22 April, 2021

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UNHCR Should Focus On The Sovereignty Of The Oppressed Not Of The Oppressors

By Ranjith C. Perera

Ranjith C. Perera

Most countries when confronted with human right violations in their countries they hide behind the ‘sovereignty’ principle of the UNHRC. Most recent case is the report on human rights violations by the Sri Lankan government. Besides the human rights questions related to 30 year civil war, 2021 preliminary report sent to Sri Lanka, it is reported prominent charges have been raised on the 20th constitutional amendment, military appointments to civil administration etc by the new government that came into power one year ago. According to media reports the government has rejected all the charges on the basis of sovereignty of the country.

Some critics who favour the stand taken by the government say UNHRC has no right to intervene in internal matters of a country on the principle of ‘sovereignty’ of member countries. It is very clear from the view point of the people of Sri Lanka the charges related to recent administrative constitutional amendments, regulations; appointments etc. have violated their human rights. For instance the people enjoyed democratic rights obtained by the Independent Commissions appointed by the Constitutional Council. 

The Independent Commissions include among others Judicial Commission, Public Service Commission which has direct impact on the human rights of the people. People could expect justice from the judiciary because members of the judiciary do not have to worry about political victimization as they have the protection of the Judicial Commission. But with the 20th Constitutional Amendment the power of the appointment of judges has been transferred to one person namely the President of the country. Can the people expect an independent judiciary under this circumstance? Is this not a violation of human rights of the common people of the country? 

Same situation prevail related to other commissions appointed by the President. The question is who is going to protect the lost rights of the common people? Some might say the parliament is there to protect the rights of people. The only thing opposition could do is to criticize the government within the parliament and question the government on wrong doings. But they will have no impact on the human rights violation of the people. 

Those who are supporting the government stand, state that the people have given the mandate for the changes in the election that brought the new government into power. Yes, people in the election criticized some functions of the independent commissions and they expected the new government would do the needful. But we cannot say any right thinking person expected to abolish the appointment of independent commission by the legislature and bringing it totally under the executive. They must have expected if there were any undemocratic practices in the past the new government would take measures to change them. Not totally abolishing the democratic nature of the independent commissions and bringing them under one person.   

Now it is a well known secret that this government is controlled by certain business people who supported it in the election. Favoring such people is a common occurrence after elections. But here it seems the situation is worse than any other time. Therefore we could say the ‘sovereignty’ government and its supporters are talking about is not of the people of this country but of their own.  

This is not a situation only related to one country but to most of the countries, especially in the countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America regions in the world. Therefore it is high time international organizations such as UN and UNHRC should adopt a more realistic definition to the word ‘sovereignty’. As pointed out above, presently it is very loosely connected to countries in general. But in actual fact it refers to the ruling class of the countries. It would be better if the international community could state very clearly that they are concerned of the violation of human rights of the people in a country by the rulers and if that happens the international organization has every right to intervene and protect the people as they have no other forum to present their problems related to human rights. On that basis the international organizations focus would be of the ‘sovereignty’ of the people or oppressed not of the rulers or oppressors. 

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Latest comments

  • 13
    5

    A very positive article. It is that Sovereignty of the people in a country is the real issue, not the sovereignty of the government of political party or family as claimed by the Rajapaksa regime. For example, the burial issue is the sovereignty of the people, not the Rajapaksa government. It is now clear that it is not a domestic issue because now Rajapaksa government did not solve this issue until the issue is raised in the UNHRC. Previous government allowed the remembrance of those dead in the war. But Rajapaksa government banned it. So, Rajapaksa government is the problem for solving the National problem, nothing to do with Country’s sovereignty. It is now clear from the Presidential commissions on Easter Bombing not find the truth behind who was behind Saharn but to punish the former President Sirisena who contested against Mahinda Rajapaksa. We also should know the same happened to Sarath Fonseka. The truth is Rajapksa’s are dangerous to the Sovereignty of the Country and people.

    • 1
      1

      You are right about similarity between SF and MS. MS dug his own grave. He forgot within 3 1/2 years the process and backing with which he ascended power and destabilised an democratically elected government. He lost his marbles, when he was given the Leadership of SLFP and thought the Sky is the limit of his Power and was Power drunk by mid 2018, so had the brainwave to sack the duly elected government and hand over power to the person he rivalled and won the mandate of the people with the backing of the UNP, JHU, JVP, ACMK and ACMC and others. If not for the protests and change of heart by force he would have been deposed by mid 2019 the latest and confined to the dustbin. Well, now it seems the body he appointed finding him at fault – well one positive is that is the first in a long line in Sri Lanka.

      • 3
        3

        UNHRC should focus on the Indian Ocean Chagos Islands and the forced displacement of its people and the US-UK grave human rights violations there with the Diego Garcia military base.

        US and UK are the worst Human Rights violators, colonizers and looters of the wealth of the Global South. US owns and operates the ISIS narrative and has 800 military bases all over the world and its Special Forces staged the Easter Sunday 2019 attacks on Tourist hotels, Chinese owned Shangri La and churches in Sri Lanka. US and UK use HYBRID WAR on Economy and Society and the UNHRC is a joke!
        UNHRC should focus on these matters and hold US and UK accountable for crimes against humanity.

    • 1
      2

      The only solution is to split the island into 3 mono ethnic nations equitably named Sinhala Only Elam, Tamil Elam and Muslim Elam.

      That is the only way to uphold sovereignty of the people.

      No other way. If Tamils deny sovereignty to Muslims, Sinhalese will deny sovereignty to Tamils. Simple as that.

      Recognize all 3 and we will have peace. Not otherwise.

  • 8
    3

    Ranjith C. Perera is godsend to Sri Lankan people: Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others.

    Would the ruling class, their cheer leaders, monks and cronies benefiting from the most authoritarian rule Sri Lanka is now having listen to him?

  • 6
    7

    Its quite obvious that GR is not well educated & lacking in international relations, most probably, even unaware of the Geneva convention, abided by democratic countries, which differentiates the security forces from terrorists. It is irrelevant what others have done or the hypocrisy, but in our conscience, can we accept that no atrocities were committed by our security forces? In true military fashion, even SF followed orders without question, or even if he turned the convenient blind eye, makes him also responsible if any war crimes were committed. GR’s persona as a tough talking man of action is haunting him internationally but unless he protects his loyalists, it will open a can of worms. Hence his rewards to the military cronies with appointments in high places in the govt. & the ‘ranviruvo’ rhetoric.

    Apart from travel bans & possible freezing of assets abroad, GR & his cronies are beyond the reaches of international law. In any case, ill-gotten assets will be in tax havens, therefore, untouchable, & what matters is survival in SL. Just like Trump & his Christian white supremist vote base, at least 6m Sinhala Buddhist supremacists also live in denial. GR will survive to fight another day & its only a matter of time when SL becomes another Myanmar.

    • 8
      14

      Raj-UK,
      Sarath Fonseka was the person who led the Sri Lanka Army. Why did Terrorists Nominated Agents (TNA) asked Demalu to vote for Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 Presidential election who is now charged as a war criminal ? Were Demalu happy to be under a President who had committed war crimes at that time and changed their mind after he lost?
      Demala hypocrites!

      Security Forces liberated Demalu from the clutches of barbaric LTTE Tamil terrorists. All the war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations were committed by LTTE Tamil terrorists and not by security forces.
      With the defeat of LTTE in May 2009:
      • there are no more LTTE child soldiers
      • there are no kids making bombs for LTTE
      • there are no kids denied their right to live like a child
      • there is no fear of kids garlanded with cyanide capsules
      • there are no mothers who are worried that their children will be snatched by LTTE to be recruited as combatants;
      and most of all,
      • There are no people who are worried that their pet dogs and goats that provided milk will be snatched by LTTE to be used for target practicing.

      —-
      “but in our conscience, can we accept that no atrocities were committed by our security forces?”

      • 4
        1

        EE,

        Why are you worried about those when even Tamils aren’t worried???

        All those are lies of your government. Why do you think Tamils overwhelmingly vote for TNA and the like???? Think.

  • 4
    9

    Our opinion is Singapore-Malaysia deal is the one can save the Tamil_Muslim and Sinhalese. Only way to keep the “Island” within the hands of Tamils & Sinhalese is to peacefully going separate and then reunite and recreate the relations through Trade, security, cultural relationships. A Sinhala Buddhists imposed separation on Tamils by denying their reasonable aspirations will create another India-Pakistan in the Indian Ocean. Then the Sovereignty of the “Island” will change hands – here we are not predicting or associating anything about China or India. Beyond and above the Tamil problems, Sinhalese have a nature of selling their freedom to foreigners by inventing local rivalry. Cholas, Arabian & European involvement here is clearly telling that. Foreigners footed here by the selfishness of the Sinhala ruling class. They badly lacked world view just like now Chitanta-Yahapalanaya hallucinating Kings. But before that, Yavanas or Egyptian did not try to rule Ceylon, because Naga Tamils maintained with them only trades. Sinhalese deported Tamils, but now slaving in ME.

    • 8
      11

      Mallaiyuran,
      “Our opinion is Singapore-Malaysia deal is the one can save the Tamil_Muslim and Sinhalese.”

      Save from whom or what?
      Descendants of Demalu who sought asylum in Sinhale can come out with opinions and demands but as the host nation Sinhalayo have no obligation to entertain them.

      Naga Tamils. My Foot!

      • 4
        3

        EE,

        The other option is to live with them!
        Tell me honestly. Do you REALLY want to live with anti-Sinhala, anti-Buddhist, anti-Mahavamsa jealous racists in ONE country???
        Even if you want to do it, you simply cannot.

        Just think before you reply. Give them what is rightfully theirs and take what is rightfully yours. Don’t try to grab every damn thing. Are you going to live in the desert? Are you going to bathe the water that stinks? Are you going to drink water that smells like human waste? Be practical.

        • 2
          3

          GATAM,

          “Do you REALLY want to live with anti-Sinhala, anti-Buddhist, anti-Mahavamsa jealous racists in ONE country???”

          Only Malabar Vellala Demala politicians are anti-Sinhala, anti-Buddhist, anti-Mahavamsa jealous racists. They are only about 1% of the Tamil population. Rest of the Tamils have no problem living with Sinhalayo in a Unitary State. Tamils who like to live with Sinhalayo should get rid of racist separatist Malabar Vellala Demala politicians who do not like to see Tamils and Sinhalayo live in harmony. What is happening in Yapanaya indicate that the process has started.

  • 5
    3

    Sinhala mass should be clearly shown that the Sinhala ruling class cheating the mass pretending that they are going to take the Island in the Sri Lankan airline cargo cabin and going to fly another universe is not true.

    Sinhalese Gentlemen should not dream that they can independently take their Human Right problem to UNHRC. Ehelepola can be Hero to capture and hand over Tamil King to Britain. But any Sinhalese complaining one’s problems to ICC or UNHRC will be considered as traitor with in the Sinhala Buddhist community. Sinhala Gentlemen hoping to do this will be immediacy outcasted by the nasty species, the Sinhala Intellectuals. Further they should not underestimate massiveness of the job. They should consult with their serious friends of that what the Tamils have been going through for the past 12 years. The easy approach for Sinhala Gentlemen is to join Tamils on International Investigation against Appe Aanduwas and put forward the claim of their share of Transitional Justice against Aanduwa. Recently this is what have been our approach in CT.
    We said earlier: Save the people to Save the Nation. Save the Nation to Save the Sovereignty Doing the opposite way, that is putting the Sinhala Buddhist Sovereignty over the island will force Island be lost from Tamils and Sinhalese.

    • 7
      8

      Mallaiyuran,
      “Ehelepola can be Hero to capture and hand over Tamil King to Britain.”

      He is not a Tamil King but a Waduga King. He took a Sinhala name and became a Buddhist to be the King of Sinhale. Sinhala was the language used by the King. He was a good King ruined by John Doyle.

      • 2
        0

        EE, I wonder what was good in that King; Was it beheading Ehelepola’s children, Was it Forced Poundings the severed heads of the children in a Rice Pounder by their mother, or the forced drowning of Ehelopola’s wife in the lake? None of them appeal to me or prove that the King was a good king. If it happened today, it amounts to Crime against Humanity, Genocide. Your choice

        • 1
          1

          Mahila,
          It is fair to think the way you have done because you do not know the story behind King Rajasinghe’s decision to impose those barbaric punishments to Ehelepola Family. That is the reason I said ‘ruined by John Doyle’.
          John Doyle first made him an alcoholic and persuaded him to impose those barbaric punishments to make Sinhalayo in Kingdom of Kandy go against him so that British can get their support to depose him and capture Kingdom of Kandy. To get the support of Sinhalayo, British promised to appoint a Sinhala person as the King but they did not keep their promise.
          No King in Sinhale had imposed such barbaric punishments to traitors. The punishment to traitors has been to brand them as outcastes (Sedol) and confiscate their property so that they become homeless people and beg for living.

          • 2
            0

            Eagle,
            “No King in Sinhale had imposed such barbaric punishments to traitors.”
            Don’t lie!!
            Many Sinhalayo kings came to power by killing their fathers, brothers, of relatives.
            Read the Mahavamsa. Robert Knox too described gruesome punishments in his book.

      • 1
        1

        And he signed the treaty with British in Tamil

    • 1
      1

      He was a Telugu (modern Talagana) person. Not a Tamil. SL forged close ties with Telugu country because Telungu were enemies of Tamils and ruled over Tamils then.

      (Mt enemy’s enemy is my friend.)

  • 8
    2

    Dear Ranjith C. Perera,
    .
    I checked and found that this is probably the first article that you have written. Although there may be nothing spectacular that you have said, you have written soundly and well.
    .
    The point that you have made is a sound one. We cannot allow ourselves to accept the argument that because we are a sovereign state nobody can point out our flaws. My view certainly is that many voted without thinking, and the way things are going, these rulers of ours will ensure that our voters will think even less with each passing day.
    .
    Just as we have to accept majority decisions, so we can continue to have our own reservations about where we are going.

    • 8
      1

      Excellent. Sovereignty becomes an illusion when it is asserted without restraint. Erosion of sovereignty here is camouflaged by the Government’s need for a stream of provocative noises against Tamils and Muslims. It hides the fact that nothing constructive is happening.

  • 12
    3

    I am blown off. Well written in a concise, most simple way with a common sense approach. Where had you been all these times? Wished people like you raised your voices collectively long before so that I could have still remained in Sri Lanka. I was a victim of 1977 ‘anti Tamil pogrom’ orchestrated by the then president JR Jayewardene. The fear of that terror is still entrenched in my mind. Remember Phoolan Devi of India!. It took only one saner voice of Vinoba Bhave to persuade the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to grant amnesty to the militant terrorist who herself was a product of State Terrorism. Rest is history. Hope there will be much more saner voices to muffle the confused & muddled up intellectual voices that has guided Sri Lankan politicians as well as the world leaders so far. Hope your cry will be heard loud & clear in UNHRC!

  • 5
    0

    Well written article and i join the others to find out where you have been all these years. You are right, whether we are a sovereign state or not, to assume that we have no flaws. UNHRC report only says that there are Credible allegations of wrong doing. What harm is there in investigating those allegations to a close by ourselves before the clamour started for foreign intervention; and why did not we, as a sovereign nation, we are proud of, investigate on our own to uphold the rule of law and integrity of the sovereign nation. Who and why they did not do it, before outsiders pointed it out to us. We call ourselves as a Sovereign nation. Sovereignty of nations are the result of the sovereignty of the people and not those of the governance body elected by those sovereign people, whether elected with simple +1 majority, 2/3 majority or 62% of the electors. The sovereign government didn’t appoint investigating body and /or bring the culprits to book and that’s a fact. Else, they appointed PCoI or investigations/prosecutions and had the temerity to pardon those found guilty of Genocide/Human Rights violations on flimsy grounds. Krishanthi C Rape case in point (Chavakachcheri army camp). On the other hand, government appointed investigating bodies and reconciliation commissions and did not implement the outcome.

  • 2
    0

    Now with the 20th amendment in place and the independence of appointees to the judiciary in question, it’s a foregone conclusion that people will entertain doubts as to the impartiality of Jurisprudence of local institutions and hence calls for foreign investigations or referral to ICJ. This is not because of lack of Patriotism, but the need to seek the truth and reparation in the event of wrong doing, No one could deny that there was absolutely no wrong doing during the war. Inevitably. Who did more wrong than the other is not the primary issue, because first identifying whether such crimes occurred should happen to identify thereafter, who did what and adduce culpability and bring them to book. When Rule of Law is upheld without fear or favour, resulting in fairness and justice with reparation, then the confidence built throughout the community results is sparking greater Patriotism and a feeling of togetherness than divisions. Forgetting and forgiving would be the result of this process

  • 3
    1

    EE, I wonder what was good in that King:-
    Was it beheading Ehelopola’s children,
    Was it Forced Poundings the severed heads of the children in a Rice Pounder by their mother, or
    Was it the forced drowning of Ehelopola’s wife in the lake?
    None of them appeal to me or prove that the King was a good king. If it happened today, it amounts to Crime against Humanity, Genocide. Your choice

  • 4
    1

    The title of the article said it all. And it needed to be said. And the UN HRC member states need to hear it.
    +
    The SL government has and continues to make every effort to portray otherwise.
    +
    How foolish of the die-hard majoritarian nationalist segment of the population to prop up this government when the axe is also bound fall on them when the criminals running the state have successfully hoodwinked them to rob their sovereignty as well.
    +
    The rogue member states of the UN HRC, China, Russia, Syria, Philippines, to name a few, will prop up their rogue friend Sri Lanka as a means of self-preservation. These rogue states are determined to rob the sovereignty of the people.

  • 2
    1

    It was Sinhalese thugs who precipitated the communal violence. Late Mr. Sundralingam and the Tamil Congress crowd staged a sitting in Sathyakgraha by the Beira Lake to protest against the racial moves by SWRDB moving the Sinhala Only Bill in Parliament. Sinhala hooligans carried the peacefully sitting protesting Sathyagrahis and threw them to the Beira Lake. Until that time there was that principle of give and take had a hold of the two communities together. It was this straw that broke the Camel’s back.

  • 1
    4

    Dear Mr Ranjith C Perera,

    It seems that according to your explanation the Mandate of the UNHCR is to uphold the humanrights of civil society / minorities when the opressor is respective governments.

    Could you please let me know what UN organisation is dedicated to upholding democratically elected governments especially in 3 rd world countries when they are under attack by a ruthless terrorist organisations such as the LTTE which persisted in a prolonged terrorist campaign against the Sri Lanka government and it’s people?

    What the UN does is send UN peace keeping troopes who just keeps UN troops as a buffer between

  • 2
    3

    (continued from previous comment) Government troops and Terrorists this does not help in eradicating the scourge of terrorism in thirdword countries. What the UN does best is encouraging terrorism and giving them oxygen to live and do what they do best – Kill civilians, disrupt civilian life, destabilise demcratically elected governments.

    Unless the UN addresses these shortcomings in its mechanisms the UN will soon be irrelevant amongst developing countries and the global south.

    In other words soverign nations will give the middlefinger to the UN.

  • 2
    1

    WK
    In a multi cultural/ethnic/ religious Democratic Country such as ours, the PRIME concern of the Government MUST be to TREAT all it’s citizens equally and fairly without depriving of their rights. In SL, the spiralling downward turn started with the SWRD B starting to campaign on Sinhala only to grab the power. Tamils practiced Gandhi’s non violence ways of showing opposition to the GoSL’s oppression of their rights. Repeated bloody & violent attacks on passive Tamils (State Terrorism) over many years since Independence resulted in a formation of Liberation organisation.
    So the birth of LTTE was a result of Sinhala Buddhist Fundamentalists’ actions. Now they should realise that oppressed TOO have right to Sovereignty. Hence please stop throwing stones at UNHCR and become a Truly Democratic Country in the Indian Ocean. We don’t want ‘Myanmar’ in our motherland. Our MOTHER produced Sinhalese Tamils Burghers Muslims etc etc.

  • 1
    1

    Naman,
    I am not throwing stones at the UNHCR. Just a little constructive critisism.
    For the UN to be a better organisation.

    As long as the Tamils support the LTTE and venarate a tyrant like VP .
    The Sinhalese Budhists will support ultra nationalist governments led by tyrants like Gota.

    UNHCR cannot do a thing to put things right in any country.

  • 1
    0

    The UNHCR is a lame duck when it comes to restraining and eliminating government sponsored humanrights violations within soverign nations.

    Honkong and Mayanmar are the best examples to demonstrate this.

    As long as China safegurds these oppresive regimes (when it comes to voting at the UN security council) the oppression will go on un abated.

    China is not bothered about human rights at all the priority of China is to expand its political influence throughout the world and take advantage of resources belonging to other soverign nations.

    The Belt and silk road project of China is a plan to have a supply chain connecting subordinate semi colonies of China.

    We got independance in 1948 from the British and now we are pivoting towards China.

    The Sinhala proverb

    “Iguru deela miris gaththa wage” sums up the plight of Sri Lanka very well.

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