One of the erudite scholars of the nation Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam said “Despite all the difficulties, there needs to be a concerted effort to develop a negotiating framework that can command the widest possible support. Such a negotiating framework must include at least minimal acceptance, by both sides, of the norms and standards relating to international human rights and a determination to restore peace, normalcy, civil society and democratic governance”. Even after 21 years of his death, the nation has chosen the wrong path at the UNHRC.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Government concluded its first 100 days on 25th February 2020. The previous Sirisena administration maintained a website[i] to track the progress of the initial 100 days. It went defunct after most promises were not addressed. While unattainable promises are pledged during elections, Sri Lankan political history is filled with such deceived domestic and international promises and policy reforms. In the international arena, the country often loses its reputation and credibility due to unfulfilled pledges and duality of its own policy.
On October 1st 2015 Sri Lanka committed at UNHRC to probe allegations of human rights abuse during the protracted civil war by co-sponsoring the 30/1 resolution. Three foreign Ministers Mangala Samaraweera, Thilak Marapana and Dinesh Gunawardena during the last five years have taken three dissimilar actions contrary to each other on Geneva cosponsored resolution by Sri Lanka. First, Minister Samaraweera cosponsored the 30/1 resolution fully in 2015 along with 11 other nations. In 2019 Minister Marapana was articulating his position on government reservation for having international judges ‘hybrid court’ referring to a constitutional amendment with 2/3rd of parliament and a referendum is required to have foreign judges[ii] for its judicial process. This year the present Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained his administration’s position to withdraw from the co-sponsorship, an election pledge by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The US ‘travel ban’ on army chief, Lt-Gen Shavendra Silva[iii] and his family came as a surprise. Upon meeting Alice G. Wells, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary, in Oman at a conference a few months ago, I advised the previous government that this could be in the process. The same travel ban was applied to the only Field Marshal and the cabinet minister Fonseka a few years ago despite former President’s intervention. Lt-Gen Shavendra Silva’s travel ban could be a revisit of US policy carried out in the past towards the Rajapaksa regime.
The consequence of moving out of the 30/1 cosponsored resolution will have a significant negative impact heading towards a confrontational course in the global arena due to its weak internal policies. Long-term implications of the withdrawal have not been considered. The Government which is about to face a Parliament election, is pushing a short-sighted ‘irrational decision’ in the global arena. The previous government rushed to co-sponsor the resolution in 2015 without prior consultation of the parliament nor any public discussion about the decision was also unaccepted in a democratic nation. I have analyzed the duality of policy within the Government in my article titled ‘U-Turns are difficult’ [iv] published in March 2019. Some of the advisers and policy experts have ill-advised the political leadership to move out from the cosponsored resolution without calculating nor understanding its long-term impact on Sri Lanka.
First, the country cosponsored a resolution against itself in 2015, and now it wishes to symbolically withdraw from the cosponsorship after 5 years. It is a blaring display of policy inconsistency. Withdrawing from the resolution will require 27 votes at UNHRC at the time of the vote end of the moratorium period, a rather difficult exercise. Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena explained closure is important at this stage because of the resolution violates countries constitution, a factor which should have been considered prior to the cosponsorship, not post, this was not considered nor agreed upon as a violation of the constitution by his predecessors, a serious blurring in domestic policy which will be explained and displayed how weak national policy decisions could be at the global arena. U-Turn from such statements is near impossible for the next several years and the country will face significant consequences.
Such decisions should be taken not thinking of next month’s election but analyzing different scenarios and in-depth foresight study with much discussion along with foreign policy experts and with think tanks weighing the impact. Unfortunately one such Government think tank that could have sent some sensible recommendations was reset last month after appointing a former military officer. The nation has failed in this regard in many policy decisions in the recent past. Meeting a distinguished Sri Lankan foreign service officer a few days ago, I was inquiring on the withdrawal, to which the officer said ‘we have not calculated the long term implications to the nation and what’s the guarantee that China and Russia will support us in every occasion?’
The country will be seen by the international community as a place of duality in its policy, changing according to the political circumstances. Political pledges and unfulfilled promises one after another proving a clear point for the diaspora and the nations supporting the
Resolution. Sri Lanka will be seen as subjected to selective targeting by the West and will invite new phase of risk factors. Firstly, the nation will tilt towards its savior nations China and Russia at the Security Council, this will directly impact the so-called executing ‘balanced and equidistance’ foreign policy of the President. Second, a clear indication that Sri Lanka will drift away from the international assistance for the reconciliation process including inviting international judges, isolation from many friendly nations where our democratic values and economic interest are intertwined from the past. While we disengage from the international process we will have a systemic barrier to improve the domestic mechanism to achieve reconciliation, accountability and human rights targets in Sri Lanka. Third, working outside the UNHRC framework will limit regular visits by rapporteurs who played an important role in trust-building with the international community will be absent. How will a mechanism outside the UNHRC framework guarantee a genuinely inclusive process?
UNHRC chief Michael Bachelet has taken a stronger position on Sri Lanka due to the unfulfilled targets towards the overall reconciliation process, during the last decade which continuously identified the diminishing hope year by year. Bachelet said “that domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda… I am therefore troubled by the recent trend towards moving civilian functions under the Ministry of Defence or retired military officers, and renewed reports of surveillance and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and victims. The increasing levels of hate speech, and security and policy measures appear to be discriminately and disproportionately directed against minorities, both Tamil and Muslim,”[vi]
Four years after co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1 and 40/1, the Sri Lankan government has fulfilled six out of 36 commitments on reconciliation, human rights and accountability[v].
Despite the slow progress post 2015 Sri Lankan Government did invest heavily in transitional justice, human rights and accountability along with international actors committing to international processes. UNHRC has given a moratorium till March 2021 for the Government of Sri Lanka to implement the provisions of the resolution. With lapses in the progress and the present decision to symbolically withdraw from the cosponsorship has sent the wrong message to the global arena. The past investments made by the previous government to fill in the foreign policy gap created by pre 2015 Rajapaksa regime with the international community will be lost. Reversing the nation to a pre 2015 scenario. The government should have made amendments rather than completely resetting the process, a loss for the country. Seen as a permanent solution, the entire exercise will only sweep the problem under the carpet which will immerge at a later stage. The Government should have navigated with the international community embracing global best practices and addressed the domestic political concerns such as devolution of power to build a secular nation which will lead to prosperity rather than bandwagon towards a more ultra-nationalist stance where dominated by irrational decision-makers.
The Resolution 30/1 debacle saw Sri Lanka’s government reach a crossroads and take a step while many watched on helplessly. The choices are asserted and the path is set. Who speaks political rationale in Bedlam?
[i] www.100days.lk was a site launched to track the progress of
the promised reforms during President Sirisena’s regime.
Minister Referring to para 68 (C) of the OHCHR Report (A/HRC/40/23) Full
[iv] U Turns are difficult
[v] Verite Research, SL resolution 30/1
Dilshan / March 18, 2020
has sent the wrong message to the global arena
It has sent the RIGHT message Sri Lanka is a rogue nation of Ethinic Cleansing and can not be trusted. Time to drag the Leaders to Haque
Leelagemalli / March 18, 2020
Anyways, BPs led by Rajaakshes are known as born criminals, uncultured bastards.
This was not secret by 2015. That was the reason BPs got marginalized but for the bad luck of this nation, there are media mafia that is run by Basil Rajakshes funding. As it is the common nature of lanken ballige puthas in general, they would bend their heads even betraying their own mothers, if they would be offered volumes of funds, but bearing their banner ” sinhala buddhists”. That is what we have to irradicate from the nation yet today.
See, entire developed world tackle corona by using all various forces they have on their disposal, but BP Gotler, hik hik man of the nation, booman of the nation, dare to say, why should he go for a total lock up situation. Entire world and the specialsts warn, only way out to save any nation is by flattening the bell curse of COVID-19 spread.
But unethical ballige puthas prefer 2/3 power in Parliament, no matter even HIGH criminals be allowed again, to saving the nation from CORONA disaster.
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / March 19, 2020
Passing judgement on the merits or demerits of co-sponsoring 30/1 of 2015 has to be done considering the facts that lead to this situation. Person who is responsible for this sad state is none other than Mahinda Rajapakse. Like his predecessors, he went round the world telling that since LTTE is intransigent, if LTTE is eliminated, solution to the Tamil problem can be found. International community swallowed this lie and helped in various ways to defeat LTTE. But after the war was won, MR started to sing a different tune. In UNHCR session soon after the end of the war in 2009, a resolution was passed unanimously praising Sri Lanka for eliminating terrorism. USA, West and India. So what went wrong in the six years for Sri Lanka to be condemned for not honouring its word. Mahinda has a policy of “Poronduwela enda, passe balagamu”. This type of deception can work when the deceived are weak like Tamils, but he did not realize that his trick will not work with powerful entities like USA. Instead of working with USA, West and India, he tried to show them the Chinese goni billa in order to get away from his commitments. For five years he promised several people like Indian PM, UN Sec/Gen and other western officials but continued to cheat them. Finally USA, West and India managed to stage a coup and throw him out of power. When the new government came to power, USA, West and India did not want to rock the boat in forcing them to fulfill the commitments to the UN. They devised a way out and this 30/1 resolution is the result which Sri Lanka was asked to co-sponsor in order to pacify countries in UN who wanted accountability and reconciliation. By co=sponsoring the resolution, the past government successfully dodged the issue without antagonizing the member states. (CONTD).
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / March 19, 2020
However international community was not going to allow Sri Lanka to continue to cheat and the previous government knew that one day stick is going to be shown. That is why Ranil Wickremasinghe allowed Easter bombing to take place despite having a knowledge about it, in order to make it an excuse to take UN pressure off. Sumanthiran was used as an agent to hoodwink Tamils throughout the term. First he came to UK with Mangala Samaraweera and met Tamil representatives and asked them not to raise issue of accountability in exchange for political solution. But at the end neither happened. None of the pledges in the 30/1 resolution was kept by the then government, but was given leverage till 2021. Also USA and India were getting impatient with double game played by Sirisena and Ranil, accommodating China, in contradiction to the understanding to wean off Chinese influence. With all these development Ranil decided to throw in the towel and also actively sabotaged UNP regaining power. Present government which is promoted by China is trying to challenge USA, India and West hoping that China and Russia will come to their aid in deflecting the problem. This government will not get the same leverage like the past one, when the matter is to be taken up next year. When two Sri Lankans, Desmond de Silva and Nihal Jayasinghe had been in the panel to inquire war crimes in Sierra Leonne and Cambodia, why cannot foreigners be in the panel to inquire war crimes committed in Sri Lanka. If present government is thinking of taking USA, India and West by sweet talk, they are sadly mistaken. Travel ban to army commander is a harbinger for harsher things to come, if there is no progress in accountability, reconciliation and human rights.
Eagle Eye / March 19, 2020
Sri Lanka should find an island in the Indian Ocean to banish descendants of ‘Para’ slaves whose ancestors obtained citizenship of Sinhale ‘By Registration’ who betray this country by telling the International Community that Sri Lankan Armed Forces committed war crimes during the military operation carried out to wipe out ‘Para’ Demala terrorists who slaughtered Native Sinhalayo for three decades. These guys should be treated as traitors and banished from Sri Lanka.
K.Anaga / March 26, 2020
How can you trust the government, They are releasing one by one who was charged for murder. Only qualification of the murderers is they belong to the army and the victims are Tamils. President too was responsible for some of the murders.
Eagle Eye / March 19, 2020
“Anyways, BPs led by Rajaakshes are known as born criminals, uncultured bastards.’
For ‘Para’ Demala BPs who are the descendants of Dravida slaves brought from Dravida Nadu and dumped in Sinhale by colonial parasites, Rajaakshes are known as born criminals and uncultured bastards because:
1. They ruined the dream of creating their dreamland Eelam based on the bogus claim ‘Traditional Homeland’ by eliminating LTTE barbarians who slaughtered Native Sinhalayo for three decades to grab a piece of land from the Land of Native Sinhalayo and Vedda Eththo.
2. They ruined the plan to pass a new constitution that features a Federal System drafted under the guidance of Sumanthiran and Jayampathy Wickramaratne with the blessings of the traitors of Unpatriotic National Party.
3. They decided to withdraw from the co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution.
4. They demonstrated that ‘Para’ minorities are no longer the ‘King Makers’ in Sinhale.
5. They might stop ‘Tail Wagging the Dog’ situation that this country experienced during the ‘Jadapalana’ Government.
rbh / March 18, 2020
M ost contested regions in the world today Sri Lanka will be seen as subjected to selective Targeting new phase of risk F actors India and China are Closely watching the political engulfing Lanka, a country they both regard as a critical player in their geo-strategic game for dominance in South Asia & .technical assistance alliance of US/Japan / Australia & India Is SeeKing to involve Sri Lanka in taking on the Chinese challenge.
Dayan Jayatilleka / March 18, 2020
Dayan Jayatilleka / March 18, 2020
PS. This should appear in a mainstream newspaper.
chiv / March 18, 2020
Before our politicians used to lie or deny what they promised to others. (MR with Banki,Sushma). Knowing this well they got us to give it in writing. Now the only way to avoid, is by contradicting each other. Will it work anymore ????
JD / March 18, 2020
There are countries in the world this continuous harassing by the American policy and they still live. All these reconciliation, transitional justice, human rights, war crime bull $hit are draining the resources and time of a smaller . These island. The best thing is go our way. I do not think they give sri Lanka space unless Sri Lanka becomes a part of the PIVOT TO ASIA PROGRAM, start hating China and become a full rime partner to MCC-Compact.
HUMAN RIGHTS are human selfishness over the other and ask for confrontation. Instead RESPECT and PROMOTE HUMAN RESPECT TO EACH OTHER AND ONE ANOTHER that solves the problem. There are countries that respected their agenda. Now they say, they came and they destroyed and left. Now we have nothing else to do. Sri Lanka should think hard to do next, if they push harder.
Dilshan / March 19, 2020
First you racist bastard start showing human respect within the country
To the relatives of 40,000 innocent disappeared, whose land occupational army is holding depriving the.livelihood of people, the political prisoners who have been continuously tortured by murderous intelligence personnel.
Now you know, there non conventional wars that can defeat the war crminal lead government.
Battle has ended in Nanthikafal War has not ended.
Do.not underestimate the power of Tamil diaspora
Follow what international community says
Otherwise, we are doomed
Eagle Eye / March 19, 2020
Your ‘Sun God’ megalomaniac Piripakaran elevated Tamils, including Tamils in Tamil Nadu to the second place in the world for Terrorism after Muslims who hold the first place. What an achievement!!!
If Tamils use non-conventional warfare against Sinhalayo, Tamils might be able to beat Muslims and rise to the first place.
Good Sense / March 19, 2020
Simply speaking, it is difficult to change course all at once. But if what was done by Mangy boy was treacherous then the Government should have appointed a Commission of Inquiry, found out people responsible for and charge them with treason and ensure that they are sentenced to the noose. Without doing that it is difficult to backtrack saying that the co-sponsorship was illegal. I read somewhere that this is one country that allows its foreign minister to make international commitments without parliamentary sanction. This is food for thought. We must bring in a law to prevent any body, minister or official to commit the country without parliamentary approval.
soma / March 19, 2020
Can we suspend this discussion till Cororona crisis is over and the world returns to normal, if it ever does.
chiv / March 19, 2020
Soma, relax. There is much more virulent viruses inside the Parliament than outside, right now. End result world will return to normal but Lankans are screwed for life.