Geneva bungling
Posted on March 20th, 2017

Editorial The Island

A determined effort is being made in some quarters to dupe the public into believing that the 2015 UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka, co-sponsored by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime, does not call for a hybrid war crimes tribunal. This claim, based on some perverted logic, does not stand up to scrutiny.

The aforesaid UNHRC resolution welcomes the GoSL ‘proposal to establish a judicial mechanism with a special counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law ….’ It hastens to add that it ‘affirms the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators’.

A local judicial mechanism with foreign judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and investigators is a hybrid tribunal in all but name! Now that the government has co-sponsored the resolution there is no way it can dissociate itself therefrom. It is lucky that its western masters have leapt to its defence, demonstrating, in the process, once again, that the UNHRC resolutions are based on the interests of strategic alliances rather than the human rights concerns of member states.

The US and its western allies have also done themselves a big favour by granting Sri Lanka two more years to fulfil its Geneva commitments. For, a turn of the screw in Geneva at this juncture will leave the pro-western yahapalana administration with no alternative but to undertake a course of action which will be its undoing. Needless to say that it will be plain political suicide for the Sirisena-Wickremesighe government, sinking in a politico-economic mire of its own making and fearing elections, to set up a war crimes tribunal, domestic or otherwise.

Given the extent of Chinese expansionism and the prospect of the Indian Ocean going the same way as the South China Sea as a result, the western powers are trying to shore up the yahapalana government, which they helped form, to retain their hold on this part of the world. Americans are now conducting joint military exercises with their Sri Lankan counterparts, accused of war crimes, in the strategically important Hambantota, which is being turned into a China town. Western powers won’t loosen their purse strings easily—in fact, they themselves are in dire financial straits—to help the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, but they can use their international clout to give it a brief respite in Geneva, where they use human rights as an instrument to further their geo-political interests.

The Rajapaksa government blundered by taking on the US; it thought its Medamulana tactics (read hurling abuse with patriotic outpourings thrown in for good measure) would help tackle the US. One of its big guns went so far as to stage a fast in front of the UN office in Colombo in a bid to frighten the world body into submission!

Diplomacy should be the most important attribute of those who rule a smaller nation. A pesky Rajapaksa government unnecessarily antagonised the world powers after winning the war, and its successor has mistaken bootlicking for diplomacy. It looks as if the leaders of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government waited at the BIA to carry the bags of visiting western diplomats. Cringe levels are palpable in diplomatic circles when the yahapalana grandees toss protocol to the wind and give bear hugs etc., to foreign dignitaries, leaving the latter red faced. Diplomacy does not consist in either kicking or licking, so to speak. It is a difficult art to be mastered. We, however, are not without veteran diplomats, who can be of some help to the unsophisticated politicians who have messed up the country’s foreign policy.

Let the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime, which is becoming increasingly dependent on western backing for survival, be forewarned that it ought to tread cautiously lest it should face the same fate as the man who sold his soul to the devil.

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