25 October, 2020

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The Ides Of March And A Reality Check For Sri Lanka

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Surely the members of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) would not have thought, even in their most nightmarish dreams, that a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sanctioning an international investigation into Sri Lanka’s human rights violations would be primarily based on their 2011 findings.

A heady paradox

Indeed, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to think that the LLRC Chairman and former Attorney General, the late CR de Silva (to his credit, a stubborn man with a stubborn appreciation of the limits to which he could be pushed to) would have, if he was alive, literally shuddered to think that representatives of Western nations were, one by one this week, citing his report as the reason as to why their patience with Sri Lanka had finally run out.

There is a heady paradox in all of this. The LLRC was mooted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a ‘homegrown solution’ to the pesky problem of ‘accountability’ that he was being stridently called to account for. Ideally the LLRC was supposed to be a face saving device by writing a whole lot of nothingness and basically absolving the army of any wrong doing in the final stages of the war. In fact, that part of the script ran true to form with the report citing only isolated incidents and dismissing accusations of a deliberate policy of state wrong doing.

Incapable of implementing even the minimum

But to the regime’s disconcerted surprise, the LLRC also interpreted its mandate to express healthy horror at the bypassing of the Rule of Law, paramilitary excesses, continuing abductions, disappearances and executions, the militarization of the police as well as the arbitrary use of anti-terrorism laws. Its strictures were harsh and its recommendations unequivocal.

It was predicted at that time in these column spaces (Weighing the LLRC Report in the Scales of Justice, The Sunday Times, 18th December 2011) that a Government impossibly drunk with post-war hubris would find itself incapable of implementing the LLRC’s bare minimum as this would dislodge its authoritarian power base. This has now proved to be the case. And an element of macabre irony became apparent when I saw pro-government demonstrators who would probably be hard put to identify their own mother in the inebriated state that they were in, carrying placards crying ‘down with the LLLC” in Colombo this week.

The LLRC report’s fundamental contradiction remained however its assumption that Sri Lanka possessed independent systems to carry out a credible inquiry into alleged human rights violations. This was a palpable ignoring of realities. By 2011, our judicial and prosecutorial systems had become utterly politicized. Yet even confounding its most disillusioned cynics, Sri Lanka’s rulers enthusiastically proved the final degeneration of the judicial system barely a year down the line by their ugly witch-hunt impeachment of the 43rd Chief Justice. Through that single outrageous action, this Government cried havoc and let loose the processes of international inquiry. Only minds grossly addled by power and arrogance could have acted like this. The end result was the veritable Ides of March 2014 which for Sri Lanka, came not on the fifteenth of the month but twelve days later.

Link between war crimes and the Rule of Law

So the reasoning that underlies the March UNHRC Resolution is simple. On the one hand, it authorizes the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner (OHCHR) to undertake a comprehensive investigation into acts of both the Government and the LTTE during the period covered by the LLRC. On the other hand, it still asks Sri Lanka to ensure accountability in that regard. It also demands several Rule of Law reforms. All LLRC recommendations must be implemented, the Weliweriya inquiry report must be released, credible oversight of the military system ensured and confidence in the independence of State institutions, including the judiciary restored.

If these calls are not heeded, the consequences are clear. Once an OHCHR investigation is completed (with or without the Government’s consent), Sri Lanka will be deemed incapable of undertaking judicial inquiries into ordinary human rights violations let alone those committed in the heat of conflict. Thereafter, sterner action will follow. Indeed, the initiation of an international criminal justice process cannot be ruled out despite the Government’s optimistic reliance on China and Russia to block this at the Security Council.

We did not look after our own

In sum, it is by no means a pleasant thing to have an international investigation sanctioned into the internal affairs of one’s own country. There is also little doubt regarding the fact that international realpolitik operates against smaller and vulnerable countries while powerful nations violate international law at will. But if we had looked after our own, at least even in the post-war years, the reservoir of support that Sri Lanka had in dealing with the LTTE would not have diminished so speedily. Instead we had to bluster and lie.

Wisely at least the statement issued by Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to Geneva on the eve of the vote did not claim that the Resolution violated Sri Lanka’s Constitution. Earlier, we had the Minister of External Affairs rashly asserting just that and confusing international law procedures with domestic constitutional provisions as a result. In 2006, we had this same confusion when (now retired) Chief Justice Sarath Silva declared that Sri Lanka’s ratification of the 1st Optional Protocol to an international treaty was unconstitutional, affirming incorrectly that the Protocol’s body of jurists exercised ‘judicial power’ within Sri Lanka. Where has sanity fled to, one may well ask?

A populistic message is of no use

No doubt the results of this week’s Provincial Council elections will be used to, as President Rajapaksa exhorted, ‘send a message to the international community’ that Sri Lanka’s majority is strongly behind him. But the sponsors of the March 2014 resolution are not likely to be beguiled by such populistic messages. Commandeering the majority votes of a domestic electorate does not stop an international inquiry as examples around the world teach us.

We should learn from these excellently illustrative examples even at this late stage.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    Election results will not have any impact on the international community other than reinforcing the perception that the people are divided and at odds with each other. 40-50% of the electorate have no confidence in politicians and the political system as indicated by the low turnout.

    • 2
      1

      Safa

      Total registered vote 1,873,804

      Total polled 1,252,296

      Rejected and abtentions 621,508

      UPFA polled 699,408

      Total UPFA & abstentions 699,408 + 621,508 = 1,320,916

      Over all % of UPFA votes 1,320,916X100/1,873,804 = 70.049381

      You better concede this as a landslide victory for MR.

      This is a calculation significantly based on GLP Logic of Hypothesis theorem.

      Do you have any problem with the statistical inference stated above?

      • 0
        1

        This was a method that was very close to Margaret Thatcher’s heart too.

      • 2
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        Good one Kishali! Indeed The chickens have come home to roost and the impeachment of the legal Chief Justice and replacing her with a political clown has convinced the international community as well as most educated and sensible Sri Lankans that there cannot be justice as long as the Mahinda Rajapaksa quasi-military dictatorship is in place.

        So yes in the long run, what is necessary to save democracy and labour rights and the right to education and information is REGIME CHANGE!

        • 0
          0

          Indeed KJ, The ides of March are come, but not yet gone – for the Rajapaksa regime..
          Its only just begun..
          Will it end with the fall of Mahinda Rajapaksa with a hundred daggers from his friends to wound and kill, and no Mark Antony to cry ‘foul’?

      • 1
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        NV

        According to the Peiris theory of winning, the abstentions should be added to the losers. Then only can the losers become the winners.

        You have added abstentions to the winners. Therefore according to GLP, UNP has won and UPFA has lost. You cannot change the rules when you win. According to GLP abstentions are the critical factor. According to GLP, winner can win only when W > L + A.

      • 0
        0

        How’s Zat!
        Total polled 1,252,296
        Total UPFA & abstentions 699,408 + 621,508 = 1,320,916

        68k difference??

        Passa first past the post won. that’s what matters.

    • 3
      1

      Safa

      Similar GLP statistical inference provides different picture to what you read in the media. Media is biased against MR.

      UPFA has won Western Province by 67.55868 % of registered votes, another landslide victory for MR.

      The man seems unstoppable.

    • 0
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      my dear pinto..if you bothered to read the LLRC it states the 17a and 18a must be taken away from the executive..but since you have already according to you as stated ‘dismissing accusations of a deliberate policy of state wrong doing.’ seems to have already convicted without any investigation. in other words you want the blame solely laid at GOSL and selected few that means Rajapaksa family only.. what kind of a Law is that??? not the one you argue to be independent and without prejudice.

  • 4
    4

    Despite half the world critisizing the resolution UNP remain silent. UNP inability to critizise perhaps point to it being one the architects.

    Prof. GL says US-UK was ‘obnoxious’ abusing its power at the council. Although he seems to forget this is exaclty how UPFA treats others in the opposition. Its simple case of Karma – what goes around, must come around.

  • 3
    1

    See, Mahinda is the biggest stupid alive in this world today.

    Like what Prabhakaran did, the stupid things (Killing Rajiv Gandhi, Depriving the Tails from voting to Ranil, etc) Mahinda has already done too many things that will tight the noose around his own neck.

    Is there any sensible person who might attack EVANGELICAL CHURCHES and then seek the World powers to help him from War Crimes?????

    The Bugger (MR) was always a stupid goyya with his childish dreams of one day becoming President by hook or crook and doing implementing all his childish wishes to beat Bandaranayakes in building Ports and Airports and amssing enormous wealth and having many properties in the Colombo 07, Big paties like CHOGM in parallel to beat Sirimavo’s Non-Allign Summit, meeting infamous leaders and having PHOTO OPS…are all childish in 21st century world.

    What happened to our country is that a clique who saved 1915 rioters from British jails designed the future of our nation in their Olcott/Blavatsky/Anagarika fed fascistic system of rule. This opened the flood gates to too many SHREKS who were busy catching FROGS in the swamps to enter politics.

    SWRD Banda an educated FROG opened the innings of the Killing Field saga of our once respected Ceylon by consecutively electing the most undeserving leaders as PMs and Presidents. NOW, we have an all time ROBBERY GANG who has taken the land of the FROGS & YAKKOS to the International arena to fight with SNAKES and COBRAS. I mean will the Lankan FROGS escape from SNAKES?????

    MAHINDA is still busy with his looting the country. The KERMIT the FROGS busy in fighting and burning Churches, Mosques & HINDU Kovils. The world power is busy with the future WARS-WW3 and soon, very soon we are all going to realize each and everyone of our responsibility in not putting things in the right place.

    UNTIL THEN MAHINDA will enjoy looting and killing. Frogs (people) will be busy by blaming themselves with their self imposed psycho words ‘RANILTA BEY” )Ranil Can’t win)

    WHEN MAHINDA WINS the entire frog well(Sri Lanka) LOSES.

  • 4
    0

    Brilliant essay.
    Restoring the independence of the judiciary and other state Institutions like the Police etc.will be much more difficult than even finding a solution to the ethnic problem.
    This would be like unscrambling scrambled eggs.

  • 1
    1

    Dear Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena.

    “Surely the members of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) would not have thought, even in their most nightmarish dreams, that a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sanctioning an international investigation into Sri Lanka’s human rights violations would be primarily based on their 2011 findings.”

    “But to the regime’s disconcerted surprise, the LLRC also interpreted its mandate to express healthy horror at the bypassing of the Rule of Law, paramilitary excesses, continuing abductions, disappearances and executions, the militarization of the police as well as the arbitrary use of anti-terrorism laws. Its strictures were harsh and its recommendations unequivocal.”

    Sri Lanka has such a bad record of putting every atrocity under the rug, that this time, it got out to the UN and went international.

    Well, this is what happens when one does not solve one’s own problems in a civilized manner.

    The curse of Monk Mahanam on the para-Sinhala and Para-Tamil, as per Native Veddah terminology.

  • 1
    1

    A balanced report on the consequences of the non-implementation of important LLRC recommendations. If the government wants to avoid the situation from becoming bad to worse, they should implement all the LLRC recommendations and preferably, all the recommendations in the UNHRC resolution. Then we can get the support of all the friends of Sri Lanka to avoid an intrusive international investigation.

  • 0
    0

    I was expecting a big turn out and bigger margin of victory in Hambantota election results after the UNHRC vote and after those investments on infrastructure in the south. In fact UPFA has lost some seats in down South. Raja has reached to his peak? Next year could see 1977 election results.

  • 0
    1

    The LLRC made recommendations. They are just that, recommendations. They do NOT become law unless the government accepts them fully and enacts such law through Parliament. Quite often recommendations end up in the bin, both in Sri Lanka and abroad.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Native.
    Could you Pl.recommend GLP for a course leading to the Ph.D on statistical analysis at the Kamraj University in India.There are a few branches in SriLanka too.Buy considering GLPs analytical skills he should follow the course @ India,all the more so because India abstained from the vote @ Geneva.
    Frankly,Native my analysis is that the Sinhalese@Tamils in Srilanka are being taken for a good ride by the Indians.

    • 2
      0

      J.Thavarajah

      “Frankly,Native my analysis is that the Sinhalese@Tamils in Srilanka are being taken for a good ride by the Indians.”

      Yes indeed.

      I have repeatedly stated many times, will say it again and again.

      Does India have a robust, consistent, proactive, …. foreign policy that was suggested/promoted as Gujral Doctrine?

      Gujral Doctrine

      “advocated a conscious policy of conciliation with neighbours, absolutely no use of force and settling all pending issue by negotiations, unilateral gestures of goodwill without waiting for reciprocity from smaller states and attempting to move away from fixed positions to examine alternatives when as issue seemed intractable.

      http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/conscious-policy-of-conciliation-with-neighbours/article4151453.ece

  • 0
    0

    Thanks Native.

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