Time to clean out the UN Stables: Pillay’s caustic inaccuracies
Posted on May 24th, 2020

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

At the National Ranawiru Day commemoration President Gotabaya Rajapaksa caused a stir when he stated, “If any international body or organisation continuously targets our country and our war heroes, using baseless allegations, I will also not hesitate to withdraw Sri Lanka from such bodies or organisations.” Many have few doubts as to which international bodies or organisations the President referred to. 

Former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva Tamara Kunanayakam noted, “The President is most likely referring here to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The statement indicates he is either wrongly advised about the UN or plain politics, which could go against Sri Lanka at a time it desperately needs international support precisely to protect its war heroes.” The statement has been widely picked up by Western Media agencies, which have a global influence. 

Why is there a problem with the statement? 

“SL is not a Member of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) it is only an Observer State, so the question of ‘pulling out’ does not arise. Besides, HRC is an integral part of the United Nations, a subsidiary body of the UN under the General Assembly, which elects HRC members from among UN member States. The only way to completely withdraw from HRC is to leave the United Nations. “As for ‘pulling out’ of OHCRC, the only way to do so would also be by leaving the UN altogether, OHCHR being a body of the United Nations, not a Specialised Agency. 

“It is preposterous that SL should even consider quitting the only global multilateral organisation that exists today capable of defending multilaterism, in accordance with the UN Charter, and hence the interests of less powerful states such as ours. The world order established under the UN Charter, whatever its weaknesses – and there are many – is the only order capable of defending the sovereignty of less powerful states and former colonies such as ours, against external interference, intervention, aggression, and wars. “The system must be strengthened, not weakened, in the light of the increasing resort to unilateral coercive measures by the US (especially) to exert pressure on sovereign states to compel a change on policy through sanctions or threats of sanctions, embargoes, blockades, conditionality, intimidation, etc.  …

“Withdrawing from the United Nations will only strengthen the US supremacist unilateralist vision of the world ; undermine multilateralism which the Non Aligned Movement has fought for and largely contributed to developing in the interest of former colonies; isolate Sri Lanka; weaken its ability to negotiate from a position of strength; deprive it of the means to resolve problems with global dimensions (such as COVID-19, climate change, trade, finance…); and, ultimately, erode its independence, sovereignty and possibly its territorial integrity. 

“It is incongruous that the President should make such a statement at an event to pay tribute to war heroes who sacrificed their lives in the war against LTTE terror and separatism that was fought precisely on the basis of defending those very same principles unilateralism seeks to undermine. “And how will such a statement be interpreted by our potential allies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, whose very existence and survival as independent and sovereign Nations depends on respect for the purposes and principles incorporated in the UN Charter, and at a time that US President Donald Trump uses the exact same threat to quit WHO in the midst of a global pandemic?”

Resolution 30/1 infringes on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka

However, the President has never indicated a bias against the UN. Rather, he has initiated a dialog as to what can and cannot be delivered in terms of the UNHRC Resolution 30/1. He was always of the stance that a country cannot co-sponsor a resolution against itself. Communicating the President’s stance, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on February 26, 2020 addressed the 43rd session of the UNHRC and noted the challenges Sri Lanka is facing when trying to honor the Resolution 30/1. 

“Constitutionally, the resolution seeks to cast upon Sri Lanka obligations that cannot be carried out within its constitutional framework and it infringes the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka and violates the basic structure of the Constitution,” stated the Foreign Minister. “Notwithstanding withdrawing from co-sponsorship of this Resolution, Sri Lanka remains committed to achieving the goals set by the people of Sri Lanka on accountability and human rights, towards sustainable peace and reconciliation.”

Flawed OISL report chose to ignore provided evidence 

The FM also observed that, “the previous Government ‘noted with appreciation’, the much flawed ‘OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka’ (OISL) Report, which was used as the basis not only for Resolution 30/1, but also to unjustly vilify the heroic Sri Lankan security forces, possibly the only National security establishment that defeated terrorism in recent times. This was despite there being an abundance of evidence to the contrary, contained in;

1. Domestic reports such as the LLRC and the ‘Paranagama Commission’

2. Information presented before the UK House of Lords by Lord Naseby, challenging among other things the vastly exaggerated civilian casualty figures,

3. Other reports from the UN and international agencies including the ICRC

4. Exposed diplomatic cables.”

The UN was founded on the mandate to ensure an equal platform for sovereign Nations to engage constructively. Thus, it seems incredible that the UN should be responsible for a flawed report that vilified a Nation’s military.

Navi Pillay’s biased FB statement

However, it is obvious from the Facebook message posted by Navi Pillay who served as the United Nations High Commissioner for HR from 2008 to 2014, the extreme biases certain top level UN officials (former and perhaps present) hold against Sri Lanka. 

Pillay stated, “I join in the remembrance of the Tamil victims of the war in Sri Lanka that ended up in 18th of May, 2009…. on this Remembrance Day it is important that we honor the Tamil victims, and we inspire ourselves to continue their struggle for justice, freedoms and reparation for their loses.”

It is interesting that as a former UN High Commissioner for HR, Pillay completely overlooked the Sinhala and Muslim victims, who lost their homes, land and properties, loved ones, limbs and lives. In fact she justified their trauma by blatantly endorsing terrorism, which she termed as “their struggle”, ignoring that Tamils, including children, were also victimised by the LTTE, who also assassinated almost every notable Tamil politician from the North and East. How did their elimination factor in “their struggle” figure is an interesting question. She also overlooked that over 50 percent of Tamils live in harmony with all communities outside the North and East provinces. 

Pillai falsely accuses the SL Army

She accuses the Sri Lanka Army of having “stolen” the property of Tamils. Yet, since the end of the war most of this land has been already released to the owners. Almost all are already resettled in their homes. International experts estimated 12 years to complete the de-mining of anti-personnel mines planted by the LTTE haphazardly. Unwilling to keep people as internally displaced, the Sri Lanka Army cleared the area within two years. Considering that it is mostly the Tamils who have since found their way home, it is a pity that people like Pillay fail to appreciate the Herculean task done by the Sri Lanka Army. 

Pillay also noted, “The United Nations investigations determined that during the war in Sri Lanka, international crimes such as war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed and yet there has been no judicial mechanism, no perpetrators have been brought to justice.”

This investigation that Pillay refers excluded the UN internal findings that only around 7,000 died during the war’s last phase. Instead, the Darusman report that was commissioned by the then UNSG Ban Ki-moon for his personal use speculated without justification that the number killed could be as high as 40,000. The contentious OISL report blindly included this figure without even a breakdown of the number of combatants or civilians killed. 

LTTE’s people buffer zones

If 40,000 lost were lives, the LTTE bears the blame for it, for they compromised over 300,000 civilians by forcibly keeping them as a human buffer zone against the advancing military. Furthermore, they conscripted children to the war effort, discarded their uniforms to blur distinction and installed military hardware inside the No Fire Zones, amidst civilians. 

Pillay’s statement should shake the UN to the core. The UN must recognise the personal prejudices that has corrupted the UN and has rendered it a useless body unable to arrest any of the human catastrophes due to hegemonic forces. The recent reaction of the Special rapporteur for religion and belief in an internal matter of Sri Lanka was also based on personal biases. Hence Pillay’s self-expose is not an isolated incident. 

This is a systematic corruption procedure that the UN must make an effort to immediately eliminate. If the UN fails to clean its own house, Sri Lanka will not be the only country that will be compelled to leave the UN. 


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