1 December, 2020

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The Best Option For Reconciliation Is Moderation & Dialogue 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The humanitarian catastrophes taking place in other parts of the world such as in Myanmar, and events that have the potential to become catastrophes, such as North Korea firing its second rocket over Japan, have taken Sri Lanka away from the centre of attention at the ongoing sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. The tragic events unfolding in Myanmar are attracting international humanitarian attention. The flight of tens of thousands of Rohingya from Myanmar on a daily basis has aroused international sympathy for them and condemnation for the Myanmar government. There is even a move among advocates of human rights to persuade the Nobel Peace Prize awards committee to revoke the award that was given to Myanmar government leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi in 1991 for her work to bring democracy to her country.

The virtual ethnic cleansing that is taking place in Rakhine state in Myanmar, which borders Bangladesh, is an outcome of deep seated ethnic fears and resentments that have pitted the Buddhist population of Rakhine against the Muslims who have Bengali origins. The Rakhine Buddhists see themselves as vulnerable to being swamped by Muslim migrants from across the border. The generality of the people of Myanmar see the Rohingya as being relatively recent migrants into their country who have come to enjoy a better standard of living and access to more land than is available in densely populated Bangladesh. This is contested by the Rohingyas who say that they have lived in the Rakhine region from time immemorial and are also sons and daughters of that soil.

Similar debates have taken place in Sri Lanka in the past. But today Sri Lanka will be an oasis of peace and stability to an international community that is seeing increasing disintegration and polarization in the world. It is not only countries such as Myanmar and North Korea that present a fearsome picture of polarization that has consequences that could lead to wider and larger conflict. There are civic protests in Muslim countries against the outrages taking place in Myanmar, and it is to be expected that extremist groups will also seek to get involved there. UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s opening speech listed a large number of countries from all continents which were engaged in appalling violations of human rights. He said, “In the first three years of my current term, the world has grown darker and dangerous.”

Real Improvements 

The slow progress of Sri Lanka’s internationally mandated reconciliation process has come in for adverse international commentary and criticism. The UN Human Rights Commissioner recently made known his concerns with Sri Lanka’s slow implementation of the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council to which it had committed itself two years ago in 2015. He warned that if Sri Lanka did not proceed along its promised path the international community might want to invoke the principle of universal jurisdiction. This would mean that any Sri Lanka accused of human rights violations could be arrested in foreign countries. He said, “The absence of credible action in Sri Lanka to ensure accountability for alleged violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law makes the exercise of universal jurisdiction even more necessary.”

The strong words of the UN Human Rights Commissioner have been echoed by human rights organizations both within and outside the country. The Association of Relatives of Enforced Disappeared in Kilinochchi who have been engaging in non-stop protests for many months have said that they “vehemently refuse to be deceived again” by government promises and half hearted actions. The New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that United Nations member countries at the Human Rights Council in Geneva should press Sri Lanka to promptly meet the targets of the October 2015 resolution for transitional justice and that “Sri Lanka should put forward a time-bound and specific implementation plan on the four transitional justice mechanisms it agreed to establish as pledged in the resolution.”

However, it is also notable that foreign embassies representing the international community in Sri Lanka have been more appreciative of the government’s performance in regard to human rights and good governance in general. An EU monitoring mission was in Sri Lanka recently to assess how the government was complying with the requirements to obtain the GSP Plus tariff concessions. A team of senior officials from Brussels were in Sri Lanka for 10 days on a fact-finding mission regarding the government’s implementation of 27 international covenants. The EU Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Tung-Lai Margue said after a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that “The excellent cooperation by the Government is a reminder of how much the situation has changed in the country over the last two and a half years, including real advances in human rights.”

Contextual Assessment 

Those who prioritise the implementation of the UNHRC resolution by the government as the way forward to reconciliation and justice have anticipated a strong role for the international community in Sri Lanka and the pressure they might exert on the government with regard to human rights issues. The importance of the international community is due to the fact that it is a source of pressure that the government will feel compelled to heed. The denial of visas to military personnel who were in combat units associated with the last phase of the war has been one form of pressure. In addition, the war crimes cases filed against former army commander General Jagath Jayasuriya in five South American countries show the dangers of international involvement that could go even beyond the diplomacy of foreign governments to the realm of their independent judicial systems.

However, when looking at the international community for support, it is important to make an assessment of the international context. In comparison to Myanmar and North Korea, or to Philippines where thousands of alleged drug dealers are being killed with impunity, or to South Sudan where one million people have become refugees, Sri Lanka would be a less urgent priority. International human rights organizations stand for the full implementation of human rights protections, and by those standards Sri Lanka falls short. But foreign governments tend to look at relative standards, and not absolute standards of human rights, and Sri Lanka is loses its priority status in comparison with other humanitarian crises in the world.

Today, in comparison to other hotspot countries, Sri Lanka has a government that is generally perceived as being responsive to human rights concerns. There is a shift in attitude and a manifest improvement over the past government. Even though the government is slow in correcting the wrongs of the past, it is doing so in a number of areas, whether it is the release of land taken over by the military, release of prisoners or provision of housing to war victims. It is also not creating new victims on a large scale as in the past. In this context, the course of action that the international community is likely to be to engage in dialogue rather than to confront the government. This is also the approach of the TNA, which is the main political party representing the Tamil people.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Hey Jehan, enough of talk shops and dialogues, we need a critical-thinking educated public, in an era of Fake news and post-facts.
    We need systemic and structural evidence based analysis of the political economy of violence and conflict in the world and Lanka. Today ethno-religious conflict is merely a proxy and the result of Economic Inequality and global warming environmental disasters caused by neoliberal “development” policies to benefit Global 1 percent. These policies are pushed in the global south though foreign “aid” donor funds. Human Rights and reconciliation is a show to distract foolish aid dependent local NGOs while economic rights are further eroded. Wake up!
    We have had enough hot air talk-shows, like the recent TED X Colombo event at the Pokuna for young bucks to strut their e.dreams, entrepreneur fantasies and the neoliberal innovation fetish and other stuff – no women there except one or 2 usual suspects!

    • 2
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      True, true Dil.
      Dr. Jehan should do some deep dives and try to understand global real politic instead of dishing out soap to his readers. After all, a China – Trumpstate, deep states standoff is unfolding in Myanmar, as in North Korea. The people of that country are being played by local religion and ethnic entrepreneurs, who are being funded by various external parties competing for geopolitical influence. The China-US Cold war confrontation is upon Asia. Guess who the world’s biggest arms exporter is?! Guess how Trump plans to make “America Great again”?
      Dr. J please read the books: “New Confessions of an Economic Hit man” and Rogue State. Cheers mate.

      • 2
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        Dinuk, you are day dreaming if you think American funded Jehan P will dare write anything exposing racism, alarming rise in hate crimes, and Trumps low IQ rants and abuse and insults and their openly anti environmental, anti regulation, anti black, anti poor, anti LGBTQ policies. Pence, Trumps VP is a christian nutcase radical. He will go further than Trump and even ban Gay marriage rights in USA and impose the Ten commandments on us. He is bizarre man who does not dine with another woman unless his wife is there. He is a christian fanatic. Trump is a cad with pussy groping problems. Do you think Jehan will dare upset his financiers?

  • 3
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    “Similar debates have taken place in Sri Lanka in the past. But today Sri Lanka will be an oasis of peace and stability to an international community that is seeing increasing disintegration and polarization in the world. “

    Dude, which planet are you on?
    Wake up from your donor-induced fantasies for gods sake! Bond scam Ranil is preping Lanka for another cycle of violent conflict with economic policies designed to widen income inequality and increase poverty which is an indicator for violence.

  • 3
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    It is amost 3 years passed the formation of this government but there was little progress on implementing the UNHCR resolution. Forget about UNHCR resolution but think about the future of the nation, the people and peoples rights. Think about what is good for the country, people, unity, human rights, law and order, and justice. The extremist forces in the South now took again the race card to come back to power. This is very dangerous and we going back again to the same point where the peace and harmony was lost to violence. The government should have started a national level of educating the people about what short of governing structure is beneficial for the people, what sort of measures can bring peace and unity and what are the dangers of religious, and racial extremism (exposing those extremist propagandists). The leaders (President, Prime Minister, Opposition leaders) should be role models rather than opportunists. For example, President should not tell the people I will not allow any military to be punished for war crimes? He should anyone who committed crime should face the justice. You are not a leader for one community you are a leader to the whole nation which include Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Islamists etc.

    • 3
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      Ajith
      While agreeing with you on the points you have mentioned, I have to reiterate that the president is a Sinhala Buddhist who has to satisfy the Buddhist clergy and the hard-line Buddhists. He cannot satisfy all because he is a politician and a Sinhalese. From the time Sir P.Ramanathan, Sir P.Arunachalam, , thereafter G.G.ponnambalam, S.J.V.Chelvanayagam, Vanniasingam Amirthalingam, and several others fought for the rights of the Tamil people, since independence, nothing substantial happened. A demand for a Federal form of government was rejected by the Sinhalese majority. There are several reasons for it. One main reason was that those Tamil politicians were all moderates who once in a while supported the majority government except for one person Mr.Sunderalingam of Vavuniya who stood his ground. Alternatively when Prabaharan took up arms, there were divisions among the Tamil youths for power and started killing each other and ultimate result was the destruction of the Tamil nation by the Sinhala Government. The peace struggle was a failure and the armed struggle was an utter failure. The UNHCR resolution is a eye wash and nothing is going to happen. If the International community wanted to stop the war, and the destruction of the Tamils, they would have done it long ago when the war was on. India wanted to destroy the LTTE and similarly other nations as well. Now there is no proper Tamil leadership among the Tamils and are fighting one another for power. Chief Minister Wigneswaran approaching the Strong Buddhist clergy is not going to help the Tamils in any way and is futile move.
      The Tamils have to learn lessons from the Catalonians.

      • 1
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        Sellam,

        I agree with what you say but I don’t agree that Sinhalese majority rejected the Federal form of Government. None of the governments put forward Federal proposal in front of Sinhalese people. Th oslo accord between Srilanka and LTTE agreed on Federal solution. The problem is Sinhalese opportunistic leadership, not the people.

  • 0
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    How many are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh? Bengalis are even paying Human Traffickers $5,000 to $10,000 to smuggle them to Europe via Libya. Bengalis are illegals like we had kallathoni illegal coolies swimming across from India in the 1950s and 60s. They are desperate and piss poor. So if you do not know actual fact, but rely on your American and British sponsors and paymasters, the least you can do is go there and get facts. Burmese buddhist or non-buddhist are a distinct ethno-linguistic group. These are illegal settlers who have become like the Indian Tamils. Indian Tamils of Ceylon are our people, but they refuse to integrate. They do not even integrate with Eelam Tamils.

  • 3
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    A child belongs where he/she is born and Should have full and complete rights in the land where he/she is born. Every one should accept and respect this magnanimity.

  • 0
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    Mr Jehan Perera. Ask Abe Gunadheera for details. there is some rumour that Multinational corporations from the west wants the control over Srilanka. Then there is publicized part of a speech in which it says that Sri lanka’s new constitution is an american project and George Zorros want the old constitution scrapped. [Edited out]

  • 0
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    The happening in Myanmar is yet another example of walking into a known known known quicksand pit. The Burmese Junta and the circle and outer circle of sycophants grew richer and richer and even built themselves a brand new capital metropolis. They created a fear-of-Rohingyas syndrome. The Junta created a mono-ethnic armed service to protect them. The army was given various perks including road building and the like. The army kidnapped Rohingyas to work for them as unpaid slaves. One thing led to another like comfort women and so on. The Junta for their part let lose the charlatan Wirathu 969 brigade although the Buddhist hierarchy was critical. The persecution of Rohingyas has turned to genocide.
    The Junta cunningly created a mindset in which anyone showing sympathy to Rohingyas is a traitor. Then they released the well known prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi after changing the constitution so as to bar Aung from wearing the head of state mantle. Aung is not able to the tragic developments.

    Why have I said all this? Guess!
    It is obvious the Lankan impasse can only be solved by reconciling. The first try was the BC pact. Now is the time for a second try.

  • 0
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    No moderation. As President and good christian leader of the free world said today “we can totally destroy North Korea if we have to defend the USA or its allies”. MR-GR-SF totally destroyed LTTE because they had to. There is collateral damage. White man says it will be inevitable. Korean civilians will die but if that corrupt communist fatfuck Kim inherited his power from pa who got it from grandpa dares attack S.Korea or USA, they will be razed to rubble. Tiger LTTE was razed to the sands of Vellamullavaikal. Things happen because things needed to happen. Those aiding and abetting LTTE are as guilty of the mass deaths. For example you kept saying “Tigers cannot be destroyed militarily”. Well you were proven wrong yet you do not have the decency to admit you were WRONG. Follow the greatest leader USA had ever seen.

  • 0
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    Dear Jehan and all Participants,
    What is wrong with Sri Lankans as a whole, be it the Political Leaders, Executives, Chiefs of staff, Religious Prelates, Journalists, Academicians, All of them are betraying their own Country!! Why are they unable to bring the Country back to its former dignity
    and glory even after all the help from the International Community and the UNO. Why every top executive is looking for some excuse from allowing the Country to develop. Is it because that is the best thing for other opportunist Countries to barge in and take out the loot? You all feel great like the 29th ranking student feeling great comparing his rank with the 30th ranker.

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