11 August, 2020

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The UN Is making Lasting Peace In Sri Lanka Less Likely

By Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley

The Sri Lankan parliament has begun debating the resolution from the UN Human Rights Council urging Sri Lanka to conduct an investigation into alleged war crimes committed during its battle against Tamil Tiger separatists in 2009.

On hearing of the UN passing the resolution the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, immediately hailed the council’s action, saying it “encourages the government of Sri Lanka to continue on the path toward reconciliation following 27 years of civil war.”

As someone who has grown up in a war torn country I have some experience of what it is like to be a citizen in a place where the territory is disputed and where such a dispute brings conflict and eventually conflict resolution. Sri Lanka has emerged from a long and difficult conflict; now what is important is how it advances as a society today. Undoubtedly part of this will be measured by how willing Sri Lanka is to accept its past and progress to the future. However, I fear while many will welcome the decision by the UNHRC as a step in the right direction, determination to achieve their objective may well make achieving a lasting peace for the citizens of Sri Lanka less not more likely. The debate in Sri Lanka’s parliament will be fascinating to follow.

There is a fundamental question for someone such as myself who has seen their community follow a path of reconciliation: have international governments learnt nothing from building a lasting peace in Northern Ireland?

The resolution passed in Geneva is provocative and effectively commences the internationalisation of the internal politics of Sri Lanka. As we have seen in Africa with similar intervention by another body, the International Criminal Court, this can be destabilising and counterproductive. Such a move, no doubt well intentioned, has the potential to set back the difficult progress that has already been made.

Let me be clear, human rights violations, and allegations of atrocities anywhere, must be openly and transparently addressed by the local government in a manner that builds the confidence by all in that administration. However, there is more than one way to address this and the international community, by now, ought to appreciate the methods which work, achieving lasting settlements, and which escalate tensions thus creating further hurdles to reconciliation.

The strategy being pursued by the US is in stark contrast to the way administrations under Presidents Clinton and Bush assisted in the process of building a lasting peace process in Northern Ireland. Simply put, bullying did not work. Encouraging, cajoling and charming internal actors to step up to the mark and lead was what proved successful.

Steps that internationalise internal and historic problems – allowing external siren voices to dominate – will not lead to realistic progress in Sri Lanka. Some may point out how US senator George Mitchell was imposed as chairman of the talk’s process in Northern Ireland. But, the subtle fact is the role he played was sought by the sovereign government of the disputed territory. By contrast the US administration is attempting to force Sri Lanka to accept America’s regulations and “advice and technical assistance on implementing” the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) report, when the internal government has already commenced this process.

International governments must know when to push and when to hold back. Nothing sets back progress more than when communities feel they are being pressed by a foreign government to take action that they will take in their own time. I am the first to understand the impatience many feel with progress being made, but impatience should not be a substitute for diplomacy.

In Sri Lanka, a country emerging from 30 years of conflict, a more subtle and tested approach ought to be followed. The UK and USA have good cause to pursue such an approach when they consider what worked for Northern Ireland. The internal LLRC report made positive recommendations about building a credible reconciliation process that has the potential to build political confidence and judicial independence, thus enabling human rights. It is a step-by-step process that will lead to the necessary confidence to address allegations of military violations of human rights at the end of the conflict. The international community appears to be putting outcomes before process and, as we in Northern Ireland know, the long hard road to peace and reconciliation is process – not a single event.

It amazes me that, after the success of such a process here, the lessons are not always transferred abroad. Unduly rushing the process flirts with a breakdown that will benefit no one.

Patience is required with process politics. Ultimately justice will follow only by a process of evidence gathering, charges, trial, prosecution and punishment. Even in this process victims feel the slowness of progress but ultimately accept that the wheels of justice turn slow but they turn fine.

I would urge the UK government to use its not inconsiderable international influence to advocate a patient approach. To refuse to rush in with international declarations and resolutions that will not work, but to promote the model for an international approach based on an experience that did work. Ultimately the path to reconciliation can only be laid by the citizens of that country. The UK should look to plant the seeds of progress by allowing Sri Lanka to take the lead in addressing its own past.

Ian Paisley Jnr is DUP Member of Parliament for North Antrim ( The Commentator )

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Latest comments

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    Dear Mr.paisely,

    You have to study the past history of the ethnic conflict in Srilanka.
    The brutal oppression of Minority tamils by the Srilankan governments elected by majority Sinhala people has led to the blood path.

    The present srilankan government adopts a policy of silent yet severe ethnic cleansing in the north & eastern parts of the island, the heart lands of tamils.

    It is highly unlikely that the srilankan government will do justice for all those which has been victimized by the brutal oppression of it and devolve power.

    Please understand the ground reality before presenting your idea.

    with love and pain

    the last dinosaur

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    As much as the Nation here is devided between Pseudo Patriots and True Patriots, the International Fora is also devided between those who are hand in glove with support to the MR regime and those who are genuinely concerned about Human Rights Violations. As for Bell Pottinger & Co. it is business interest to buy characters like Ian Paisley to canvass support to their client MR.

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    The good advice extended based on personal experiences is encouraging to be coming from an unexpected quater.From where ever it comes the truth is the same. This unashmed hurry the US and clan has in ushering reconciliation is a farce to say the least. Any one whith a little bit of thinking power will know this is something else. What is it?
    it is definitely not reconciliation and peace! The aim seems to be division followed by mistrust and more anarchy. Why? regime change, revange,self interests.

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    The Last Dinosaur

    Your statement “The brutal oppression of Minority Tamils by the Sri Lankan governments elected by majority Sinhala people has led to the blood bath” Have you got evidence on this?

    I will give you one example to disprove your false statement – In SL all have chance to enjoy free education from Primary level to university graduation. Who got the best out of it – Tamilians. Majority of engineers passed out from SL universities from late fifties to now be tamilians. If that is the case, how could you say SL governments are oppressing?

    Even you sound like one of those. Therefore be honest about things.

    It was some racist Tamil like you need the big piece of the cake.

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      Hi
      I do get your point of education was mostly benefited by Tamils. But the truth is their hard work and their priority in their life about education and very less entertainment led them to achieve their goals in education–but with great difficulties and oppression made by majority parties. Tamils had fewer choice for other interest so they put their hard-work to achieve their goals for survival. Education is the fundamental path for Tamils from history, so therefore don’t conclude that we had the privilege of free education. I do respect both ethnic groups and Srilanka needs to rebuild and people should be in peace. I wish my country should grow faster and we need good leaders to help and guide ordinary people and i look forward to that and UN-US interference might bring more peace and justice in all Citizens of Srilanka i guess. I do have less knowledge of politics but have shared my personal experience here

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    Srilankan Tamils did loose their ethnic identity with the emergence of the terrorist outfit the Tamil Tiger terror movement.The LTTE imposed themselves as the “Sole Representatives” through violence.Anyone who didn’t tow the line of the LTTE were murdered.The leaders of the TULF were murdered in cold blood while getting rid of intellectuals in the caliber of Dr Neelan Thiruchelwam.Hence both locally and internationally,Tamils were better known as Tamil tigers than Srilankan Tamils.
    As a result today Srilankan Tamils are without an identity.Tamil culture was destroyed by the Tamil Tiger Terrorists.Conservative Tamil females were made to crew cut their long hair and given guns and bombs to kill.Instead of the Sari,they were made to wear mens’ clothes.Right now it is not a question of reconciliation,but bringing back the Tamil culture to it’s past glory which was destroyed by the Tamil Tiger terrorists.But the Tamil diaspora abroad has other ideas.Peace in Srilanka is anathema to the diaspora because it will put them out of business.
    GOSL should completely ignore the diaspora which is nothing much but another branch of the defeated Tamil Tiger terror movement.Foreigners with ulterior motives claim that Srilanka has not yet achieved peace.But the reality is that after 30 years of bloody Tamil Tiger terrorism all Srilankans are breathing fresh air of peace.Tourists are pouring in spite of unsuccessful Tamil Tiger propaganda specially through the internet.Srilanka does not need lectures by foreigners and Tamil Tiger diaspora regarding peace.It is only a ruse to start another bloody period of mayhem.For those living abroad,peace in Srilanka is anathema.Thus in the guise of human rights they are trying to open up old wounds.The Tamil Tiger terror coffers are running dry without war.Thus they need “terrorism” which is business as usual.The GOSL should take every precaution to ensure that Tamil Tiger terrorism will not raise it’s ugly head again.Tamil Tiger terrorists are trying their best to promote terrorism through the internet in the guise of human rights and reconciliation.The GOSL should take a note of it.

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    overseas tamil diaspora will live with bad principles but your third generation will kick your bad ,any way never try to destroy srilankan tamil rights living in aborad.

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    Ian Paisley says the GoSL is already implementing the LLRC recommendations. How misinformed. The GoSL needs no time when they can rush through the 18th amendment. The GoSL as a policy is discriminating the minority Thamils by allowing only Sinhalese to certain areas in the Northeast. What the GoSL has done thus far has been a reversal to reconciliation. We welcome the US resolution on Sri Lanka, while asking Ian Paisley to get his facts straight. Thank you.

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    I would like to know from the so called Tamils like ‘Last Dinosaur’ to write in point form what are those rights that the so called Tamils have been deprived of by the GoSL? I dont want to listen to stories of Bandarnayake period or 1983 riots. Want to know the specifics in present day situation.

    According to my observation, Tamils cannot come out of their fantasy dream called “Tamil Eezham”. Anything other than their fantasy land, is depriving of rights. Even if you bring down the heaven down to their feet they would still keep whining and complaining. Whining, complaining, back stabbing, lying, looting and killing are all in their blood and they will never change. All above are a result of inferiority complex they have been born with. They will never find happiness anywhere on earth. They are bound to live a 3rd grade life where ever they are (there are a few exceptions though and those people have immensely succeeded in life and live peacefully without complaints)

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      Somehow your comments are for fewer people, all cultures has good and bad people so do not be judgmental, set your view point broader and we all know the fact and injustice and how brutally Tamils were treated. So act like you are all educated, and put yourself in other peoples shoes and realize the fact how would you feel when you were treated unjustifiably –First of all we are all humans and we need our rights to live with dignity and peace. I hate terrorism too.

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    I doubt very much that Rev Ian Paisley`s son has been `bought` – he wasn`t taking sides either. Here in Northern Ireland there are many victims, on both sides, Protestant and Catholic (or Loyalist / Republican if you wish) who have not received any justice whilst others have received a slap in the face via the murderers of their relatives being freed early under the Good Friday peace agreement – Paisley is speaking from experience.

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    Very nice man and the son of a nicer man. God even if he is christian must be proud of these people.He must have someone of his ancestors born in Jaffna because if you look at him well he looks so much like my own son Kumar. Only a slight difference in the colour. Don’t you think?

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    Apologies for the delayed response. Thank you Ian Paisley Jnr, for a very well written, informative comparative analysis. This path to reconcillation expressed by you, is exactly what a majority of Sri Lankans (in Sri Lanka) be they, Tamil or Sinhalese, have been advocating.

    Unfortunately, their voices have been drowned by a minority seeking revenge and short term victories, funded by a diaspora and pro-seperatists lobbyists (be they LTTE, anti-government or otherwise), who wish to see this country torn apart and plundered. There is much Sri Lanka can learn from the experiences of Northern Ireland, the sooner the powers that be, realise that, the better it it is for the future of this country and its people.

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