Mahawamsa Buddhism. They’ve got to get the votes coming in, so as to make the necessary changes. Have you not spent a few hours listening to what the NPP leaders are saying? They’re not making rash promises.
      .
      Kumar David wrote this five weeks ago:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/handunneththi-degenerates-into-chronic-amnesia/
      .
      He has earned the right to make criticisms, you haven’t.
      .
      Scrolling down the comments there, I at first thought that you hadn’t commented; however, you’ve come in later and clowned your way through. Since you didn’t avail yourself of the chance then, please now shut up! Let us do what we can to set up a decent government. Its administration will not be perfect; your criticisms then will be welcome and useful.
      .
      Have you got no values or convictions whatever?
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

      • 0
        2

        Sinhala_Man,

        Geezze …… I only saw this now by chance ………..

        “Have you got no values or convictions whatever?”

        Spot on! ………. None whatsoever!! …….. You got that right!

        I’m a Cynic: a raving Cynic.

        A follower of a noble tradition ……… of noble men ……….. Antisthenes, Diogenes, ………..

        Some have faith in Phottuwa, some in the UNP, some in the SLFP, some in SJB ……….. You in NPP ……..

        I’ve no faith. ……. I’ve never had faith, even to lose! :))

        To each his own …….. it’s a free world: isn’t it?


        “please now shut up!”

        The NPP or whatever the crap, is already showing dictatorial tendencies! uh?

        What’d I say! :))

        A Lankan is always a Lankan!!

        SM ……. for a man of your age, you are very very very young ……………

  • 4
    12

    Sinhalayo have to go to Geneva because of stupid decisions taken by their elders.

    • 11
      1

      Eagle Blind Eye

      “Sinhalayo have to go to Geneva because of stupid decisions taken by their elders.”

      Sad but true.
      However you should snitch the clan rather than protecting them.
      Recently Mahinda’s closest long term Tamil ally Douglas told a media that VP surrendered to the armed forces. Can you explain to us as to why he snitched War heroes?

      What do you think?
      Do you think VP was killed fighting the armed forces or he was killed after his surrender?

      • 3
        9

        NV,
        “Recently Mahinda’s closest long term Tamil ally Douglas told a media that VP surrendered to the armed forces.”

        Why this dumbo had to wait 13 years to say this? Was he in Nandikadal when this happened?
        Tamils are good at fabricating stories when that suits them.

        • 12
          1

          Eagle Blind Eye

          Why would Fonseka defend and praise VP being a brave man who fought until his death?

          “Tamils are good at fabricating stories when that suits them.”

          They like their Sinhala/Buddhist brethren share their South Indian gene. What do you say to the Sinhala/Buddhist claims that we regularly hear from Sinhala/Buddhist historians, politicians, armed forces, academics, leaders, ……?

        • 0
          1

          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
            0

            N. Pererass

            I suggest you start at the very beginning.

            Let’s start at the very beginning
            A very good place to start
            When you read you begin with – A – B – C
            When you sing you begin with DO – RE – MI

            ….

            Sound of Music

    • 8
      1

      Eagle ‘fool’ Eye, why would a fool call another fool a fool?

  • 8
    0

    There shouldn’t be a “SECOND” chance. Why?

    We have lost COMPLETELY the only hope of receiving JUSTICE from the Law Enforcement services. Many of the actions by the Police Force during these last two years have proved its failures and harassment meted out to the people. Just see the complete breakdown of the Attorney General’s Department in prosecutions that are carried out for and on behalf of the People. Then comes the “Authoritarian” behaviors of the Ministers of Security & Police and Justice. See the “Infighting” that is taking place among the Ministers and MPs. Imagine the Minister-in-charge of Police suggesting to the President: “We must crush the uprisings against the Government” to which the President says: “Let the people handle that”. The Minister of Justice proposes to make provisions in the Constitution to “Prohibit” the “Right” to strike by the workers. If the Attorney General and his Staff are severely criticized by the JUdges for not doing their job properly resulting in many cases being “Withdrawn” and accused are “Discharged” (as in the case of Pujitha & Hemasiri in the Easter Sunday massacre) what more HOPE do we have?

    • 2
      0

      Dear Simon,
      .
      I thank you sincerely for your consistency.
      .
      Even I had been tolerating nimal fernando’s banter, because the fact is that it is brilliant at times. However, like you, I have kept a consistent line because I know how fickle our voters are, and how short their attention span is.
      .
      Both nimal and NV should have known better than to display levity in this context. Will their attitude to the poor Ukrainians be as bad, I wonder.
      .
      Perhaps it is time for us to say goodbye to all decencies and moral standards.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

  • 5
    2

    Hitler King went to a Tamil area for “village talk” in upcountry. This is a show extension to UNHRC’s March meeting. The tea pluckers have been fooled by Chitanta, Yahapalanaya and Royal governments for about ten years with promises of 1000Rs Basic pay. Now the workers say they can reap only 250K instead of having been plucking 500Kg, earlier. They asked Hitler to supply fertilizer to planters so their output will be back to 500K. Hitler became bloody wild and started to yell at the tea pluckers that he has been giving free fertilizer for planters for two years, then how the production fell to 250K. He started to call them liars. What a clownish man the Hitler King. If you have eaten breakfast, you still will need lunch and dinner. The Modaya cannot understand that. Because the tea pluckers are Tamils, Hitler didn’t want to care about their talk. Then I don’t know why he went to the Tamil area for his bogus “Village Talk”? Anyway does he have the courage to call Sinhala workers or Muslim workers as liars?

    • 1
      8

      Mallaiyuran,
      Why this sudden sympathy for ‘Indian Tamils’?
      All this time, Tamils in Yapanaya who claim that they are ‘Ceylon Tamils’ did not care two hoots for Indian Tamils in plantations.

      • 8
        1

        Eagle Blind Eye

        “All this time, Tamils in Yapanaya who claim that they are ‘Ceylon Tamils’ did not care two hoots for Indian Tamils in plantations.”

        Did you care?
        How and when.
        Did you support their demand for Rs 1,000?
        When did you start treating them as your fellow human being?

  • 10
    0

    Repeated lies to International bodies by the government of SL and the non-delivery of promises over and over again have to be punished by the UN. Unfortunately, any action that would be taken by the UN is going to affect the masses, that too poor masses in the country will suffer the most. This session of the UN will not bring that much of an impact other than tightening the screws for a head-on in September 2022.

    Having said that, I am of the opinion, after this UN session, the USA, UK, Canada, and EU will take targetted action against senior SL government and military personnel. This may include Judiciary as well by imposing travel bans. UN should not withdraw GSP+ until September 2022. Unless and until these governments take action, knowing very well UN actions will be blocked by China and Russia, SL Governments repeated lies and non-delivery of promises will continue. The first step of imposing a travel ban on senior army officers, Government Ministers including the Minister of Justice and Foreign Minister, and even the Attorney General and Chief Justice would bring enough pressure on the government to correct its ways without affecting the general masses.

    • 8
      1

      Hitler king also went to predominantly Tamil Vavuniya district which is around 85% Tamil, the rest largely Sinhalese ( in the south ) and others. Instead of visiting a Tamil village or town that was representative of the district and listening to what they said, he visited a Sinhalese village in the south of the Vavuniya district, which is similar to the Sinhalese village in Anuradhapura and does not represent Vavuniya or its 90% Tamil speaking majority. Shows how biased and anti-Tamil they are. Visit a Tamil majority district that is 90% Tamil speaking and goes and visit only a Sinhalese village in that district, which hardly represents the district of people at all. The Rjapapakses not only exploit Sinhalese Buddhism for their political and economic benefit but in my opinion, also believe in this Sinhalese Buddhist racist ideology. Especially the current Hitler. Another good article by Ameer Ali.

  • 2
    13

    “…dilute their supremacist ideology to accommodate the minorities on equal terms as partners in national development is to expect the impossible.”

    At the time Sinhala Buddhists accommodated Tamils and Muslims from Hindusthan in their country, they expected them to live peacefully with Sinhalayo and make their contribution to national development. Instead of doing that both Tamils and Muslims resorted to violence and terrorism and ruined the economy of Sinhale.
    Just imagine the scarce resources that had to be wasted to deal with terrorism of minorities.

    Sinhalayo have to pay the price for the stupid decisions taken by our elders.

    • 0
      0

      Eagle dumb Eye, you are a clown.

  • 2
    11

    “But what if it fails the test?”

    Those who deliberately pushed Sri Lanka and Sinhalayo into that situation will have to pay the price.

  • 2
    0

    …….However,MR,a seasoned politician and master of electoral manoeuvres seems to have detected in the gloomy environment an opportunity for a surprise victory. What could have been the reasons for his optimism?…………………….
    Dr.Ameer Ali………..MaRa is a person who sleeps with his horoscope under his pillow……..
    He reckons that the Transit of Jupiter, Rahu and Kethu,and the movement [forward] of Saturn for about 10 weeks somewhere in April would be the ideal time to take the plunge…………
    But we hear that Gnanakka thinks otherwise…………………

    The former Astrologer Abeygunawardena who had asked MaRa to take the plunge in 2015 has been declared persona non grata…………..

  • 2
    0

    The victims are still waiting for justice, accountability, and reparations. The UN HRC has given enough time and space to the governments of Sri Lanka, with two year extensions twice, but now need to seriously consider referring Sri Lanka to the ICC / ICJ and or UN Security Council and to institute a special criminal tribunal, to investigate the litany of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide that Sri Lankan personnel to have committed against Eelam Tamils.

    The assessment reports would be the checkpoints for Sri Lanka, to the UNHR Council and to the International Community. The International Community need to address both the political and human rights of the Tamils congruently.

    Should the Sri Lankan Government fail to adhere and implement resolution L46/1 in full by September 2022, the high commissioner in her statement in the March session, make known to Council that it should refer Sri Lanka, for failing the UNHRC processes, to the ICC / ICJ or to the UNSC. The relevancy of the Council becomes questionable if it fails its obligations and responsibility for the victims.

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