YAHAPALANA AND THE ‘GENEVA RESOLUTIONS’ Part 1
Posted on December 19th, 2017

KAMALIKA PIERIS

REVISED  19.12.17   and 8.9.18

The government of Sri Lanka defeated the LTTE in May 2009, and the Eelam War IV came to an end. Soon after, the separatist movement went into its next phase of attack, which was UN action against Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was to be punished for defeating the LTTE and the LTTE was to be exonerated.

UN action was attempted in 2007 when United Nations Security Council was asked to approve sanctions against Sri Lanka. This was the very first time, said analysts, that there had been a censure motion against Sri Lanka in any international body, since it became independent. This sanction is   about the use of children in armed conflict. Reference is S/2007/758. Security Council was not very enthusiastic about this. I am not sure, but I think this was dropped.

In May 2009, as soon as the war ended, these western countries struck again. The west   has clearly had their UN move ready, to be used in case the Government of Sri Lanka actually won the war. That was a sound possibility. The state army was always far superior to the LTTE. What the LTTE had over the army was superior weapons, given to them by the west. The accusations and allegations against Eelam war IV were prepared in advance even before the war ended, observed Shenali Waduge.

In 2009, US, working through Britain, France and Austria, tried to get the UN Security Council to examine the deaths in the last stage of the Eelam War. This was to be at a Security Council briefing.  But US was not able to secure the 16 signatures needed   and UN Security Council refused to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka.

The move was ‘strenuously warded’ off by seven countries led by China and Russia. These seven, China, Russia, Japan, Turkey, Uganda, Vietnam and Libya,   said that the current situation in Sri Lanka did not warrant a briefing in the Security Council. China vehemently” opposed any discussion in the Security Council on the issue of civilians trapped in the fighting between government Security Forces and the LTTE arguing that it was “purely an internal matter”

The US then turned to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The Human Rights Council, unlike Security Council, could be manipulated easily by the US. In May 2009 UN Human Rights Council in Geneva held a special session, called at the request of US, UK, EU and Denmark  to discuss a Swiss-EU resolution against Sri Lanka.  The sponsor was the United States, and the resolution was known as the US resolution on Sri Lanka.

The request for convening the special session was made by Germany on 19th May, the very day hostilities came to an end. The initiative for the resolution however, was taken by the European Union. The resolution called for a comprehensive international investigation of the conduct of Sri Lanka forces in the last phase of the war. Both government and LTTE were accused of killing thousands of civilians. The reference is A/HRC/RES/S-11/. Switzerland had brought   amendments to the Sri Lanka resolution at a closed door meeting held earlier.    The EU was very secretive in its actions,  said Rajiva Wijesinghe. EU was trying for a War Crimes probe, said analysts.

Many NGOs had supported the EU resolution.  The NGO website, Inner City Press presented what it said were UN statistics of civilian killings in the Wanni since January 2009, and quoted the UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navaneethan Pillay as saying that war crimes “may” have been committed in Sri Lanka by both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.

There was also vigorous lobbying by the Tamil Diaspora. Many  a Special Rapporteur who had not previously been interested in Sri Lanka, issued a press release calling for an independent inquiry into the situation in Sri Lanka, said Dayan Jayatilleke. Rajiva Wijesinghe added, hordes of LTTE sympathizers turned up to buttonhole various ambassadors, and to brief the UN Commissioner for Human rights, and to make aggressive interventions in the debate. They were aided and abetted by a number of NGOs.  But some pro-Eelamists were not satisfied with the text. ‘This text is too little,   they said, ‘it is also toothless’.

The EU assumed that since they were about a dozen themselves, they could get the 16 signatures easily, but the attempt failed. EU was not able to secure the 16 signatures needed. Sri Lanka briefed all states interested in Sri Lanka and got the motion scratched. The Non-Aligned Movement, its chairman, Cuba, and Chairman elect, Egypt as well as China, Russia,   Bangladesh, and Pakistan supported Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka then submitted a counter resolution, to the EU resolution, Resolution S-11/1 ‘Assistance to Sri Lanka in the promotion and protection of human rights’. The resolution   showed that LTTE kept civilians as hostages against their will and that the Government liberated almost 300,000 citizens kept by the LTTE. The resolution was commended.

The resolution was passed by 29 for with 12 against and 6 abstaining. Those who voted for Sri Lanka included India, Pakistan, China, Russia, Malaysia, Brazil Cuba, Egypt, Ghana and Indonesia. Those against included Canada, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and UK. Countries supporting Sri Lanka   criticized the EU resolution. Cuba, who co-sponsored the Sri Lanka resolution, commented on the double standards, and the undesirable politicization of the Human Rights Council.

Sri Lanka’s counter resolution was described as ‘a rare and perhaps unprecedented move,’ by analysts. There could not be a similar instance in the UNHRC history, said the jubilant Sri Lanka group. In fact there had been only 10 previous special sessions like this.  ‘Sri Lanka negotiators never showed their hand while dumbfounding even the most seasoned diplomatic wizards seated round the Geneva table. There was no bubbling over with emotion as they approached the vote. They had poker faces till they triumphed’, reported the media.

Sri Lanka was able to resist successfully and then prevail over the concerted global efforts of the massive, well funded and thoroughly professional foreign offices of the UK, France, Germany, and Denmark, together with their access to the media, their proxies the INGOs, and their well placed supporters in the upper reaches of the UN system, said Dayan Jayatilleke.

The Sri Lanka team was spoken of highly, reported the media.  UNHCR president also spoke highly of Sri Lanka attitude to discussing human rights issues, continued the media.  The well orchestrated cohesion of the three fighting forces also came in for praise. While army faced the matter on the ground, the air force dealt with the bunker hopping LTTE. The navy sealed of the supply lines well. Jane’s Defence Weekly of London noted that cutting off the Tigers fortified supply along the nearly 200 mile long beach from form Batticaloa –Trincomalee -Mullativu in the east to Mannar and Puttalam on the west was crucial to the war.

After much protest from Sri Lanka, the web cast of the special session was uploaded to the archive of the UN Human Rights Council. These live webcasts are usually uploaded in a few hours but in this case they said that there had been a technical glitch, complained the government of Sri Lanka, ‘but you can now watch it on http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=0111

This ‘victory’ was certainly seen by the public in Sri Lanka. A huge number watched the proceedings on the live webcast. This was also picked up by at least one popular TV channel. There was also a full length colored advertisement in Daily News of 4.6.09 (p 11) listing the 29 countries that spoke in favor of Sri Lanka at Geneva.

The US thereafter sponsored three resolutions against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2012, 2013 and 2014. They were all challenged by the government of Sri Lanka and they were all voted in and accepted by the HRC. The US subsequently said that if Sri Lanka wanted to permanently close its dark chapter it cannot walk alone. Analysts observed that in all these resolutions the US was able to influence the votes and get reluctant countries to at least abstain. Those countries that refrained from voting made speeches in Sri Lanka’s favor and then refrained from voting – which was their way of indicating that they were refraining from voting in favor of Sri Lanka only under duress.

Resolution HRC 19/2 of 22 March 2012, asked Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and to take steps ‘to ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation.’ It called for an action plan” and for the UN Human Rights Commissioner to work ‘in consultation with, and with the concurrence’ of the Sri Lankan government in implementing the LLRC proposals. The US initially wanted a co-sponsor from the Third World for the resolution. Though we lost, we got 15 votes and 8 abstentions, which is good, said Sri Lanka.

This resolution was presented amidst much fanfare .A resolution calling upon Sri Lanka to fully investigate who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Tamil civilians and to establish genuine reconciliation is to be tabled during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR), which opens tomorrow, shouted the media. Britain and the US are preparing for a bitter showdown with Sri Lanka as the two countries engage in a major effort to pass an international resolution rebuking Colombo over alleged war crimes said to have been committed during military operations against ethnic rebels.

Many thousands of Sri Lankan civilians died or suffered other violations in the final weeks of the long-running civil war in 2009. There has been no complete accounting of those deaths or other violations and no pursuit of accountability for them,” said Eileen Donahoe, the US ambassador to the UNHCR in Geneva. We believe that real reconciliation must be based on accountability, not impunity. There cannot be impunity for large-scale civilian casualties, and that if there is to be real reconciliation it must be based on an accounting of the truth and serious implementation of changes,” concluded Donahoe”

Diplomats said the wording of the resolution was likely to be modest, because USA wanted to obtain the support of as many of the 47 UNHCR member countries as possible.  It is unlikely the phrase war crimes” will appear. No-one wants to see the resolution defeated. Those campaigning for the resolution said that given the sensitivity of the issue, even a modest resolution would be a success.

Fred Carver of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said, If successful, this motion will show that  the opinion of the world, and in particular the opinion of nations in the global south, has shifted and that the Sri Lankan government can no longer turn a blind eye to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The army has always insisted it adopted a zero civilian casualty policy and for some time claimed no civilians had been killed. After Sri Lanka lost the vote some INGOs and NGOs had thrown grand parties.

Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, Sunila Abeyesekera and Nimalka Fernando were in Geneva at the time, reported the media.  They attacked the Rajapaksa administration as undemocratic, repressive and militarized, with abductions and open killings. They called Sri Lanka a ‘hell hole’. It was evident that all three wanted a regime change in Sri Lanka. Sunila Abeyesekera was described as a NGO activist who is heavily funded by the west. Sunanda Deshapriya was also there. Diplomats had privately wondered how these people were tolerated in Sri Lanka, said the media.

However, Sri Lanka representative, Tamara Kunanayagam had   informed the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights that the OHCHR had acted outside its mandate in facilitating the US resolution. OCHCR has played to the political agenda of the USA, raising serious doubts about the impartiality of the OHCHR. The OHCHR is bound by the UN Charter to be neutral, she said.

Kunanayagam observed that an aide at OHCHR, Mungoven, had emailed that the US victory was a ’culmination of the sustained and determined work by many in the team over the past few years.’  He had thanked OCHCR representative in Sri Lanka,   the Secretary General’s advisory panel, the Special Rapporteur on Extra judicial execution, and the Special procedures Branch of the UN.

TNA   welcomed the US resolution against Sri Lanka.TNA said that this is the first step in the pursuit of justice and accountability   and thanked those organizations which showed a firm commitment to the achievement of a future for the Tamils in Sri Lanka  that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self respect.

Elsewhere in Sri Lanka the resolution was condemned as interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka by the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Sri Lanka. It was also condemned by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Engineers Association. Rev. Cyril Fernando, of the Diocese of Colombo, said that the action was equal to a direct intervention against Sri Lanka’s independence and sovereignty and an insult to the intelligence of the people.

Nalin de Silva said that some countries were trying to build puppet regimes around the world that is why they created separatist leaders and funded them. S. L. Gunasekera stated that there was a danger of President Rajapaksa being assassinated and a pro-western government set in place.  America’s final aim was to install a pro western person in power here after destabilizing the county and ousting President Rajapaksa, making human rights violations the battle cry.

There were large demonstrations in Sri Lanka against the US resolution. The public voiced their anger over attempts by US and western countries to meddle in the internal affairs of the country under cover of human rights, observed the media.  The Resolution was also condemned by the ‘cream of the business community’ who thronged to Nelum Pokuna roundabout, reported the media. They included representatives from John Keels Holdings, Aitken Spence, Sri Lanka Telecom, Mobitel, Lanka Bell, dialog, Etisalat, Hilton Colombo, Mount Lavinia Hotel, Commercial Bank and Hatton National Bank.

The Geneva resolution of 2012 is nothing new, said Sri Lanka.  We knew that some western and European countries had launched a conspiracy against Sri Lanka. We saw this at the time of the humanitarian operation in Eelam War IV. At that time these same parties used various tactics to turn the operation back. They took the position that Sri Lanka should give in to LTTE terrorism and divide the country. These agents will continue their project aimed at dividing Sri Lanka into two like Sudan. The project will continue from foreign lands and they will try to create instability and anarchy within the country.

The 2013 US sponsored resolution was about accountability and promoting reconciliation in Sri Lanka (A/HRC/22/L.1/Rev.1). Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for south and central Asia said in an interview with BBC Sinhala service that US had closely consulted with India on this resolution. The resolution was adopted by 23 votes with 13 against and 8 abstentions.  the ones who voted with US are those who are economically weak. They cannot impose sanctions on Sri Lanka. Those who oppose are those who are economically strong or moving towards that,  observed critics.  During the Council’s proceedings, Sri Lanka’s representative spoke out against the resolution.

The two resolutions of 2012 and 2013 refer to accountability and Kunanayakam has pointed that it advanced the possibility of R2P. R2 p is applicable for genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Accountability she says is only a pretext for Washington to advance its geopolitical interests in the region.  They are meticulously structured for this.

UN’s Human Rights Council has passed a resolution highly critical of Sri Lanka’s record, reported the BBC in 2013. The resolution encourages Sri Lanka to conduct an independent and credible investigation into alleged war crimes. Though milder than its initial drafts, this resolution is more detailed, and tougher than last year’s. Although it suggests Sri Lanka set up a “truth-seeking mechanism” on abuses and calls for an investigation, it does not demand an international one. It also asks Colombo to extend invitations to some of the UN’s special rapporteurs.

In 2014, the US again put forward a resolution   against Sri Lanka to the HRC (HRC 25/1 of 27 March 2014). The resolution was to open an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the final stages of a decades-long conflict that ended in 2009.

Unlike the resolutions of 2009, 2012 and 2013, this resolution asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to ‘investigate, assess and monitor’ the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. This undermines national sovereignty, observed the media. The resolution was adopted with 23 members voting in favor of the resolution, while 12 voted against. Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia, Maldives voted against it. India, South Africa, Japan, and Indonesia voted for. There were 12 abstentions. Which showed that those who supported the Resolution numbered less than half of the HRC, commented G.L.Pieris.

Both groups of countries, for Sri Lanka and against Sri Lanka, commented on the resolution. The intrusive manner in which the investigations are carried on against Sri Lanka is unwarranted they said. The resolution ‘went beyond the mandate of the High Commissioner said Russia,  ‘double standard of play” (Cuba), “aimed at developing countries forcing them into submission” (Philippines), intolerable interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka” (Pakistan)  “people have the right to choose their own path” (China), serious risks created by intervention” (Venezuela), “the biased approach to specific countries” (Ecuador).failure “to take into account continuing progress” (Thailand)  and ‘ attempt to stifle the “energy” (Indonesia).

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navaneeethan Pillay noted that in recent years, the Sri Lanka Government has established various mechanisms with the task to investigate past violations. But none have had the independence to be effective or inspire confidence among victims and witnesses,” she stated. New evidence continues to emerge, and witnesses are willing to come forward to testify before international mechanisms in which they have confidence and which can guarantee their protection, the High Commissioner added.

This shows that an international inquiry is not only warranted, but also possible, and can play a positive role in eliciting new information and establishing the truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed.”The Council has in the past called on the Sri Lankan Government to take credible steps to ensure accountability for alleged serious violations committed during the final months of the conflict

HRC requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to undertake a comprehensive investigation” into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties, and hold perpetrators accountable.  A move to remove the paragraph empowering an international investigation was defeated. The OCHRC did as it was told and prepared a report, known today as OISL report.

HRC also reiterated its call on the government of Sri Lanka to implement the constructive recommendations made in the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. It also called on the Government to release publicly the results of its investigations into alleged violations by security forces, including the attack on unarmed protesters in Weliweriya in August 2013.

Godfrey Goonetilleke and Asoka Gunawardene of Marga Institute and Jeevan Thangarajah of Consortium of Humanitarian agencies   attended this event, to hear the US plaint against Sri Lanka. They opposed the position taken by the UN Secretary General’s Panel of experts, (known as Darusman Report) and the International Crimes Evidence project that said the army deliberately killed Tamil civilians. The evidence used is limited and sources not given, they observed.

The US intention to sponsor a fresh resolution was first announced when US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal visited Sri Lanka in 2015. In 2015,   the Yahapalana government of Sri Lanka co-sponsored a resolution against itself at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This is   HRC Resolution 30/1 of 2015 on Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. This resolution was based on a report prepared in accordance with the 2014 resoltuion,  by Sandra Beidas, formerly of the Amnesty International.  Also  on the OISL report,

Having resisted 3 previous resolutions since 2012, Colombo decided to co-sponsor resolution 30/1 that had unprecedented 23 introductory paragraphs that set the stage for 20 operational paragraphs, filling 5 pages. The text says the resolution was sponsored by Macedonia, Montenegro, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the United States of America. Sri Lanka is not named in the text as a sponsor. Sri Lanka representative in Geneva, Ravinatha Ariyasinha refused to accept the Resolution and tried to negotiate different terms.  Yahapalana government overruled the Ambassador’s objections and ordered him to accept the draft resolution  ‘just as it was.’ The Resolution was passed without a vote.

However, Pakistan observed that no self respecting country would agree to the intrusive measures advocated in this resolution. He wanted to know how this resolution was to be funded and whether the funders were the same as those who had sponsored the resolution.  If so the whole process will be tainted. He got no  answer to his inquiry.  India warned that an intrusive approach would undermine national sovereignty. The final resolution had only the support of 23 of the 47 members.

Resolution 30/1 is not a Human Rights resolution. It is a political document supporting Tamil separatism. It  starts by recognizing the now despised Yahapalana government, saying the resolution  welcomes ‘the historic free and fair democratic elections in January and August 2015’. The resolution then went on to emphasize the need for Devolution, to recognize the need for a ‘Political Settlement’   by which it meant a new Constitution. The resolution then called for the continuance of Provincial Councils and the 13th Amendment and finally announced that land in the High Security Zones in Jaffna must be returned to the rightful civilian owners.

The Resolution then goes on to make some deadly suggestions. It calls for individual prosecutions, reparations, truth-seeking, institutional reform, vetting of public employees and officials, provide remedies to victims, promote healing and reconciliation. It points out the need to recognize international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law.

The Resolution   then prescribes four specific actions the Yahapalana government has to take.  Firstly, a judicial mechanism to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights.  Secondly, A Commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence. Thirdly, an Office for Missing Persons (OMP) and fourthly an Office for Reparations. The Resolution also permits the government to remove military officers suspected of having violated HR even if there is no evidence. This is actually a purge of the armed forces, declared analysts.

Laksiri Fernando noted that there are two tricky points at the end of the resolution, regarding the involvement of the High Commissioner and the High Commissioner’s Office. This is where the ‘neo-liberal human rights interventionism’ is apparent. The government of Sri Lanka, or its delegation in Geneva, should be extremely careful in endorsing such a resolution again, he warned. The HRC has unveiled a political agenda meant to transform the country, at the expense of its unitary status, observed Shamindra Ferdinando.

The resolution has been drafted craftily to make it marketable to public opinion in Sri Lanka said Tamara Kunanayagam and also to ease the fears of developing countries in the Human Rights Council, who will otherwise object to a precedent that could endanger their own independence and sovereignty,. The text is scattered with references to voluntary commitments made by the Government of Sri Lanka and to domestic initiatives. International involvement is presented as support to these domestic processes, not a substitute.

To the astonishment of Sri Lanka, Yahapalana government openly embraced the Resolution. The President said that the implementation of the resolution will result in promoting democracy, reconciliation and respect for our armed forces. SLFP officially announced at a press conference that the UNP and the SLFP had jointly agreed on the implementation of the Resolution.”

Mangala Samaraweera, then foreign minister wrote an open letter to Mahinda Rajapaksa where he said that the Resolution was a victory for Sri Lanka’s new foreign policy, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. The Resolution was not an isolated one. It was based on Yahapalana government plans for good governance. These plans had been carefully developed by the government over many months.  The bold decision to co sponsor the UNHRC resolution last October was a massive foreign policy victory for Sri Lanka. It was adopted without a vote by consensus. Under Mahinda Rajapaksa the world was divided over Sri Lanka, because of the dismantling of democracy and abuse of human rights . Under Yahapalana   the world which was divided towards Sri Lanka unanimously rallied round Sri Lanka,  he said.

The charge has been made with examples that the Sinhala translation of the UNHRC resolution was distorted and sugar coated. The Foreign Ministry published on its website a Sinhala translation of the resolution, leaving out the sensitive parts so that any Sinhala speaking person reading it would be completely misled as to the contents of the UNHRC resolution. The Island chanced upon the discrepancies between the original resolution and its Sinhala version and exposed the matter.

This UNHRC Resolution of 2015 is an unprecedented resolution, observed the media. There hadn’t been a previous instance, at Geneva, where an elected government co-sponsored a Resolution against its own country, said Island, where a country welcomed punitive action proposed on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Sri Lanka created history by co-sponsoring a resolution against itself, which was totally against its interests.

Why the government has opted for co sponsoring this resolution defies comprehension said the media. What decided the Yahapalana   government to sponsor this Resolution, they asked. The earlier government put up a good fight all these years in the face of tremendous pressure from the US led western bloc, commented Island editorial.  The present government had betrayed the country in co- sponsoring the UN resolution with the US said N.AS.de S Amaratunga. Dayan Jayatilleke observed that the Resolution had not received the approval of Parliament and it had not been   endorsed by the Cabinet therefore the Government of Sri Lanka was not bound by it.

However, M.A. Sumanthiran had told   the   USA Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and religious freedom in Sri Lanka in Washington that  ‘the text of the 2015 Resolution is a negotiated text.’ There had been a tripartite consensus. TNA negotiated with the Yahapalana government with the United States of America also participating. .’I was personally involved in the negotiations, TNA had settled for a hybrid model though they had originally asked for an international inquiry. TNA wanted the full implementation of the resolution.   The Global Tamil Forum spokesperson, Suren Surendiran told Island that agreement on the text of the resolution has been reached following negotiations among what he called ‘core group members at the UNHRC’, the government of Sri Lanka, and representatives of the Tamils.

Yahapalana Government’s meek acceptance of resolution 30/1 in Geneva, in 2015 is an abdication of its sacred responsibilities toward nation, people and its armed forces. It is the responsibility and duty of the Government to safeguard the sovereignty, integrity and independence of the State, and to ensure that the dignity of the nation is respected, said Tamara Kunanayagam and Palitha Kohona.  Supportive nations were prevented from raising their voices in our defenses because we joined with the USA in the resolution, observed G.L.Pieris.

Some thought that having accepted the 2015 resolution the country would become a target at the subsequent sessions of HRC. At the annual sessions of the Human Rights Council on June 28, 2016, the Human Rights Commissioner dealt extensively with Sri Lanka. In his speech, ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’, he explained, in no uncertain terms, what Geneva expected Sri Lanka to do.

Yet another resolution on Sri Lanka, supported by the US, was adopted at the 2017 sessions of the HRC, Resolution A/HRC/34/L.1. This too was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka and passed without a vote. This resolution reaffirmed the UNHRC resolution 30/1 of 1 October 2015. The UN Human Rights Commissioner wanted Sri Lanka to implement recommendations contained   in the 2015   resolution, and the investigation undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The resolution gave the government of Sri Lanka two years to deliver on the commitments made in UNHRC Resolution No 30/1 of October 2015. It also requested the Commissioner and his special procedure mandate holders to strengthen their technical assistance to Sri Lanka on the promotion and protection of human rights, truth, justice, reconciliation and accountability. The Commissioner called on the international community to investigate and prosecute those allegedly responsible for war crimes. He also wanted other countries to abide by the recommendations. The Commissioner also stated that if Sri Lanka did not deliver the goods, Geneva would be compelled to explore measures such as ‘universal jurisdiction’. Universal Jurisdiction allows the courts of another country to prosecute a Sri Lankan citizen for alleged violations of crimes against humanity normally outside its national jurisdiction.

For the first time, there was NGO representation from the anti-Eelamist group at Geneva. Global Forum of Sri Lanka  led by Ven. Bemgmuwe Nalaka , consisting of  Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, . Nalaka Godahewa, Anuradha Yahampath and several others including Wasantha Keerthiratne, Chairman of the Global Forum, participated in this session as a non government agency of Sri Lanka. Nalaka Godahewa, Sarath Weerasekera and Anuradha Yahampath, spoke at the session. They said that the Tamils were a well assimilated group in Sri Lanka. They were not discriminated against. They criticized the High Commissioner for his bias against Sri Lanka.

Earlier, at a side event, the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) called for the arrest of Weerasekara accusing him of being involved in war crimes in Sri Lanka. A heated exchange then ensued as Weerasekara rubbished the claims and in return, called for the arrest of the LTTE supporters in Geneva. In media interviews given from Geneva, Weerasekara criticized Nimalka Fernando and Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, who were also in Geneva, for pushing for action against Sri Lanka.

Analysts noted, with contempt, that Sri Lanka had stayed silent when Sri Lanka came up for discussion at the HRC session. Other countries used their ‘Right of Reply’ to answer allegations, clarify any confusion and deny charges.  Sri Lanka’s official representatives did not do so, observed Sanja Jayatilleke. During the ‘General debate on Racism, racial discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance,’ 14 NGOs spoke critically of Sri Lanka .Again Sri Lanka did not reply.

Yahapalana government had actually thanked those who had brought this resolution, observed shocked critics. The Director of Information, on behalf of the government, issued a one page statement thanking the US-UK led countries for backing the second resolution, which inter alia, wanted foreign judges, observed Shamindra Ferdinando.

What exactly did the UN Human Rights Commissioner say in his report on Sri Lanka, to make Sri Lanka declare its ‘appreciation’ asked Chandraprema. Firstly, the Commissioner referred to findings of the OHCHR investigation of September 2015. This investigation was outside the established procedure of the UNHRC. In the report, the OHCHR had accused the Sri Lankan government of every conceivable war crime including unlawful killings, torture, rape, illegal incarceration, enforced disappearances, abduction, deprivation of humanitarian assistance and soon.

Secondly, the UN Human Rights Commissioner has stated that the report of the Consultative Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms, be implemented. (This is the task force appointed by President Sirisena, chaired by Manouri Muttetuwegama) speaker after speaker among the originators and the sponsors of the latest resolution against Sri Lanka – the UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Al Hussein, the EU representative and the representative of Britain were all harping on the need to implement the recommendations of the Consultative Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms, said Chandraprema. Implementing this Task Force report would have even worse implications than implementing Resolution 30/1, he observed.

Thirdly, the UN Human Rights Commissioner wants the establishment of a specialized court which should include international judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, to investigate allegations of war crimes. His justification included the lack of progress into certain cases such as the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga and the acquittal by a ‘Sinhalese jury’ of the suspects in the Kiliveddy incident where 23 Tamil civilians are said to have been killed.

The TNA demanded the full implementation of the Geneva Resolution. TNA issued the following statement, All Sri Lanka’s obligations in terms of UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 of 1st October 2015, co-sponsored by the Sri Lankan Government, must be fully implemented. These obligations must be fulfilled under strict conditions, under the monitoring of an office of the UN High Commissioner for Human rights, which must be established in Sri Lanka. The UN Human Rights Council must ensure that, in the event that the Sri Lankan Government fails to fulfill the abovementioned obligations by way of an appropriate mechanism, victims will receive the intended benefits of the fulfillment of such obligations, by way of international mechanisms. .

The British government also wants Sri Lanka to fully implement the Resolution. Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister, Mark Field who visited Colombo and Jaffna in October 2017, said “The UK is committed to the full implementation of Resolution 34/1 and will continue to support the government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to promote reconciliation and human rights”.  , he raised with Foreign Minister Marapana the importance of the Sri Lankan government implementing in full its commitments under UN Human Rights Council Resolution 34/1, which rolled over the commitments made under 30/1.Resolution.

A two year postponement means that this matter will come up for discussion at the March 2019 Sessions of the UNHRC. However, 2019 will be election year for this government, warned Chandraprema. It is best that this UNHRC resolution 30/1 be taken off the radar altogether by 2019. If the government implements even a part of Resolution 30/1 which it so ill-advisedly co-sponsored, that will help the Opposition at the Presidential elections of 2019.

The 2015 Resolution   took place when Mangala Samaraweera was Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr Mathias Keitel, from Germany, has an interesting piece in the Asian Tribune titled “Foreign Minister Samaraweera Must Go” with the comment “My recent visit to Sri Lanka, the country that I love most, fills me with dark foreboding as its vital interests are being systematically compromised by its buccaneering Foreign Minister.” He gives a detailed analysis of the Geneva resolution and points out the uniqueness (foolishness) of Sri Lanka to agree to co-sponsor the resolution against itself and comments: ‘The Foreign Minister has not learned the fundamental rule of being the chief representative of the country overseas. I.e. to represent the country’s best interests with fortitude, dignity and quiet pride.”

“It is also difficult not to draw the conclusion that the UNHRC resolution was not really an attempt to consolidate human rights and restore good governance but a thinly disguised Endeavour to destroy the iconic super hero status, especially of the victorious Sri Lankan soldier, and reduce it to the level of a common criminal. The Foreign Minister’s solicitous and breathless anxiety to comply with the demands of the West and the Tamil expatriate groups may well have contributed to realizing this goal. Dayan Jayatilleke observed that Foreign Minister Samaraweera poses an existential threat to the State’s sovereignty and security, and gravely jeopardizes political stability and governability.”

Minister Mangala Samaraweera had his own take on the matter. He said Sri Lanka has made considerable strides from soft authoritarianism towards consolidating rights based democracy with deeply entrenched institutions and values. The country will never be able to achieve the full socio economic development potential, if country fails to address grievances, that risk plunging our nation into conflict once again, he announced.

The set of actions that the Government has identified to deal with the past in a comprehensive manner, addressing the grievances of all victims, include truth seeking, justice reparation and measures for guaranteeing non recurrence, he continued. Traumatic memories do not simply vanish. We have learned through experience since independence that grievances that are left unaddressed can go on for generations, becoming entrenched and holding the risk of descending into cycles of violence, Samaraweera continued.

When serious allegations of human rights violation and war crimes are leveled at a country it is the duty of the government to prove such allegations wrong through a credible process of investigator and inquiry. Also to expose the perpetrators as well as those in the chain of command so that the good name of the country can be restored, said Samaraweera.

The 2015 resolution will help heal our wounds and genuinely unite the country. It will clear the good name of the members of the army and all those against whom there are unfair allegations. True war heroes like Sarath Fonseka have nothing to feat, only those who carried out criminal acts. And those who gave order to carry out heinous crimes. The video footage in Channel 4 documentary is not only authentic but was given to Channel 4 by member of the armed forces who were shocked at the some of the acts carried out due to orders from above., Samaraweera said.

We have prevented economic sanctions and the indignity of a foreign inquiry.  Many of the countries which had distanced themselves from Sri Lanka under the Rajapaksa government’s policy of self imposed isolation are all backing Sri Lanka, concluded Samaraweera.

Mangala Samaraweera wrote an open letter to  Mahinda Rajapaksa  where said that the UNHCR resolution was a victory for Sri Lanka new foreign policy, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. Under Rajapaksa the world was divided over Sri Lanka the US and EU, our main export markets accounting  for over 50% of our exports, were concerned with  the Rajapaksa government dismantling of democracy and abuse of  human rights. the resolution was not an isolated one. It was based on the Sri Lanka government plans for good governance etc.  These plans had been carefully developed by the government over many months by studying the experiences of Sri Lanka own past as well as those of many countries. the resolution will help heal our wounds and genuinely unite the country.

The bold decision to co sponsor the UNHRC resolution last October was a massive foreign policy victory for Sri Lanka. The world which was divided towards Sri Lanka unanimously rallied round Sri Lanka. The resolution was drafted on the basis of the government carefully deliberated plans that I outlined in Sept 2015. It was adopted without a vote by consensus, many of the countries which had distanced themselves from Sri Lanka  under your government poly of self imposed isolation are all backing  Sri Lanka , ‘Our ambassador in Geneva tried to negotiate different terms that was deliberately stopped by the government which insisted on accepting the US sponsored resolution, just as it was.’

 

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