Talks on fait accompli
Posted on October 28th, 2015

Courtesy The Island

Last week’s all-party conference on the Geneva resolution has been hailed as a success in some quarters. True, the best way to settle a vexed national issue is to adopt a collective approach and reach a consensus among all stakeholders. But, the question is why the government did not care to hold such a lekgotla before deciding to go out of its way to co-sponsor the resolution at issue. In fact, there was a pressing need for an imbizo as well for the government to consult the public before undertaking to implement the UNHRC recommendations.

Now, the Geneva resolution is a fait accompli, especially for those who do not subscribe to the involvement of foreign judges, prosecutors and lawyers in what has been made out to be a domestic war crimes investigation. It is only wishful thinking that the all-party process will reach fruition though it seems to have got off to a positive start. What we saw last Thursday was only a curtain raiser and not the play proper.

All-party conferences are not of recent origin. The previous ones, too, had much-publicised grand inaugurations, but did not yield the desired results. Therefore, we are afraid that it is naive to be euphoric at the present juncture. Hope springs eternal and one may be optimistic—but cautiously. For, the stakeholders who attend all-party conferences act like the seven proverbial wayfarers who met at an ambalama at night and prepared a ‘pot of porridge’. Each one of them agreed to put a fistful of rice into a pot of water, but all of them only pretended to so. In the end there was only boiling water for dinner.

Meanwhile, the question of how Sri Lanka should respond to or carry out the Geneva resolution does not arise because the government has, as a proud co-sponsor, undertaken to implement the recommendations therein. So, one may ask what is there to be discussed among political parties.

The government insists that the resolution is favourable to Sri Lanka and the war crimes probe will be within the confines of the country’s Constitution. If it is confident that the course of action it has undertaken is good for the country what prevents President Maithripala Sirisena, who is the leader of the SLFP, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who leads the UNP, from, as the Americans say, going the whole nine yards to ensure the full implementation of the Geneva resolution? Is it that the government’s resolution has faltered vis-à-vis emerging resistance to the proposed war crimes probe which is hybrid in all but name, and wants to wheedle other stakeholders into going to the mat with it?

The SLFP is now under President Sirisena’s thumb and, therefore, cannot publicly oppose the Geneva resolution; only some of its dissidents have had the intestinal fortitude to voice their dissent and campaign against it. The UNP does as its Working Committee says and the Working Committee does as Prime Minister Wickremesinghe says. The TNA which officially leads the Opposition is all for a war crimes probe. Only the JVP can act independently; it has already struck a discordant note though it attended the inaugural session of the all-party conference on Thursday and its General Secretary shook hands with President Sirisena. Having rejected foreign involvement in the proposed war crimes probe the JVP now wants the government to reveal its position on the issue. The outfit knows which side its bread is buttered and is sure to flog the issue to gain maximum political mileage to shore up its image in time for the next election.

In implementing the Geneva resolution recommendations the government has no alternative but to work within the parameters already set by the UNHRC at the behest of the US etc. It may have discussions with other stakeholders and invite their suggestions, but there is no way it can change those parameters on any grounds. The implementation of the resolution is fraught with huge political risks though the ruling politicians are trying to paint a rosy picture of it. All-party powwows in this country are symptomatic of lack of confidence or unwillingness on the part of governments to make tough political decisions. It looks as if the incumbent dispensation wanted to share the responsibility for implementing the resolution with others through an all-party mechanism. But, the chances of its efforts reaching fruition are remote.


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