Do As I Say (Not As I do!)
Posted on July 10th, 2010

Dr Bandula Kothalawala London N7

Scarcely a day passes without the great and the good exhorting the recalcitrant Sri Lankans to accept the UN Panel and co-operate with it. Rarely has a small nation been showered with so much unsolicited gratuitous advice by so many – perhaps a few in their naivety, but most in an impudent display of hypocrisy and arrogance. Curiously, some including governments whose ambassadors[1], some time ago, would not see “a bit of a difference, even if 10 floors out of the 38 floors of the UN building in New York were lost”, seemed to have rediscovered it and its usefulness and even started singing its virtues – a rather hasty conversion reminiscent of Saul’s on the road to Damascus. Saint Paul, at least, did not recant his beliefs after his conversion. Those who[2] disparagingly referred to the UN as “machin[3]“ have suddenly woken up to its importance.

The US, UK and France have been pontificating on the need for collaboration with the UN Panel. I do not intend to dwell on the impropriety, illegitimacy, illegality of the UN Secretary-General’s action taken in flagrant violation of a number of articles in the UN Charter, for many contributors to this Forum have already pointed it out. Instead, I should like to have a brief look at the stance taken by the born-again defenders of human rights and democracy in the UN on some issues over which action was taken in strict compliance with UN procedures and practices.

The vast majority of the resolutions on Palestine and the situation in the occupied Arab territories brought before the Security Council focussed on egregious and systematic violations of human rights. Many of them condemned the murder of civilians in armed conflict by Israeli security forces in Palestine and/or in other countries in the Middle-East and demanded an immediate halt to them. The US Government which now lives and breathes human rights and preaches them to the weak and the meek from rooftops found it hard to bring itself to vote in favour of them. It has used, nay, abused its veto more than 40 times since 1972 in defiance of the majority opinion in the Security Council. Following the massacre in Sabra and Shatila in which over 400 civilians (Estimates vary, 400 seems to be the lowest) were murdered in cold blood, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution[4]condemning it and resolved that the massacre was “an act of genocide.”  Twelve angelic nations including those ferocious defenders of human rights in the European Union managed to squabble over the terminology and abstained!

The Apartheid regime in South Africa became the embodiment of evil and injustice in the post-War era and stirred the conscience of all mankind. Not only did the South African Government under Apartheid ruthlessly oppress black South Africans, but it also carried out vicious attacks against its neighbours. Moreover, it made use of Namibia “”…” its colony before the country became independent””…” as a springboard to launch brutal offensives against neighbouring countries which resulted in many civilian casualties. The mounting opposition against Apartheid and aggression by the then South African Government against neighbouring states found expression in a number of resolutions in the UN General Assembly as well as in the Security Council. This was clearly too much to stomach for the three saintly nations “”…” US, UK and France “”…” who have now metamorphosed into indefatigable defenders of human rights. Today, their leaders and diplomats can hardly open their mouth without muttering about human rights. The table below summarises their voting record.  

Use of Veto on Resolutions on South Africa and Southern Rhodesia

Country South Africa  Southern Rhodesia 
France 3 0
UK 8 8
USA 9 2

Source: UN Security Council

Although it is tedious, in a brief article, to detail the contents of some of the resolutions vetoed by the three sanctimonious nations, a cursory look at them reveals the extent of their callous disregard and utter contempt for human rights. One resolution[5] which followed the Sharpeville Massacre in March 1960, inter alia, deplored “that the recent disturbances in the Union of South Africa should have led to the loss of life of so many Africans” and extended “to the families of victims its sympathies”. Another resolution[6], inter alia, called upon the South African authorities to stay execution and commute the death sentences imposed on the Sharpeville Six. One other resolution[7] brought before the Security Council in June 1964 while the Rivonia trial was in progress urged the Government of South Africa to  “grant an amnesty to all persons already imprisoned, interned or subjected to other restrictions for having opposed the policy of apartheid, and particularly, to the defendants of the Rivonia trial”.  None of these resolutions, some of which were in fact watered-down versions of those already adopted with an overwhelming majority by the UN General Assembly, stood any chance! The self-appointed defenders of democracy and human rights who today parade about in the corridors of the UN and elsewhere as paragons of virtue took good care of them! Remember the way in which the same crowd lost no time in jumping on the bandwagon and rejoicing over the joys of the people of South Africa when Apartheid was abolished in 1994.

Some governments like that of the UK brooked no criticism or interference from the UN, especially, when it threatened their interests. When Ian Smith made the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1964, the UK was adamant that the UN had no role to play and that it was a “British problem”. In addition, it showed extreme reluctance to take any meaningful effective action to end the racist regime and in 1972 offered a deal, described by the Rhodesian Methodist Church as the “Constitutional rape of Africans by both the Rhodesian and British Governments”. Suffice it to say that the UK made use of its veto eight times to keep the UN out, that it did everything within its power to keep the racist regime afloat and that it managed to persuade its allies to do so.

So much for their undying love for the UN! There is enough for the founder members of the UN to keep spinning in their graves for ever!

Dr Bandula Kothalawala

London N7



[1] John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN

[2] Charles de Gaulle, President of France (1959-1969).  

[3] Derogatory term used to refer to something for which one has no respect

[4] A/RES/37/123D UN General Assembly resolutions, 16 December 1982

[5] 134(1960)Resolution of 1st April 1960

[6] 623 (1988) Resolution of 23rd of November 1988

[7] 190 (1964) Resolution of 9th June 1964

One Response to “Do As I Say (Not As I do!)”

  1. PRIYAN WIJEYERATNE Says:

    I think it is high time for NAM countries with Russia and China to form a New UN and setup head quarters in the middle east or other suitable location. Un is not acting according to its founder objectives anymore and it is very clear to all.

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