The Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission that is consistently touted by the Rajapaksa Administration as one of its domestic mechanisms to address human rights concerns put forward by the international community has exposed itself badly following a interview granted to the state-controlled press by its Commissioner yesterday.
Commissioner Prathibha Mahanama who heads an institution that is supposed to be a recourse for citizens whose rights are being abused by the agencies of the state, told the Daily News that the Northern Provincial Council resolution seeking an international war crimes inquiry was a ‘sinister political agenda’ two months ahead of the UN Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva. “We all know the allegiance that existed between the former LTTE terrorist group and the Tamil National Alliance that represents the Northern Provincial Council,” Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commissioner told the Rajapaksa state media which carried a major story on his comments yesterday.
“Their move has come just two months ahead of the Geneva UN Human Rights Council sessions. There is nothing but a sinister political agenda that is at play to discredit the government and the country. This has placed the country’s national security under threat,” Mahanama, who is a loyal acolyte of Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa said, reflecting the sentiments often expressed by members of the defence establishment – against whom the most heinous allegations of rights abuses in the country are being made.
Mahanama claimed that passing of a resolution by the Northern Provincial Council calling for an international investigation into the alleged massacre of civilians in the final stages of the war was “similar to the unilateral declaration of a State of Eelam by Varadaraja Perumal, then Chief Minister of the North-Eastern Province and the leader of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) in 1990.”
It is deeply ironic that Commissioner Prathibha Mahanama and the Human Rights Commission he heads is touted by the regime as an example of the robust human rights protection mechanism that is in place in Sri Lanka. It is even more ironic that it was for the HRC headed by Mahanama that the Commonwealth Secretariat spent the better part of its year assisting with building capacity so that the Commission could engage in a more efficient and credible process to investigate rights abuses in the country. The Secretariat’s interest in the Commission was motivated by the need to convince Commonwealth Member States that Sri Lanka was doing enough to address the mounting human rights charges against the Rajapaksa Administration domestically to warrant it assuming the Chair of the organisation.
Mahanama’s remarks to the state owned press, however, makes a mockery of these efforts.
If there was any doubt how Mahanama would view any allegation against the state for violating human rights it is clear when he views a call for credible investigation into alleged violations of humanitarian law as being sinister agendas aimed at ‘discrediting’ the country and posing national security threats.
Making further remarks in the Daily News, Mahanama said Washington and London were “hell bent” on bringing a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in March. “They are trying to take advantage of the situation to promote their sinister political agenda by virtue of this opportunity,” he said of the TNA.