Abject capitulation in Geneva
Posted on March 16th, 2019

by C.A.Chandraprema Courtesy The Island

The latest resolution in the UNHRC that is to be co-sponsored by Sri Lanka has the following 31 countries as its sponsors: Britain, Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Sweden. This list tells a story that no person interested in Sri Lanka or Sri Lankan affairs should overlook. We all recall that when the Rajapaksa government was in power, the then Obama administration in the USA passed three resolutions against Sri Lanka. Despite the strenuous efforts that the USA put into the campaign against Sri Lanka, all those resolutions passed only with a barest of margins.

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By any moral standard, if one is to consider that a particular body has approved something, it should have the assent of the majority of its membership. To show such a majority, one needs the assent of 50% plus one more, with the others acquiescing in the majority view. Going by that yardstick, the first USA sponsored resolution in 2012 obtained 24 votes with 15 voting against it and 8 abstaining in the 47 member UNHRC. The second USA sponsored resolution in 2013 got 25 votes with 13 voting against and 8 abstaining. The third resolution actually failed to get a clear majority in the 47 member Council with only 23 voting for the resolution and 12 voting against and 12 abstaining. The last US sponsored resolution won only on the technicality that abstentions are not counted, and voting in the UNHRC does not require an absolute majority to be considered to have been passed.

So the 2014 US sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka was passed in a situation where the majority of the body that is supposed to have passed it, has not voted for it. We have seen that kind of thing happening in our Parliament where an Act may be considered to have been passed even though it may have got only 56 votes in the 225 member Parliament. The reason why even that kind of Act is considered legitimate is only because the government that passed that Act would have an absolute majority in Parliament and it is that majority that lends legitimacy to the laws passed by that government even though the individual piece of legislation may not have obtained an absolute majority in Parliament at the time it was passed. However, there is no government as such in the UNHRC and if a resolution has not been passed by an absolute majority of the 47 member Council, the legitimacy of that resolution will be questionable.

Sri Lanka in captivity

The fact that the Obama administration managed to get a clear majority in the UNHRC only twice and that too with the narrowest of margins and failed to get even that on the third occasion shows how the power of the USA has waned. This writer was told by a Sri Lankan government delegate who attended the Geneva sessions at that time that the US State Department had deployed dozens of officials to canvass for votes for the resolution against Sri Lanka. Their strategy was to persuade countries to vote against Sri Lanka or at the very least to abstain so that the Americans could win by default. The recordings of the UNHRC sessions in 2012, 2013 and 2014, show that all those who abstained, spoke in favour of Sri Lanka in the Council and then abstained only due to relentless pressure from the USA.

The countries that abstained are ones that are either dependent on US aid, or military cooperation or has some other compelling reason to be unable to turn down a request from the USA. Donald Trump has now pulled the US out of the UNHRC. But that should have happened in 2014, when the mighty USA took on Sri Lanka and failed to obtain a clear majority in the UNHRC. For the countries in the UNHRC, voting for, against or abstaining is serious business. Such decisions are not lightly taken. Decisions to sponsor or co-sponsor resolutions are also not lightly taken in that body.

When we look at the countries that will be co-sponsoring the resolution against Sri Lanka we see that they are the very same countries that consistently voted against us in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The countries that voted against Sri Lanka in 2012 were as follows: Austria, Belgium, Benin, Cameroon, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Italy, Libya, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, United States of America, Uruguay.

The countries that voted against us in 2013 were as follows: Argentina, Austria, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Italy, Libya, Montenegro, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Sierra Leone, Spain, Switzerland, United States of America.

Those that voted against us in 2014 were as follows: Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

The connection between those who consistently voted against Sri Lanka in the past and the sponsors of the latest resolution against Sri Lanka should be obvious. When Sri Lanka started co-sponsoring the resolutions that were being brought against it from 2015 onwards, there was no division in the UNHRC and no vote was taken because these were resolutions that Sri Lanka was co-sponsoring against itself. Since there was no one who voted for or against the resolutions that Sri Lanka co-sponsored, we have to go by the list of sponsors of these resolutions.

The countries that sponsored Resolution 30/1 in 2015 were as follows: Albania, Australia, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Sri Lanka, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America

The countries that sponsored Resolution 34/1 in 2017 were as follows: Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, Montenegro, Norway, Sri Lanka, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

The embarrassed silence of our friends

It should be noted that even though all countries that vote on a resolution will always be current members of the UNHRC, those sponsoring resolutions may not always be current members. Whether they were current members of the UNHRC or not, it can be clearly seen that the countries that voted against Sri Lanka in 2012, 2013, and 2014 are the same countries that have been sponsoring the resolutions that Sri Lanka has been co-sponsoring against itself since 2015.

The most significant thing to note is that the countries that had been either voting in Sri Lanka’s favour or abstaining did not join the group of countries that have been hounding Sri Lanka even after Sri Lanka capitulated and started co-sponsoring resolutions against itself.

The countries that voted for Sri Lanka or abstained in 2012 were as follows: Bangladesh, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Uganda, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Senegal.

Those that voted for us or abstained in 2013 were as follows: Congo, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia.

And those that either voted for us or abstained in 2014 were Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Vietnam, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa.

Of the countries that either voted for us or abstained in 2012, 2013 and 2014, only Japan (which abstained) had joined the group of countries that sponsored resolutions against Sri Lanka after 2015. That too happened only once in 2017. Even though Japan was a sponsor of Resolution 34/1. They did not sponsor Resolution 30/1 nor have they come in as a sponsor of the latest draft resolution that is before the UNHRC. One would think that because Sri Lanka also started co-sponsoring the resolutions being brought against it, Sri Lanka’s friends would also join in co-sopnsoring those resolutions. But that is not what has happened.

The divide in the international order becomes clear from all this. The countries that either voted for Sri Lanka  or abstained  when Sri Lanka was fighting the resolutions being brought against it, forms one bloc and the countries that brought the resolutions against Sri Lanka forms another block centred on the Western powers. Sri Lanka has now become a part of the Western bloc under a Qusisling government and is sponsoring resolutions against itself jointly with their foreign masters. The other bloc of nations obviously takes a very dim view of what Sri Lanka has been doing to itself. What Sri Lanka is doing after having capitulated to the West is also putting the other countries that identify as the non-aligned, or developing nations or the non-Western or anti-Western bloc into a difficult position.

They all know that the government was changed in Sri Lanka through a Western sponsored conspiracy and the entire non-aligned or non-Western bloc appears to be waiting for Sri Lanka to get out of this situation so that we can join our natural allies once again. At the moment, it is clear that we are a pariah nation among the non-aligned, non-Western group of nations. Even though our own government may argue strenuously that the Western tutelage that we are under now is good and beneficial for Sri Lanka and that the resolutions against Sri Lanka that are being co-sponsored by Sri Lanka against itself is the best thing that ever happened to this country, that story is not being bought by the non-aligned bloc to which we once belonged.

Further time to do what?

The latest resolution that is going to be co-sponsored by Sri Lanka is to give us a further two year’s time to fully implement the undertakings given in Resolution 30/1. The first thing that Sri Lanka did by co-sponsoring Resolution 30/1 is to accept the allegations of war crimes made in the report of the Office of the High Commissioner which was tabled in the UNHRC at the same Session in 2015. The undertakings given by Sri Lanka all relate to those allegations. The undertakings given by Sri Lanka in Resolution 30/1 were the following:

=   To undertake a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past by setting up among other things a commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence, an office of missing persons and an office for reparations=    To allow each such mechanism the freedom to obtain financial, material and technical assistance from international partners,including the OHCHR

=   To establish a judicial mechanism to investigate allegations of war crimes with the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators

= To reform Sri Lanka’s domestic law to ensure that it can implement its own commitments

=    The removal from the security forces anyone credibly implicated in war crimes through an administrative process (even if there is insufficient evidence to take them to courts.)

=   To review the Public Security Ordinance and to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and to replace it with anti-terrorism legislation in accordance with contemporary international best practices

=   To sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

=   To effect a political settlement through the devolution of political authority by taking the necessary constitutional measures

An exit strategy?

This year, there is absolutely no reason for the Sri Lankan government to demean itself, to demean this nation, and to demean, embarrass and disappoint the entire group of non-aligned, non Western bloc countries by once again co-sponsoring a resolution against itself. Now that the principal sponsor of the UNHRC has left that body in a huff, we might as well take advantage of the situation and allow this whole thing to die a natural death. Britian is leading the charge against Sri Lanka this year and they just don’t have the clout that the USA had to be able to twist the arms of reluctant nations to force them to at least abstain if not vote against Sri Lanka. What is possible in a context like this was demonstrated in May 2009 when Dayan Jayatilleke was the Representative to Geneva under the Rajapaksa government.

On 19 May 2009, the very day on which Prabhakaran’s dead body was found in the marsh by the Nandikadal lagoon, a letter was sent to the President of the UNHRC by the Representative of Germany requesting the convening of a Special Session of the Council on 25 May 2009 to address the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. Such special sessions can be convened at the request of a member of the Council if one third of the membership of the Council supports that request. When we look at the ‘one third’ of the then membership of the UNHRC that supported the call for a Special Session, we see the same group of countries that have been hounding Sri Lanka all along. In that instance they were the following countries: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.

South Korea was the odd man out in the group of nations that requested a special session. The requested Special Session was then fixed for 26 and 27 May 2009. Given the fact that the request for this Special Session had been made on the very day that Prabhakaran’s dead body was displayed to the entire world, one can only imagine the state of mind of those who wanted to talk of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. The phrase ‘chewing one’s own backside in anguish’ which this writer often uses to describe such a state of mind would be an understatement in this context.

Fortunately for us, Sri Lanka had a motivated and capable Representative in Geneva at that time, who basically hijacked the Special Session by putting to it Sri Lanka’s own resolution co-sponsored by Bahrain, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

Subsequently, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brazil, Cambodia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Singapore, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam had also joined the sponsors of the Sri Lankan resolution which gives an indication of the international backing that Sri Lanka received at the time. This was followed by a major drama with Germany trying to introduce amendments to the Sri Lankan draft resolution and Cuba, moving to block Germany. Anyway the long and short of it was that Sri Lanka turned the tables on those who tried to penalize us for winning the war against terror.

Now that the USA is no longer in the picture, there is once again an opportunity for Sri Lanka to gain the upper hand. Yet what we see happening in Geneva is abject capitulation once again – this time for no reason other than the ingrained servility of this government. Once again our natural allies in the non-aligned, non-Western bloc will have to stand by passively and watch the painful and embarrassing spectacle of a once proud nation, now under a Quisling government; groveling in the dust before the Western bloc and their allies. What Sri Lanka is doing to itself sets precedents that are inimical to the national interests of every nation in the non-aligned, non-Western bloc. The problem is that everyone else in the world seems to realize this except our government.

One Response to “Abject capitulation in Geneva”

  1. dingiri bandara Says:

    The Sri Lankan armed forces defeated the the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world that was terrorising the country. It is now over and there seems is peace in the country. People are free to move about in the country.
    The UN need to look into going ons in Kashmir, Yemen and be concerned about plight the brave Kurds who fought the ISIS to name a few.
    UK who violated Sri Lanka during occupation should try to solve the problems facing their country and stop their attempts to harass Sri Lanka based on the false propaganda of the Tamil Diaspora. They should ban the racists global forum of the Tamils( which I believe should be in Tamil Nadu and not in the UK). Why have they not taken action against Adele Balasingham the recruiter of child soldiers in Sri Lanka?

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