21 October, 2020

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The Commonwealth’s Appalling Impotence On Sri Lanka

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Secretary General of the Commonwealth, K.S. Sharma’s pleas this week at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) press conference (London, Friday 26th April) that he is constantly engaged with Sri Lanka to uphold the shared values of the Commonwealth that are ‘so dear’ to him, can only invoke guffaws of ribald laughter from many within this country.

Vacuous reassurances by the Commonwealth

Pressed by abrasive if not belligerent interlocutors to explain exactly what he meant by this phrase, Mr Sharma responded with soothing but beautifully vacuous reassurances. He seemed supremely confident that his ‘good offices’ would result in, as he termed ‘very good results in all the areas of human rights, of rule of law, governance, institution building and strengthening.’

 

In fact, the transcript of this press conference should be compulsory reading for Sri Lankans to fully comprehend the complete lack of knowledge, understanding and capacity on the part of the Commonwealth’s chief administrator in regard to the multiple Rule of Law crises that this country faces today. While a degree of lack of awareness may only be natural, the extent of this ignorance is virtually staggering in its impact.

Cornered particularly in regard to the government’s subjugation of the judiciary, his almost incredibly nave assertion was that he was happy, during his visit, to have had a thorough discussion with the Speaker on ‘correcting’ current procedures of the appointment and removal of judges and that the Commonwealth hopes to share comparative experiences in that regard. Another such gem was the belief that the reconciliation crisis in Sri Lanka can be addressed effectively through the holding of a workshop in London where experts on reconciliation are expected to attend so that Sri Lanka will learn from these experiences.

The government’s role playing is understandable

The other members of CMAG who participated in this press conference were little better as classically illustrated by the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister who declared confidently that ‘I have arranged with the President of Sri Lanka, the full implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.’ And the less said about the Bangladeshi Chair of CMAG, the better.

Underneath the smiling flattery and glib promises made by this government to the Commonwealth to score what will be an important propaganda victory, it is well known locally that it believes it can run contemptuous rings round these yawning mouthpieces.

In a way, the impotence and ineptness displayed by the Secretary General and other members of CMAG most appallingly at this press conference bears out the Rajapaksa Presidency’s cynical role playing in no uncertain measure. This is quite apart from the question of holding or not holding the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka. The fact of the matter is that if these are the superficial perceptions of this country’s problems on with which the Commonwealth hopes to engage with the Sri Lankan government, it is very clear that such disastrous naivete (if one may take the more sparing view of the matter) will be a harbinger of its own doom. The credibility of the Commonwealth, in which its Secretary General seems to have such a strong belief, will certainly be the first casualty. Of this, there is little doubt.

Lack of political will to enforce the law

And even as these fun and games are played out in London, the government continues to ride roughshod over the judiciary with judges from the lower courts to the superior judiciary being well nigh scared of their own shadows. Certainly, the Commonwealth’s pompous reassurances will be of little concern to them. Tamil parliamentarians and journalists are deliberately targeted to snuff out even the remaining resistance while the Muslim minority in Sri Lanka remains paralysed with fear. It is such an un-salubrious environment that the Commonwealth refuses to recognize, preferring instead to gloss over ugly realities by smooth words that signify nothing.

The core problem in Sri Lanka remains the lack of political will to enforce the law. Take the issue of religious extremism against Muslims for example. Forgetting about inept and nave outsiders, many here still believe quite myopically that the spewing of racial, religious and communal hatred may be remedied by better laws. Worse indeed are those unctuous letters addressed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa entreating his interventions. It is this collective asinine shortsightedness which has led us sheep-like into the post war destruction of democratic structures and the enactment of an obscene 18th Amendment with nary a whimper.

A surreal mockery of the law

In the first instance, let it be said quite clearly that Sri Lanka does not need revised or additional laws or regulations in order to tackle this deliberately engineered explosion of hatred by groups with a clear political agenda. Existing laws are quite sufficient for this purpose.

And as these column spaces would indicate later on, one does not really need to go on a voyage of discovery to extract these laws from our statute books as they have already been used against critics whom the government has wanted to punish. Secondly, groveling entreaties to the President to intervene and stop this hate filled invective are fundamentally useless. The full and awful weight of the law is not being used against these groups because there is no political will to do so at the highest levels of this administration.

The resultant tragic-comedy that occurs is surreal. So, on the one hand, while the Secretary to the Defence Ministry presides over functions of the Bodu Bala Sena, we also hear him issuing full throated exhortations not to engage in racial or religious abuse. And when conscientious citizens show their dissent by peacefully lighting candles in Colombo, they are arrested while the hate instigators escape scot free.

Primary duty of the State to intervene

The Attorney General, on his own part, has asked individuals who have been abused on social media to lodge a complaint at the nearest police station, citing difficulties that the prosecutors and investigators will face in otherwise identifying the abusers. Yet the issue is not the lodging of complaints but the robust investigation and prosecution of hate mongers. Is there public confidence that this will be done effectively?

In theory, stringent laws already prohibit the propagation of racial and religious hatred. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act No 56 of 2007 prohibits propagation of war and religious hatred. Section 120 of the Penal Code prohibits the promotion of feelings of ill will and hostility between different classes of people and prescribes rigorous punishments. JS Tissainayagam was found guilty of intending to “cause communal disharmony” inter alia under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979 (PTA) by writing to a relatively obscure journal titled magazine in North Eastern Monthly magazine. Instead of using this provision to unfairly prosecute journalists, the same provision can be used against racial hate mongers.

Evidently the problem is not the lack of law but its deliberate negation by powerful individuals in government. While it is good to see that corporates are taking stern action to punish hate mongering, the State has a primary duty to intervene. Yet that will not happen. And to add insult to injury, we will now be treated to the spectacle of ‘talk-shops’ being held on reconciliation, the independence of the judiciary and the Rule of Law by the Commonwealth.

Is there no end to these absurdities?

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Latest comments

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    Australia has always shown that it has a healthy libido when it comes to enforcing democracy,equality,free speech, good governance, rule of law etc in backward countries.

    Australia, being on the UN Security Council, wants to be taken seriously in this region as a middle power, it’s got to be seen to be putting at the head of it’s agenda the strengthening of human rights in Sri Lanka.

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    The Commaonwealth is loose confederation like an Old Boys Association of former British colonies a waste of time. Sharma is the executioner who is helping it to be pulled down.
    Bensen

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      Sharma is a spineless coward. Probably he has been offered a handsome ‘gift’ by the rogues when he visited the island.

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        Wicks unlike you Sharma does not believe in LTTE Terrorist propaganda of Tamil rump abroad. The gift Sri lankans offer to any foreigner is a tourist island where anyone can go anywhere without getting blown by terrorists.

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        Sharma stood upto the likes of Jonathan Miller and Frances Harrison at the recent CMAG meeting in London when they tried desperately to make it into a meeting to criticise Sri Lanka.
        Meanwhile those good folk at the Amnesty International attend fund-raising events in Canada in support of the rump LTTE and fellow travellers.
        The author should join them.

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    Commwealth is 54 countries, not just 2.

    Only these 2 have migrant voters in marginals who can tilt the results in tightly fought Parliamentary Elections, due to abysmal performances of all major parties in Economic matters.

    The other 52 nations know what terrorism is as some of them are still struggling to eradicate them.

    Besides not much real help comes from the 2 two in matters of real importance to development , infrastructure, lifting standard of living, unlike the assistance from countries like China and Japan.

    Although Ms Pintos and their Diaspora agents are trying to attach new items like purported attacks on Muslims, Christians,and even Facebookers, to the charge sheet, still the 52 Nations are neither impressed nor convinced.

    Isn’t it the duty of the Secretary General to reflect the majority view, especially if he is supposed to adhere to this promotion of “Democratic values” thing in their charter?.

    Or is he supposed to bend over regardless?.

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      Yes Swaziland ha ha ha also in that 52.
      MR is no better than that vedda leader.

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    “Commonwealth’s Heads of Govt’ s meeting in Sri Lanka!” as expected. Welcome news.

    Looks Anti-Lanka lobby “won” another gold medal, Cannot stop laughing.

    Dogs Barking & Caravans Passing. Yes.

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      “Looks Anti-Lanka lobby “won” another gold medal, Cannot stop laughing”

      Indeed a great victory. The Queen and David Cameron will definately attend this meeting, no way will Channel 4 be showing more programmes of the SL army at work and no way will the Labour opposition in the UK use that as capital to attack Cameron and make him feel uncomfortable by asking awkward questions about the antics of the Rajapaksa clan. Cameron has always been a friend of Mahinda like the time he provided him with british security personnel for his speech at the Oxford Union, which was a roaring success and was certainly not cancelled at the last minute forcing Mahinda to rush back to the airport

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    Sharma is an apology of an SG who grovels along to earn his pay. No Latimer House principles or values required for him. Just a chit chat over a cup of tea can fix anything.

    Unfortunately CGN is now qualifying to become GBR, Group of Banana Republics. The desire to have a big tamasha every couple of years and spew out vain charters and principles which are not worth the paper they are written on. Better consign these to the loo to clean the backsides of these gentlemen.

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      Safa is SG Sharma the only one grovelling for their pay. What about NGO’s like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the likes of [Edited out]. Find out for yourself who their paymasters are. What were they doing during the 20/30 years of conflict and terrorism! Playing marbles!

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    I listen to the Q&A session of CMAG over the link provided your news column. It appears to me that there is a clear agenda by the foreign media to discredit Sri Lanka over the alleged HR issues and civilian casualties during the last stage of 30 year civil war against LTTE. Questions were mushrooming from every corner of the audience on the same subject on repeated attempts, despite the convenor said that this is not all about Sri Lanka.

    I also heard that one journalist was saying that Sri Lanka now has to Chief Justices and what action Commonwealth doing to resolve this issue. I believe whether it is correct or wrong, the Sri Lankan Parliament and the President have followed the current and existing provisions in the constitutions although there are deficiencies in the constitution who to sack or appoint CJs and other leading judges to supreme court.

    I cannot understand why the SL government clearly explain to the media and sue them for incorrect interpretation and painting a very bad picture.

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    “A King is like a beggar before a bureaucrat”,said Max Weber to emphasize the power of the possessor of information. So it has happened with Ministers getting chaffed by a single SG. At what appalling level of ignorance they strut about!

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    Excellent Kishali.

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    CHOGAM bought over as happened in many instances.

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      Don’t cry because you are not getting a penny.

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    At the moment President Rajapakse is taking the country on a Dictatorial path. All he focus is to get support from the 75% local Buddhist Sinhala Vote base and keep the security apparatus, Judiciary, police, media, and election commissions under his wings.

    He don’t care of the Peoples rights, minority rights, UN, UK, CW or other organisations as long as he maintains the villege vote base.
    GPL’s recent Parliament speech said it all.

    Also shunning down Sri Lanka from CHOGM will give Rajapakses more fuel to politicise international community as conspirators to get the local population sympathy.

    Therefore I think what Sharma plans to do is to keep Rajapakses under their CW radar while teaching on good governance.

    It’s nothing like a tamed and obedient Lion and Rajapakses should be taught on good governance.

    No body wants to take the burden of a 65 year old sick man man on their shoulders and Sharma could be right. Seperate Treatment is the best.

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    It would seem then that the rule of law is but the rule of aspirations towards being human and that such aspirations are increasingly falling out of favor and being replaced by other more mundane and material ones such as that to wealth, increased consumption and power over the lives of ones fellow beings to which even the aspirations to be human, to respect and defend human rights and to build a civilization that has clearly perceived and articulated objectives and in which every individual is afforded the basic requirements of life and the freedom and resources to realize its potential is often subverted and placed at the command of the accumulation of wealth, the increase in consumption and the exercise of power.

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    The Secretary General’s answers are based on the assumption that the Sri Lankan regime is honest and credible, when in fact it has proved itself to be neither. I hope the Secretary General is credible when he says that he is using his good offices to encourage Sri Lanka to achieve reconciliation and good governance. The problem however is that “encouragement” is inadequate when dealing with a regime with no credibility. Such a regime does not respond to encouragement. It will respond only to the one thing it knows and uses, coercion. Suspension accompanied by economic sanctions would be a start.

    The regrettable failure of the CMAG to place Sri Lanka on the agenda leads impartial observers to only one conclusion, that the CMAG is pampering a regime that violates the principles that are the basis of its own existence and justification. If the Commonwealth leadership is unwilling to take proper action against so blatant a violator of its principles, it no longer has any moral authority or justification to exist as a serious fraternity of nations. It might as well disband itself.

    Sumith Ariyasinghe

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      Sumith, it is obvious that you are a person ready to cut your nose just because there is a pin-prick on it but not realising that your damaging your face forever. There are 52 countries in the CW. Can you honestly say that all these countries have leaders of excellence. That these countries are devoid of corruption and begottery! The mother country of CW the UK has still not answered the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ debacle. Before pointing fingers at others they should cleanse themselves. The Rajapakse’s will come and go but Sri Lanka will live on. Economic sanctions may not hurt you or the Rajapakse’s but it will definitely hurt the ordinary Sri Lankans living and working there.

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    It look like that Kamalesh Sharma is in the payroll of MR. Sharma visited Colombo several time in 2012, and 2011. MR is famous for providing money and woman through Sajin Vas Gunawardana to any one to
    get anything done. SWG visited commonwealth secretariat several times.

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      MR is a Southern scoundrel and K Sharma is a godo for nothing Indian. anything could happen in this Kekille land. MR is famous to do any kind of cheap work. the whole family is full of megalimaniacs.

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    As I have pointed out elsewhere on CT the Indians are the culprits here. Their dirty fingerprints are beginning to show. Sharma is their point man in the Commonwealth secretariat and through him they made sure the Rajapaksa regime’s face is saved. They played the same game during the war through another spineless Indian in the UN close to the SG Ban Ki Moon. His name is Vijay Nambiar.

    The regime in India is close to the regime in Colombo and they will help each other to stay in power. What they say openly are packs of lies. The people suffer but these bas***ds don’t give a damn about democracy or human rights as they both commit appalling human rights abuses on their minorities. They need each other for protection from accusations by the rights organisations or bodies.

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    Piranha – You hit the nail on the head. Kamalesh Sharma
    is a lackey of the Gandhi family. That is how he went
    up the ladder in the External Affairs Ministry. The
    coolie lied and lied to turn events. This is why John
    Baird who sat at CMAG was furious. Since the deliberations
    were confidential, he cannot come out with the details
    and what the slimy Kamalesh Sharma did.I forecast this would
    happen.

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    Have the Indians screwed the Diaspora Brothers again??
    First through Nambiar……..
    Now through Sharma…………

    What India does not realise is that such wrong decisions cost a packet of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
    and a loss of face to the Diaspora who are very restless attempting to claw back their monies worth..
    Tamil man is a miser and expect returns ten folds the same way Jesus Christ multiplied Bread & Fish.

    Unfortunately they lost buckshees heavily and could not spare the GOSL of the expenses of holding CHOGM.
    Basil fernando together with Kishali Pinto will read out the poem at the opening of the CHOGM

    That Baird had committed “hara-kiri” for the canadian ruling party with his “Bull Dog” facial expression. it was a cheap dummy.

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    Commonwealth SG Kamalesh Sharma “seemed supremely confident that his ‘good offices’ would result in, ‘very good results in all the areas of human rights, of rule of law, governance, institution building and strengthening.” He will be fooled like the other SG from NY who was fooled by President Mahinda Rajapaksa!
    Kishali is right in saying the transcript of his press conference should be compulsory read “to fully comprehend the complete lack of knowledge, understanding and capacity” in Sharma “in regard to the multiple Rule of Law crises that this country faces today.” It is ignorance of Sri Lankan recent past history. Sharma may fit in to a Grama Niladhari’s boots than CEO of CW!
    His round table will be represented by GOSL by a minion in the government or someone like Weerawansa or Champika or Devananda or a sucker like Prathibha Mahanama or former Jaffna GA Emelda or Yes Man Lalith Weeratunga. He can be happy from what they say to prove the Speaker, President and GL Peiris (probably Sharma does not know Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa is President’s elder brother) have told him the truth.
    He can be happy that reconciliation or a political solution is not sighted at the end. But his job is safe as he had held CHOGM with out any disruption by end November.
    We have heard that Indian railway station masters for a small gratification sell tickets in train berths, but never heard that they sell the values and principles of international organizations like Commonwealth for unknown gratifications, which can extend to lowest levels. Was he another victim like Sukarno in the hands of KGB?
    Or, he may be playing Indian and British politics and economic gains for them as we hear of big deals and projects that are being agreed by Government of Sri Lanka which have been delayed or never thought of all the while. So much so the Airbus deal does not have provision any where in the budget though agreed by the Cabinet. Sampur is to be implemented with thousands of displaced in camps.
    Rajapaksa regime for a change is bribing or prostituting India and British governments and Sharma is the “pimp” or “go-between” for the dirty jobs!
    He must remember that in no way we Tamils of Sri Lanka will gain from all his pranks and will call him the worst fool and pimp ever produced by our Mother India. It will happen before Xmas 2013!(Mr) Sharma, Mark my words.
    Colombo Telegraph- Please send this comment to Kamalesh Sharma to be seen by him for sure.

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      Hurt Tamil,

      Do not take Kishali pinto Jayawardene seriously, it is bad for your health. [EDITED OUT] There is no political solution as there is no political crisis except everyday problems that are prevalent in most countries in the world. Where were these Pintos, and all these NGO’s HRW, AI etc during the 20/30 years of conflict.

      If you are a Tamil where do you come from. There is no nation in the world called Tamil. If you are a Sri Lankan of Tamil ethnicity you may show concern about Sri lanka. But if you are a foreign national it is better to mind your own business.

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    The UN and Commonwealth are mere scapegoats of the West and European Community who have placed their inept stooges to carry out an agenda to their liking. Gone are the Golden Era when the mention of a resolution or embargo will send shivers down the spine of any leader who was in the wrong. Today money, power and greed has brought this institute to disrepute and has open the way to many despots and maniacs who rob their nations and hold its gullible, defenseless citizens in to submission. The only day that they can speak out is the Vote day! Even that has become a joke and ridicule with the loser taking the winner to legal merry go round,alliances, high jumpers, long jumpers etc making the citizens fools. There was a time when real gentlemen of stature looked into the worldly affairs.The World was in peace except for a few skirmishes now and then.Personally, todays’ leaders have opended the proverbial Pandoras’ box of eveil with their inept attitude of handling affairs. Resolutions,Embargoes and sanctions of the UN/Commonwealth are not worth the paper they are printed. however, maybe they will be worthwhile research documents if ‘bottled ‘ up and picked up by the inhabitants’ of the next Century or Millenium as a ‘message in a bottle’.

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