The Patriotic National Movement writes to ICJ to delay UNHRC Hearing
Posted on June 27th, 2016

Dr. Wasantha Bandara Secretary Patriotic National Movement (PNM)  Nawala, Sri Lanka

26th June 2016

Hon. Ronny Abraham
President of the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
Peace Palace, Carnegieplein 2
2517 KJ, The Hague,
The Netherlands

Dear Sir,

We are an Organization of Sri Lankans dedicated to protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country.  Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara, the well-known Sri Lankan novelist and commentator on national issues, is the President of this Organization.  He has filed a fundamental rights application in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, which has implications to discussions of Sri Lanka that are about to take place at the 32nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

We fear that decisions regarding Sri Lanka, in particular with respect to initiating special prosecutorial and/or judicial mechanisms to pursue war crimes allegations made in a report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will be made at the said 32nd Session, and are writing to request you to take whatever actions may be necessary to prevent such decisions being made until the concerns raised by Dr. Amarasekara have had the necessary hearing.

The facts are briefly as follows.  In March-2014, the UNHRC adopted resolution A/HRC/25/L.1 which authorized a comprehensive investigation inter alia into war crimes allegedly committed during the last phase of the war, to be carried out by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On 16th September 2015, the OHCHR released the final report of the said investigation (OISL report) to the public.  It concluded that the State (as opposed to individual soldiers) committed war crimes, and recommended that special prosecutorial and/or judicial mechanisms be set up to try certain of Sri Lanka’s war time leaders, both civilian and military, who were in overall charge of the war, to whom the said crimes could ultimately be attributed.

On 29th September 2015, the United States tabled resolution A/HRC/30/L.29 co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, at the 30th Session of the UNHRC, and the said resolution was adopted without a vote.  Since then, the GOSL has taken various steps to implement the recommendations made in the OISL report, one of which is to establish special prosecutorial and/or judicial mechanisms, to try suspects for war crimes, pursuant to the recommendations of the said report.

An update on the GOSL’s progress in implementing the recommendations of resolution A/HRC/30/L.29, including establishing the said prosecutorial and/or judicial mechanisms, is scheduled to be presented on 29th June 2016 at the 32nd Session of the UNHRC.

Dr. Amarasekara’s grievance, highlighted in his application, is as follows.  So far, the OISL report has not been officially translated into either the Sinhala or Tamil languages.  (Of the population of Sri Lanka, 70% are Sinhala, whose mother tongue is the Sinhala language; 20% are Tamil, whose mother tongue is Tamil, and 10% are Muslim, who speak both Sinhala and Tamil.  English, generally speaking, is familiar to only about 10% of the population.)

We must tell you that we along with many Sri Lankans consider that this country’s war-time leaders acted in the service of the country including its national defence.  If decisions are made at the UNHRC with respect to prosecutorial and/or judicial mechanisms to try some of the said leaders for purported war crimes, the majority of people in this country will not have been able to read the OISL report in their mother tongue, in order to assess whether the charges in question warrant being pursued any further.

It is not in dispute that a Government conducting military operations including combating terrorism must operate within the bounds set by domestic as well as international law, in particular international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as applicable.

Our point, however, is that where allegations of wrong-doing are leveled against a State, they must be prima facie credible, before the State can be expected to pursue them further.

We have two concerns:  first, the OISL report, even at a cursory glance, contains a multitude of lies, obfuscations, and other problems that make it difficult to accept the related allegations at face value; second, in any event, since there is no official Sinhala or Tamil translation of the OISL report, the majority of the people of this country are unable to read the report for themselves, to assess the related allegations for themselves.

With respect to the aforesaid problems with the OISL report, we shall be happy to send you detailed information, but just to give you an idea of the magnitude of said problems, we cite just one example.  The greater part of the photographic and video evidence cited in the OISL report, particularly in support of charges relating to deliberate killings, is from the British TV Station, Channel 4.  Therefore, the integrity of the said ‘evidence’ is crucial to assess the credibility of the related allegations.

The following is a review that appeared in the London Sunday Times, of a Channel 4 video (Killing Fields), which video is one of the main sources of Channel 4 material cited in the OISL report:

The Channel has accumulated a large collection of samizdat amateur footage from mobile phones and video cameras—mostly un-attributed and uncorroborated.  It mixes that footage with comment from unnamed sources with distorted voices and shadowed faces.  And human rights lawyers.  It was brutal.  It was shocking, but it wasn’t journalism.  Not a second of this has been shot by Channel 4:  none of the eye-witness accounts come from journalists.”  (A. A. Gill, ‘Judged,’ London Sunday Times, 30-6-2011.)

Our point for now is this:  it is on evidence such as the above that the OISL has tried to make a case for war crimes against Sri Lanka, and it is on those allegations that the UNHRC is about to take further actions against this country with respect to the said purported crimes.

More important, Operative Paragraph 3 of resolution A/HRC/30/L.29 makes explicit reference to a commitment by the GOSL to engage in ‘broad national consultations’ before initiating ‘processes of truth-seeking, justice, reparations,’ (which must necessarily include special prosecutorial and/or judicial mechanisms to pursue war crimes allegations) pursuant to the recommendations of the said report.

We take as self-evident that it is impossible to have ‘broad national consultations’ if more than 90% of the people of the country haven’t been able to read and understand the key document whose allegations are to be pursued by some of the mechanisms that are to be devised after the said ‘consultations.’

Therefore, we reiterate that if the GOSL agrees on 29th June or thereafter to take further measures towards establishing the said prosecutorial and/or judicial mechanisms, it will be doing so in express violation of the very terms of resolution A/HRC/30/L.29.

It is in the above situation that Dr. Amarasekara has filed his fundamental rights application, asking as relief that the GOSL be ordered to produce official Sinhala and Tamil translations of the OISL report and make them available to the general public.  He has filed the said application in the public interest.  The said application will be taken up for hearing after the 29th June,

As indicated earlier, we fear that, in the meantime, the GOSL will have made certain additional commitments with respect to the aforesaid prosecutorial and/or judicial mechanisms, which will cause irremediable harm to the people of this country, harm that can be avoided if Sinhala and Tamil translations of the OISL report were available, and decisions concerning the said mechanisms were reached after the ‘broad national consultations’ mentioned in resolution A/HRC/30/L.29 itself.

The International Court of Justice is the judicial arm of the United Nations Organization, and the Statute of the Court is an integral part of the United Nations Charter.  We are aware that the jurisdiction of the Court is limited to hearing complaints by countries, and to requests for advisory opinions by the UN itself, but we cannot imagine that, where the UN is about to commit a gross injustice, and the Court is made aware of it, the Court will look away.

It is our hope that Inherent Jurisdiction, which is the prerogative of every Court, (and one must presume is the prerogative of the highest court in the entire world) will operate in this instance, and allow the ICJ to take appropriate action.

Under the circumstances, we are writing to you to request that you take whatever steps may be necessary to prevent irremediable harm from coming to the people of Sri Lanka by actions of the UNHRC, for which the United Nations Organization must bare ultimate legal responsibility.  We shall be happy to testify in writing or in person with regard to any of the matters discussed in this letter, at any venue suggested by you.

Thank You,

Respectfully,

 

Dr. Wasantha Bandara, Secretary, PNM

Copies to:

  1. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN
  2. Zeid Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  3. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the Unite Nations General Assembly
  4. Chiu Kyonglim, President of the UNHRC
  5. Maitripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka

 

Fundamental Rights Application filed against GOSL by Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera for failure to translate OISL report in Sinhala & Tamil language

3 Responses to “The Patriotic National Movement writes to ICJ to delay UNHRC Hearing”

  1. Sooriarachi Says:

    Congratulations to Dr Bandara and Dr Amarasekara, along with other members of PNM for sacrificing their valuable time and effort to brief the officials and organisations concerned in the UN, on the current irregularities of the process adopted, based on unsubstantiated allegations against the country.

    As a result of this appeal, the ICJ and the UN wont be able to plead ignorance about the unfair process, so far adopted.

    Unfortunately, the new Government of Sri Lanka seems to have surrendered to this UNHRC driven strange investigation, against a sovereign nation which was forced to eliminate a well organised, unrepentant group of brutal terrorists, encouraged and supported by their overseas diaspora.

    Wish you the PNM very best of luck and may you all continue to receive support from patriotic people with high integrity, who are committed to upholding the truth.

  2. S.Gonsal Says:

    Interview: Dilanthe Withanage on Sinhala-Buddhist Nationalism

    An interview with Dilanthe Withanage, the chief executive officer of Sri Lanka’s Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).

    By Zachary Walko

    June 29, 2016

    Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a hardline Sinhala-Buddhist nationalist group in Sri Lanka, has come under fire in recent years. Opponents have labelled it extremist and accused the group of inciting religious hatred, particularly against Muslims. BBS was most notably accused of stoking anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama in 2014, charges the group has denied.

    Dilanthe Withanage, the chief executive officer and a founding member of BBS, as well as the chair and president of the Bodu Jana Peramuna, the political party associated with the group, recently spoke with Zachary Walko about BBS, the Sinha Le movement, and ethnic issues. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity; a full transcript can be viewed here.

    The Diplomat: In April 2013, you told the Financial Times, and I quote, “According to our Constitution, Buddhism should be given full-most priority. But we believe that this is not practiced in Sri Lanka at present.” Is Sinhala-Buddhism under threat in Sri Lanka?

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    Dilanthe Withanage: Yes, definitely. I completely agree with the statement I made in 2013. And many people, even many journalists, many academics outside Sri Lanka feel that the state religion of Sri Lanka is Buddhism because the ninth article of the Sri Lanka Constitution says that Sri Lanka’s government has the responsibility to protect and to give the foremost priority and position to Buddhism. It’s just a mere set of words. And basically, I think, it is to mislead people. There’s nothing happening practically with that constitutional clause.

    Is the current government failing to protect Buddhism?

    Definitely. All successive governments, I think, purposefully ignore the protection of Buddhism in this country and even the Sinhalese … But there’s no such thing as Sinhalese Buddhism. Buddhism is something generic, something common, and it is a philosophy practiced by many. But, when it comes to Sri Lanka, we have two sides. I think it’s common for anybody. We have Sinhala-Buddhist culture. And Buddhist philosophy. They are almost together. Sometimes people confuse this. Because we should understand that when it comes to, when you analyze what is happening in Sri Lanka, there are two sides to Buddhism. One is the philosophical Buddhism, the other one is a cultural Buddhism. So many understanding is Sinhala-Buddhists are a cultural group, social group, which believe in Buddhism.

    And we believe that Sinhalese are the race who protected Theravada Buddhism for over 2,000 years without any interruption. So, therefore, Sinhalese have historical link to Buddhism. We don’t have ownership of Buddhism, but we have the historical link to Buddhism.

    Unfortunately, if you look at the present situation there’s no foundation. There’s no background for the protection of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. And I believe that the threat, or challenge, comes from two sides. One, from us. From Sinhalese Buddhists. That’s internal threat, internal challenge. The second is external forces, external challenge.

    When it comes to external forces, first take Christianity. The British used their political power, their financial powers, their military powers for conversions. And now it is happening with international funding, evangelical groups. They come, they preach, they tarnish the image of Buddhism here. And they offer jobs, they offer positions, if they convert to Christianity.

    Then the second problem we face is global communist action. You might think that communism is no more there. But their remnants are still there. In ’71 we lost over 60,000 youth due to JVP [Janathā Vimukthi Peramuṇa, a communist party in Sri Lanka] troubles. They’re mostly Sinhalese Buddhist youth.

    The JVP took arms against the government. This is in ’71. In ’89 the same people again took arms against the government and I think almost around 100,000 people were killed. So, this is a disturbance to Sinhalese Buddhists — lost lives and lost opportunities for development. And a lot of youth decided to leave this country during ’89.

    The third problem is the global Tamil action. I completely understand Tamils need a homeland. Any nation, when they don’t have a mother country, they have problems. They have issues. So, fighting for a Tamil homeland is a reasonable fight.

    But, why Sri Lanka? That is our concern. In Sri Lanka, there are only 4 million Tamils. But outside Sri Lanka, there are 80-plus million Tamils. So it’s obvious that Sri Lanka is not the best place to have the Tamil homeland.

    The fourth problem is, with all this, very secretly, very silently, the global Islamists are also working here.

    I was waiting for you to bring that in, because it seems like a lot of BBS rhetoric is toward Muslims in particular.

    Yes. That is also not created by us. So, what’s happening in Iraq, what’s happening in other European countries, same thing is happening in Sri Lanka in a very secret, very silent manner. And that is the next danger we are facing.

    So therefore we believe that these four global actions, which are not something created by us, but something created by global forums, disturbed and destroyed and took away from us the opportunity for development.

    Now, you should understand this struggle has nothing to do with racist Sinhala-Buddhist vision. That is how it is interpreted by people. What we focus on is why should we Sinhalese hate Sinhala culture?

    Well, to be fair, BBS has been pretty outspoken on many, particularly Muslim, issues. So I don’t know if it’s fair to say that it’s necessarily the media’s interpretation.

    Mostly media interpretation.

    You would agree that BBS has taken pretty strong positions on Muslims and Muslims culture?

    No, not Muslim culture. That’s completely wrong.

    The problem is that, we don’t want unnecessary privileges for anybody in this country. We’re all people. We all have same rights. There’s no issue about this. But, because you are Muslim you have a different marriage law. You have different schools. So that is social division. We are against that. That is promoting extremism.

    Is it fair to lump together the advent of the Sinha Le movement with, and their agenda, with that of BBS? Is it different sides of the same coin essentially?

    Actually, I was behind promoting Sinhale. In 2014, I made a speech in a huge sanga conference we had in Sri Lanka. The Beratu Thera came. It was huge, almost 6,000 Buddhist monks came to Colombo. And we had a national convention.

    Now this Sinha Le – it’s a sticker campaign.

    It seems to be more than a sticker campaign. They had a rally in Kandy to protest a mosque. They have a website, Facebook groups…

    No, no. It’s basically a small movement. Actually, in that convention in 2014, we specified that the name of the country should be Sinhale. That is initial step we have taken. So then, Sinhale became a very popular word among certain groups. Then, some people started making stickers and promoted it. Then one or two Buddhist monks who got away from some other organizations, they claimed that they’re behind Sinha Le.

    And that’s not true?

    I believe that these groups are manipulated by some political groups here.

    What part of the government, and what would be their incentive?

    I think some Rajapaksa groups are behind them.

    The Joint Opposition?

    Some Joint Opposition people are behind promoting the Sinha Le. Because what they want to do is they want to get certain groups away from BBS.

    So, I read a recent report by the Center for Policy Alternatives on the ethno-nationalist Sinhala-Buddhist wave. In it the author states, “BBS activities have not helped the Sinhala Buddhist community in any way. The BBS only heightened ethnic consciousness and further polarized the communities.” The report even went so far as to say that BBS’ actions were, quote “extensive grounds for criminal prosecution,” that the previous government chose to ignore for political reasons. How do you respond to this?

    So now, I think this CPA’s also funded by various organizations. They write to please certain agendas. Rajapaksa is gone. The new government has been in power for last 18 months. If there were criminal activities by BBS, they could have taken actions against BBS.

    CPA has all all the possibilities to get into that. So let them do it. They can’t. Because our hands are very clean.

    Would you argue against someone saying BBS, or even Sinha Le, has tapped into animosity, anger, so as to lead to incidents of violence?

    No. For example, we had 40 odd mass rallies around the country. We had made hard speeches. In all the hard speeches we made very clearly this is not against traditional, peaceful Muslims who used to live with us for ages. This is about extremism. And people realize it. And after any of these meetings, not even a stone was thrown. Nothing happened. Only Aluthgama. Why?

    We should investigate that. We want the government to investigate it.

    An October 2015 survey found that 48 percent of Sinhalese–that’s almost half of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese population– believe that the country’s constitution should be changed to produce a political solution to the ethnic issue. Do you agree with them, and, how do you envision such a political solution?

    I don’t know who did this survey. Whether this survey was done with some integrity.

    I believe that the ethnic problem we have in this country was somewhat manipulated. I don’t see big ethnic issue in this country.

    You just got out of a 30-year civil war. Is it not fair to assume there are some differences?

    Now, in reality it’s geopolitics. There’s a Tamil agenda, a global agenda. They have used Sri Lanka as the best place, that is, the weakest place to have a country. If they start here, then they can easily divide India.

    What is the problem? People, Tamil people, think they’re not treated well.

    Sinhalese aren’t treated well. Why did Sinhalese take arms against the government? Why were 60,000 youth lost? Because there was a global agenda. They promoted injustice. Similarly, the global Tamil agenda came and there were injustices in the society. And that injustice was used, and it was given a big picture, right?

    Would you be willing to see greater power sharing among Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslim groups? Is there a role for power sharing?

    No, I don’t think so. If you try power devolution based on ethnicity or religious groups, that would mean the destruction of the country. Power should be given to people. Whether they are Tamil, Sinhala, or Muslim.

    Would BBS ever cooperate with the Sinha Le movement? Could you ever see a joining of forces between the two?

    Actually, I don’t see a big movement. What I see is that two or three guys used this tattoo “Sinha Le” and they created a sticker, a poster, and it became very popular. Then a number of people tapped into this and tried to take ownership of Sinha Le.

    Actually, when the Sinha Le movement started, everyone wanted to have their stickers on their vehicles and everything. But after this particular monks claim it’s their group, then most of people got away from that.

    What is the Sinha Le movement? Can you describe it?

    We wanted to have a couple things. Because according to the Kandy convention in 1815, the name of this country was Sinhale. And that’s why British called it Ceylon, right? And we want the name of this country to be called Sinhale. And then we want to have people in this country called Sinhale people. That is not Sinhala language. We want to have Muslims living here called Sinhale Muslims. Not Arabic Muslims. We don’t want to have Indian Tamils here. Sinhale Tamils. Sinhale Buddhists.

    You say American Jewish, American Chinese, same thing. So, the problem is perception. If you think Sinhale is racism, then that’s the problem.

    There should not be minorities. They all belongs to Sinhale.

    But, you see the issue. To say that is to wipe away a whole minority, a whole population of Sri Lankans –Muslims, Tamils.

    We should not use the word minority. They are brothers and sisters of this country. So whether they are Muslim, or whether they are Sinhalese, or whether they are Tamil.

    My Muslim friend, his mother used to wear a sari and hijab. That is Sinhale Muslim. Sinhale culture, Sinhala sari. There is nothing wrong with that. Now, importing Arabic costume and putting it here…. That is importing a culture. That means they’re rejecting the Sinhala culture.

    They were integrated into this society very nicely, but because of this Wahhabist element, they don’t do that. They want them to have separate identity.

    The Sinha Le movement in particular has targeted LGBT activities in this country. Is it appropriate in your opinion for the Sinha Le to target LGBT in particular, to the point of violence? Do you agree that, within the LGBT community, that they deserve greater protection from the government?

    I think any form of violence is wrong. We don’t have the right to use violence or force by any means.

    At the same time, we don’t want American funds—or Western funds—for them to promote their activities.

    Now, my concern is that I know many American organizations–Western organizations–fund these groups.

    I think our Sinhale movement — because we had that Sinhale movement from the beginning, during the election campaign — is not focusing on these minor issues. The Sinhale movement should focus on really creating a strong society.

  3. anura seneviratna Says:

    ” Dr. Amarasekara’s grievance, highlighted in his application, is as follows. So far, the OISL report has not been officially translated into either the Sinhala or Tamil languages. (Of the population of Sri Lanka, 70% are Sinhala, whose mother tongue is the Sinhala language; 20% are Tamil, whose mother tongue is Tamil, and 10% are Muslim, who speak both Sinhala and Tamil. English, generally speaking, is familiar to only about 10% of the population.) ”

    Grateful thanks to Dr. Amarasekara and Dr. Bandara for this noble exercise. Respectfully remind the gross error many patriots ignore or unknown when defining Sri Lanka in addressing the past so called war on terror. All international bodies are brainwashed to believe what happened in SL was the justifiable Tamil national struggle. Without correcting this gross misconception with the self evident fact of Tamil Nadu as the ONLY land for this goal, we may not gain justifiable consideration from international bodies.

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