YAHAPALANA AND THE ‘GENEVA RESOLUTIONS’ Part 3
Posted on December 20th, 2017

KAMALIKA PIERIS

There are just two categories of speakers who are permitted to address the HRC. Firstly, those representing the government of a country, and its National Human rights Institutions (NHRI). Secondly, those belonging to Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) registered with the HRC

NHRIs are entitled to intervene immediately after their country during the interactive dialogue, following the presentation of that country mission report, and also immediately after the State, when report is being adopted at plenary session. NGOs can address the HRC during discussions and debates. They can make oral statements, submit documents, which will be issued with UN document symbol and can take separate seating in all sessions.

To act as a watchdog and also bark at countries with human rights weaknesses, the HRC needs information. This information certainly will not come from UN member countries, who in the final analysis, rank above the HRC. So the information has to come from spies or concerned groups. The NGOs fit this bill.  HRC is therefore heavily dependent on the NGOs clustering around them. HRC regards NGOs as essential partners in the promotion and protection of Human Rights  and takes take their submissions seriously. One important tool used by the HRC is the statements of NGOs, said analysts.

These NGOs, both International and local, provide plenty of information on Sri Lanka to the HRC.  In 2008 at the periodic review of Sri Lanka, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch spoke of extra judicial arbitrary killings and the deterioration of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

The NGOs also watch resolutions critically. In 2009, when the resolution against Sri Lanka came up, Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch called it a toothless” resolution. This text is too little and too late” said Hillel Neuer, Executive director of UN Watch. Despite the call by U.N. rights officials for an international inquiry into possible war crimes, the proposal instead asks Sri Lanka to investigate itself — it’s a joke.

The text deliberately omits any condemnation of the government for its actions, and even praises Sri Lanka for ‘cooperation’ with the UN, and for its strengthening” of measures against discrimination, when the opposite is true. Finally, it’s not even drafted as a resolution, but as a lower-ranking ‘decision’.” If the E.U. in 2006 had gone ahead with their resolution at the Council for Sri Lankan civilian victims, instead of pulling it under pressure, the world spotlight might have led to thousands of lives being saved today. Even if serious resolutions are voted down, international attention will have been drawn, concluded UN Watch.”

There are many Tamil separatist NGOs registered with HRC, spouting away against Sri Lanka at HRC sessions. The public in Sri Lanka are blissfully unaware of this. The Sri Lanka government simply ignored NGO utterances. Sri Lanka’s policy is that a State does not need to reply to NGOs.  Sri Lanka has failed to see the propaganda effect of these NGO utterances, on gullible, ignorant European audiences.

In 2009 however, the Permanent Representation in Geneva went against this advice, and responded to every single statement by NGOs. This helped Sri Lanka to get support for its  2009 resolution, decisively convincing the international community of its case,  observed Sanja de S Jayatilleke.

Sanja Jayatilleke records that at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council, 2017, NGOs accused Sri Lanka of HR violations at three separate UN debates. Sri Lanka was accused by NGOs of genocide, racism, land grabbing and militarization at the General Debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.”  At the General Debate on Technical assistance and Capacity building”, NGOs said that 146,000 had been killed in 6 months in a genocidal war. At the General debate on Racism, Racial discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,” no less than 14 NGOs spoke against Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka did not utter one squeak in protest.

Sanja has given us an account of the submissions made by the NGOs at the Racism and Xenophobia debate. Here they are. The comments are revealing:

‘ABC Tamil Oli’ said Tamils in Sri Lanka were suffering from systematic discrimination. Singhalese State had perpetrated genocide of the Tamils. Sri Lanka had violated all international laws by launching attacks against the Tamils. The climate of injustice had forced the Tamils to fight for their right to self-determination. An independence referendum should be organized for the Tamils just like it had been organized for East Timor and South Sudan.

The situation of Tamil refugees required urgent attention. Many countries had refused resettlement to Tamils who had been members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Recognize the plight and dangers faced by the Tamils in Sri Lanka and ask the government  to  withdraw all its armed forces from the Tamil lands, concluded ABC Tamil Oli’.

‘Alliance Creative Community Project’ said The Tamils were still struggling for equal opportunities. The present Government had detained numerous Tamil civilians without filing any charges against them. The international community had failed to protect 146,000 Tamils from genocide. People of Eelam Tamil had repeatedly called on the international community to adhere to the international human rights fundamentals and not to heed the racial and discriminatory Sinhala State establishment. A Special Rapporteur should visit the occupied Eelam Tamils territories. .

‘ANAJA’ Called on HRC to allow the Tamils to conduct a self-determination referendum. There has been a massacre of Tamil children in Sri Lanka on 14 August 2006.  Other attacks have also been committed by Sri Lankan military forces.

‘Asian Legal Resource Centre’  said  In countries like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, Governments were engaged in systematic fanning of religious and fundamentalist sentiments against liberal, democratic and secular ideals. .

‘Association Bharathi Centre said Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action said all peoples had the right to self-determination. The Tamil people should be allowed to realize their inalienable right to self-determination. The Tamil people were still denied justice. The only way to assure justice was by international investigations. The women headed households and war widows especially experienced socio-economic and physical vulnerabilities due to heavy militarization. In 2009, this Centre had said Sri Lankan military forces had conducted a genocide war against Tamils by killing more than 146,000 people in a short period of six months.

‘Association culturelle des Tamouls en France’ drew attention to the discrimination and violence against the Tamils in Sri Lanka, who had faced decades of political violence and disenfranchisement. The Tamils in that country wished to be granted their right to self-determination. The NGO wanted the government to reconstruct societies affected by war, such as the north and east areas of Sri Lanka, the historical territory of the Tamil people.  For many days families of the disappeared Tamils had protested in order to find out about the fate of their loved ones.  The committee tasked to investigate disappearances should be composed of Tamils and members of the families of the disappeared.

‘Association des étudiants tamouls de France’ said countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and India used the question of Sri Lanka to resolve their own regional interests and had made military agreements with the genocidal Government of Sri Lanka. Many Tamil civilians had been detained without any charges. The military forces of Sri Lanka had been in the territory since 1945.

‘Association for Victims of the World’ was concerned about the continuing patterns of religious violations and intolerance towards religious minorities that proved that ethnic communities did not have the right to their chosen faith without hindrance. Sinhala military demolished the memorial pillar of Thileepan. . All rehabilitation work should be suspended, and all detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be released. The Tamil people were still looking for their right to self-determination. .

‘Association Solidarité Internationale pour l’Afrique’ said the Government of Sri Lanka should allow the Tamil people to realize their right to determine their political status.  The Tamil community was hit by displacement and land-grabbing in the north and east, and its members were denied the practice of their civil and political rights. The Prevention of Terrorism Act was the main cause of this. Despite pledging to repeal the law (PTA) in the Human Rights Council, the Government of Sri Lanka continued to utilize this piece of legislation to discriminate and marginalize the Tamils.  .

‘Association Thendral’ said the denial of the right to self-determination was a violation of human rights. The victim communities in northeast Sri Lanka had suffered and continued to suffer from militarization, illegal land acquisitions and displacement, and the lack of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. North east of Sri Lanka remained a disproportionately heavily militarized region with five of seven Sri Lankan security force headquarters located in the two provinces of the region.

‘Association Tourner La Page’ said, in 2009, Sri Lankan military forces had made a genocidal war against the Tamils by killing more than 146,000 people in a short period of six months. The Council should establish an international investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, including crimes against humanity and genocide, by the Sri Lankan security forces during the conflict in Sri Lanka. Eelam Tamils continued to suffer discrimination despite the defeat of the Tamil Tiger Freedom Fighters.   The intelligence wing of occupying Sinhala military had instructed several village officials to submit written reports providing in-depth details on the whereabouts of former LTTE members. Ex members of LTTE were under military harassment and Sri Lanka police arrest without any charges.

‘LE PONT’ said: Tamil nation was struggling for its freedom.   There was illegal occupation of the Tamil territory by Sri Lankan Security Forces which was against the principles of the Vienna Declaration. In May 2009, Sri Lankan military forces had undertaken a genocide war against Tamils, killing more than 146,000 people in six months.

‘Observatoire Mauritanien des Droits de l’Homme et de la Démocratie’ said the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka had resulted in illegal and arbitrary arrests and detention, abductions and enforced disappearances, rape and torture in custody, extrajudicial killings and internal displacement of the Tamil communities.

‘Society for Development and Community Empowerment’   said there was Illegal occupation of the Sri Lankan military in the north and east. The military presence interfered in economic activities, education and cultural events of the Tamils. The NGO called for the release of all Tamil detainees and the end to military rule in the north-east of the island. The Tamils in Sri Lanka had the right to self-determination under international law and practice. Tamils needed the help of the Human Rights Council to implement their right to self-determination.

‘Tamil Uzhagam’ said the Tamils in Sri Lanka had the right to self-determination like so many other nations before them and had had the right to declare sovereignty. Tamils had been deprived of their basic rights by the racist Singhalese Government. The terrible massacre of the Tamils in Sri Lanka had amounted to genocide. Due to the genocidal brutal attacks by the armed forces, more than 100,000 Eelam Tamils had come to Tamilnadu in India as refugees. Further, Tamil fishermen of Tamilnadu in India had been mercilessly attacked by the Sri Lankan navy for the past four decades. So far, 578 had been shot dead, with their bodies thrown into the sea. On April 2, 2011, the Sri Lankan Navy had abducted four Tamil fishermen, and chopped up their bodies, thereafter throwing them into the sea. (End of list)

The only dissenting voice in 2017 was that of a NGO called International Buddhist Relief Organization. They were just one voice against the numerous opposing submissions. There is no substitute for effective defense of the country by the accredited representatives of the State, concluded Sanja.

In 2017, for the first time, an NGO opposed to Tamil separatism went to the HRC. This is a new phenomenon in the history of Sri Lanka and the HRC.   A delegation from Jathika Sanvidana Ekamuthuwa (Federation of National Organizations) sponsored by the Global Sri Lankan Forum, went to represent  the  Sri Lanka  armed forces at the UN Geneva Human Rights Summit, September  2017. The delegation was led by Ven. Bemgamuwe Nalaka and consisted of Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera,  Nalaka Godahewa,  Anuradha Yahampath, Chairman of the Global Forum  Wasantha Keerthiratne and others.

They had planned to get registered through the one temple in Geneva that was registered with the UN. But at the last moment the lay trustees of the temple refused to allow this.  Viharadhipati of the temple, Ven. Thawalama Dhammika, helped them get registered as representatives of the International Buddhist Relief Services Organization, established by Witharandeniye Kassapa of the Birmingham Maha Vihara.

Weerasekera  had hoped be at the debating table on the 22nd  when the Council took up the Resolution on Sri Lanka, but  due to the delay in registering, he  was unable to speak on that day. But he spoke at the general debate on the 20th and 23rd and tabled his report. He countered the Tamil Separatist charges with valid arguments. The presentation of Weerasekera and Godahewa can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu6lc1w4FfM

A Tamil gentleman called Jeghan had also spoken on behalf of Sri Lanka, on the first day. His father was killed by the LTTE. He spoke of the LTTE atrocities and that the LTTE was not the only organization representing Sri Lankan Tamils. The Tamil Separatist Movement managed to get his second speech cancelled.

The government team ignored me, Weerasekera said.  However, members of the Global Sri Lanka Forum from many countries including Switzerland, France, UK, Italy, Germany, Kuwait, and Australia gathered in Geneva to express solidity with the Sri Lankan delegation and held demonstrations outside the UNHRC headquarters.

Weerasekera took with him a 100-page dossier of facts, prepared by experts in international human rights and humanitarian laws..he had hoped to speak to the Commissioner himself, but was not given an appointment. He had handed over the dossier to the Secretary of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights  and received an acknowledgement. In their speeches, the Sri Lankan delegation heavily criticized the Commissioner for his bias against Sri Lanka.

The Tamil Separatist Movement did not like the arrival of this Jathika Sanvidana Ekamuthuwa    at Geneva. Tamil Separatist Movement considers the HRC as their private turf. They objected to the presence of the Sarath Weerasekera team. ‘LE PONT’ expressed serious concern about the ‘Sri Lankan military who had come to the Council session’ as a non-governmental organization, and had started a social media campaign against the Tamil rights activists from Sri Lanka.

The tense feeling between both sides was clearly evident when Weerasekara and members of the Trans-National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) delivered statements at the 34th session last week, observed the media. The belligerence of the Tamil team is clearly visible in the YouTube clip of Weerasekera speaking. At a side event, the 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 called for the arrest of the LTTE supporters in Geneva at the time. This can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyFeyOgSqu8

“I saw how the HRC is dominated by the Tamil Separatist Movement, said Weerasekera, on his return. Over 100 pro-Tiger NGOs had got registered for this session. There was a large group who had come to talk on behalf of  the Tamil Separatist Movement .Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, former MP, M.K. Shivajilingam, Northern Provincial Councilor, Anandi Sasidaran, former MP, V. Anandasangaree’s son S.G. Anandasangaree, trade unionist, Saman Ratnapriya and civil society activists Sunanda Deshapriya and  Nimalka Fernando were there to talk against our country and the Sri Lankan military, said Weerasekera. In media interviews given from Geneva, Weerasekara slammed Nimalka Fernando and Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu for pushing for action on Sri Lanka.

“After I spoke at the HRC, four or five foreign delegates and came, smiling and spoke to me. They said, ‘it’s not that we’re agreeing with you, but thank you very much for telling us the other side of the story’. A certain message went out to the world because of us, said Weerasekera on his return. The next session will show whether we have made an impact. Next time we should go as a team and get five or six one and half minute slots and then tell our side of the story and also have some side events. . The delegation return to Sri Lanka to a rousing welcome at the Katunayake   Airport.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKbPk9Yk1NA  , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG-0afrwJF8) ( CONCLUDED)

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