By R.M.B Senanayake –
The Government has taken up the position that the UN has no mandate to inquire into the alleged violations of human rights during the war and that it is an encroachment on our national sovereignty.
At the UN’s founding Conference in San Francisco in 1945 this is what President Truman said “ We all have to recognize, no matter how great is our strength that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.” Of course the USA has not always followed Truman’s suggestion. The Five Members of the Security Council agreed to be members of the UN only if they were given the right of veto and they have continued to exercise it depending on whether the UN intervention is against one of their allies or not. But they have not rigidly followed the principle of debarring UN intervention on the ground of national sovereignty.
The UN Charter was drafted in consultation with experts from all the main religions. U Thant represented the world’s Buddhist opinion. The core principles of holding government authority to account and placing the wishes of the people before the rulers is found in the philosophical traditions across the Asian continent, including in Confucianism. So the Charter has been accepted universally by States who are the Members of the UN.
There is a difference between the interests of the people and the interests of the rulers or those who govern a country. Rulers like to do as they please and do not want to be bound by laws. The principle of the Rule of Law came to be established among nations over a long period of history. The Rule of Law is contrasted with the Rule of a person. For a long time mankind has been ruled by kings who ruled according to their wishes and who refused to be bound by any other law than their own will and pleasure. But over the years the Rule of Law came to be accepted as binding on the ruler as much as the ruled. The King was held accountable for violating the law and one or two kings were executed for violating the law. Today the Rule of Law has become enshrined in the UN Charter.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 recognizes that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms, and states that … it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…”
For the UN, the Secretary-General defines the rule of law as “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.” (Report of the Secretary-General: The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies” (2004))
The OPA and the Bar Association have protested to the Government about the violation of the Rule of Law. The latest incident is with regard to the seminar which was to be conducted by Transparency International. These are violations of the Rule of Law. The representations of the Bar Association and other human rights organizations have been largely ignored by the authorities. What then should those interested in upholding the Rule of Law do?
The UN has recognized the right of persons concerned about the violation of the Rule of Law to complain to it. A petition can be submitted “by a person or a group of persons claiming to be the victims of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, or by any person or group of persons, including non‑governmental organizations, acting in good faith in accordance with the principles of human rights, not resorting to politically motivated stands contrary to the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and claiming to have direct and reliable knowledge of the violations concerned. —- But Domestic remedies have to be exhausted, “unless it appears that such remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged”.
So the people have a right to complain to the UN if there have been violations of human rights and the Rule of Law. Nobody (except the Tamil Diaspora) seems to have resorted to this action despite the numerous day to day violations of the rule of Law. Even the UNP MPs who were attacked by thugs in Hambantota have thought it necessary so far to take the matter to the UN. Instead the MPs are now being called upon to declare that the UN has no right to intervene in cases of violations of human rights and the Rule of Law.
The Members of Parliament are supposed to represent the interests of the people they were elected to represent. The people like in most third world countries are ignorant of the values of modern governance. They once re-elected an MP who was found guilty of bribery. But it is the duty of the leaders to educate the people- a task our politicians have failed to do. So the question Parliament is asked to decide is bound up with the issue of whether the people’s right to appeal to the UN exists or not.
The UN has failed to intervene in several atrocities like the Rwanda genocide, the apartheid in South Africa, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the genocide in Syria etc .The threat of Veto by the Big Powers came to play in several of such instances.
What is Sri Lanka’s stand on these issues in other countries? Whatever decision the Parliament takes will have a bearing on our foreign policy as well as and the rights of the people to the Rule of Law.
Anpu / June 12, 2014
Thank you Mr Senanayake.
Mahinda Rajapaksa went to Geneva frequently during UNP rule and wanted the UN to intervene in Sri Lanka to uphold human rights.
“Mahinda Rajapaksa: Treachery? You must remember we are Southerners. They have never betrayed their country. Time and again they have sacrificed their life for the country. We have a right to tell this to the world. Tears of innocent grieving mothers compel us to tell their story of pain and sorrow to the world. We will do it today, tomorrow and always. Remember that. – (Hansard report 25.01.1991)”
Now Rajapakse Family and his government committed war crimes http://nofirezone.org/ http://white-flags.org/ and continuing to oppress Tamils .
Amarasiri / June 12, 2014
Dear R.M.B Senanayake –
“The Government has taken up the position that the UN has no mandate to inquire into the alleged violations of human rights during the war and that it is an encroachment on our national sovereignty.”
“What is Sri Lanka’s stand on these issues in other countries? Whatever decision the Parliament takes will have a bearing on our foreign policy as well as and the rights of the people to the Rule of Law.”
Q1. Is it the sovereignty of the rulers and dictators to commit crimes with impunity?
Or it is the Sovereignty of the People?
The current regime is girding under soverinity to whitewash the crimes.
They have been getting away for too long.
The parliamentary gang is a a bunch of stooges, the bunch of Shills, who are after their own interests.
SO, the UN Should move ,
They should allot sanctions just like they did to South Africa.
K.A Sumanasekera / June 12, 2014
“Wishes of the People before the Rulers is found in Philosophical traditions in the Asian continent”…says Mr Senanayaka”
What a timely piece of advice….
UNP Christian Faction ,through its Colombo MP Wijedasa has already agreed to TNA position which MP Abraham divulged to the media yesterday,
It is Ms Pillai ‘s Hanging Judge must come and get the brave soldiers who finished off the LTTE.
UNP Christian Faction Leader can only abstain or agree with MP Wijedasa , when the motion to ban any Foreign interference in peaceful Srilanka.is presented in Parliament.
If the UNP abstain or vote with Abraham, the Govt should take the same motion to the inhabitants.
It will reinforce enforce the philosophical tradition in the Asian Continent which is built into the UN charter through ex Secretary General UN Thant, as Mr Senanayaka has rightly pointed out.
This can be coupled with the Parliamentary Elections which is due soon and allow the inhabitants to chose the Members who will protect the Nation and allow them to enjoy at least another five years of peace, harmony and prosperity.
Fathima Fukushima / June 12, 2014
Just vote it out. Defeat it.
People are watching you. Anyone voting for an investigation get ready to LOSE the election.
Ram / June 12, 2014
“ We all have to recognize, no matter how great is our strength that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.”
The irony is lost on the author. It is the very same man who committed the most violent of the terror acts known to man (on the 6th and the 8th of August), soon after making that statement.
Silva / June 12, 2014
Ram the rabble,
“The irony is lost on the author. It is the very same man who committed the most violent of the terror acts known to man (on the 6th and the 8th of August), soon after making that statement.”
But the spirit lives on in the spirit of UN and its member countries. It rogue states like Rajapakshas that do not understand the difference.
But what about the most violent of the terror acts known to man perpetrated on SL soil by the Rajapakshas in 2009 massacring at least 40000 innocent unarmed civilians of their own country? What is the chapter of UN charter that justifies it?
weakling / June 12, 2014
K.A Sumanasekera, Fathima Fukushima,
What [Edited out]? If you don’t understand what the writer has writer because you do not understand English go to a nursery and learn. Rajapaksha’s [Edited out] eating pigs like you do not understand what human rights are. Instead you know the taste of Rajapaksha [Edited out]. By next year we will clear CT, SL and society of [Edited out] eaters like you. We will get UN to investigate war crimes and human rights violations including the Weliweriya massacre committed by your sugar daddy Rajapakshas, cage and hang them in the tree without leafs and efface the toilet cleaners like you from the face of this country. Until then take the chance while you can.
The Professional / June 13, 2014
In the ocean called UN whales and sharks always swim with their eyes and mouths open and wandering sprats just swim into their stomachs.
kali / June 14, 2014
Parliament will do what parliament is elected to do and that is to express the will of the peolpe and by that I mean the will of the Sinhalese.
I have no doubt there will be an overwhelming endorsement of the stand taken by GOSL. The result is a forgone conclusion but that is start of the slipery road which will lead the Nation into a quagmire from which it will take years to recover.
It is easy to impose sanctions but difficult to recover from the devastating effects and MR should not be under any illusions of the resolve of the West and this time India is on board with Modi in the driving seat.