This rebuttal is dated July 5th 2018. The responses are to individual points made in the ‘civil society’ petition. The points made in the petition are in inverted commas, while my responses are in bold type.

I have taken what I feel to be the general misconceptions held by the signatories about the workings of the United Nations, and especially the task of an Ambassador to carry out the mandate given to him by his appointing authority, and answered them briefly. I have also attached as annexures some of the global and local views expressed world-wide at the time in the media and in academia on the central issue of the petition’s critical comments-- the 2009 Special Session of the UNHRC and congratulatory notes sent to me in its aftermath by prominent individuals including Cabinet ministers. These supportive annexures have been omitted from this version, retaining only the main body of the rebuttal.

"Dr. Jayatilleka who served as Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva at the time, took an aggressive and triumphalist line on the violence unfolding back home. For example, in 2009 a Special Session was called to discuss Sri Lanka and it was under his leadership we witnessed a hostile position taken and the deliberate targeting of those who held a different view to his own."

*The violence unfolding at the time was due to the ending of a 30 year "war" with a terrorist army. It was not a state unleashing violence on a peaceful population. Most of the country celebrated the end of that war, except for many of the signatories to this petition.

*However, as my speeches which can be accessed on-line show, I did not take a "triumphalist" line, in fact cautioning repeatedly in my concluding speech at the UNHRC after the victory of our resolution that this "was not a blank cheque", and that Sri Lanka had responsibilities that it needed to fulfill in order to retain the peace it had won with such difficulty.

"Such a stance created divisions within the UNHRC and undermined Sri Lanka’s reputation of being able to diplomatically engage with the international community. The divisive line has had a lasting impression among missions and other entities in Geneva who remain dismayed by the negative impact the session had on the unity of the UNHRC and its impact on human rights globally." 

*The unity of UN bodies don't depend on the votes that are cast on various issues.

*The UN mechanism of a vote exists because consensus while desirable, cannot be reached on all issues. The way the Council divided at the special session clearly showed that the majority voted with Sri Lanka, with only the 12 countries of the EU opposed.

*This ridiculous assumption has also been dealt with in public by others:

"They talk of ‘divisive lines’. Surely they know that it is rarely that any UN agency comes up with a unanimous position on anything? They are upset about the ‘unity’ of the UNHRC. Do they expect the UNHRC to always come up with 100% agreement on all matters?" (Malinda Seneviratne in the Daily FT, 3.7.2018)

*Far from the alleged inability to diplomatically engage, it is only through intensive and extensive diplomatic engagement that Sri Lanka managed to get such a vast number of votes, with Western states and INGOs actively lobbying against us and the mainstream Western media highly critical of our military.

*All regions of the world were united in Sri Lanka’s favor at the 2009 session-- except for the EU.

This claim that I cause disunity at the UN has been dismissed by others in the public media.

"They conclude that the 2009 session ‘had a negative impact on the unity of the UNHRC and its impact on human rights globally.’ Wow! Dayan must have been quite a character if he could single-handedly divide the UNHRC and thereby negatively impact human rights the world over. Don’t these people have a sense of proportion, one has to wonder!" (Malinda Seneviratne in the Daily FT, 3.7.2018)

"We also note that the line taken at the Special Session ultimately ran counter to Sri Lanka’s national interests.

Professional diplomats have argued convincingly that the line espoused by Dr. Jayatilleka at the 2009 session, and triumphalism about his ability to ‘win’ a resolution congratulatory of Sri Lanka’s execution of the war, galvanized Geneva actors whose concerns had been cast aside by the Sri Lankan delegation."

*What constitutes Sri Lanka’s national interest is decided on by the leadership of the Government of the day and communicated to its representatives. President Rajapaksa’s views on what I was to achieve in Geneva were clearly communicated to me.

*The point that it was my line that ‘galvanized’ the hostile resolutions was dealt with earlier.

*This point has also been countered in the media by others as follows:

Malinda Seneviratne in the Daily FT, 3.7.2018

"Then they say that the line Sri Lanka took at the session, ‘ultimately ran counter to Sri Lanka’s national interests.’ What these ‘national interests’ are they have not said.  They say professional diplomats have ‘argued convincingly that the line espoused by Dayan and triumphalism about his ability to "win" a resolution congratulatory of Sri Lanka’s execution of the war galvanized Geneva actors whose concerns had been cast aside by the Sri Lankan delegation.’  

Interesting. As far as I can remember, Jayantha Dhanapala was the only professional diplomat who took issue with Dayan in public. Dayan responded with cogent objections. There was no outright winner in that debate as far as I can tell. Yes, Dayan was ‘triumphal,’ and that’s not very ‘diplomatic’ one can argue. However, what would these people have preferred him to do? Endorse the position taken by those who voted against Sri Lanka? Power comes, as some of the academics who signed this petition would know, from making others inhabit your version of their reality. So, for example, the USA says ‘This is what Sri Lanka is, and you Sri Lankans better believe it,’ and Dayan, then, had he said ‘Yes, sir/madam’ would be a hero?"

Editorial, The Island, 4.7.2018

Dr. Jayatilleka role as Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva from 2007 to 2009 can only be understood in context. He had to fight a diplomatic war of sorts. The western governments took on the Rajapaksa government not because of its alleged war crimes or other forms human rights violations or corruption. They have no qualms about backing far worse regimes in other parts of the world. They targeted the former regime because it did not accede to their demand that the lives of LTTE leaders including Prabhakaran be spared. The Rajapaksas’ strong ties with China also riled them.

"We note that Dr. Jayatilleka’s ideology and the ideology that shaped the January 8 2015 movement for change are poles apart. Dr. Jayatilleka has denounced the very concept of Yahapalanaya and members of this administration. He has stood stoically against democratic reform and reconciliation initiatives…"

*It is the person who most prominently represents "Yahapalanaya", with a democratic mandate from a majority of the country, namely President Sirisena, who nominated me for the post. These signatories seem to be questioning the judgment of the candidate that all of these signatories supported in 2015.

*I disagree with their opinion of him.

*In all my writing in the public domain, my urging of democratic reform and support for reconciliation is clear and I have consistently provided a roadmap for feasible, pragmatic reform which does not destabilize the government, the state or society and empower ultranationalist radicals on all sides.

"On both previous occasions when Dr. Jayatilleka was sent on diplomatic postings, to Geneva and Paris, he furthered a personal agenda which had detrimental consequences to Sri Lanka among its most important allies."

*If there was a personal agenda, it was to defeat false allegations being made against Sri Lanka at international forums. That agenda happily coincided with the agenda of the President who appointed me.

*If there was any other personal agenda, there should be some evidence of its success, such as a nomination to a UN post, as some in diplomacy have attempted.

"The 2009 Special Session debacle ultimately had a significant impact in convincing the international community including the members of the UNHRC that grave violations took place in Sri Lanka and that an independent international investigation was required."

* The 2009 Special Session held because a minority of international community already thought that grave violations had taken place and that an international investigation was necessary, with its findings to be reported back to the Council in six months—as stated in the EU Resolution.

* Sri Lanka was able to convince a majority of the international community that an international investigation was not warranted. This was the mandate given to me by the President of the day.

As a result, at the 2009 special session nearly two thirds of the members of the UNHRC emphatically rejected such an investigation.

For 3 years after that, no resolution was brought against Sri Lanka. A US diplomat, Michael Honigstein, who took the lead in drafting the 2012 US resolution on Sri Lanka was to confirm later at a meeting in Mirissa at which the Chairman of this committee, the Hon. Speaker was present as I was, that they desisted from bringing any resolution against Sri Lanka because they feared the skills of the Sri Lankan diplomatic team in 2009. He congratulated me and invited me for meetings and also to his farewell in 2015 at which mentioned me in his speech, even though I was just a retired ambassador then.

*If the Special Session of 2009 led to "convincing the international community including the members of the UNHRC that grave violations took place in Sri Lanka", why did they wait 3 years to bring subsequent resolutions?

"This hostile and triumphalist line was counterproductive as it subsequently led to several resolutions being adopted by the UNHRC in 2012, 2013 and 2014."

* According to this petition, 3 years after 2009, the actors directly involved such as

1the Government of the day and its Presidential advisor on International Relations

the Foreign Ministry and its Monitoring MP,

1the Mission in Geneva

1the delegation represented at the Council, which included the International Relations advisor, the Foreign Minister and the Attorney-General,

had less to do with the hostile resolutions being adopted by vote at the Council, than the Ambassador who had 3 years earlier had resoundingly defeated just such efforts, and was no longer there!

"We also note that Dr. Jayatilleke who was subsequently appointed Ambassador to France was unable to prevent the French Government from voting against Sri Lanka in these resolutions, demonstrating his ineffectiveness as a head of mission."

*This point has been publicly ridiculed by a well-known columnist in a leading newspaper:

"Now France was not the only country that voted in these resolutions. Sri Lanka has missions in most of the countries that voted. Did these petitioners, as individuals and/or as a collective call for the recall of those in office at that point on grounds of incompetence? Have they checked if some of these diplomats are still in the Foreign Service and if so have they called for their sacking?" (Malinda Seneviratne in the Daily Financial Times)

*While the delegation failed in Geneva, (partly due to the EU voting as a bloc at the UNHRC), the French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe did not bring up the question of accountability or even mention the word once, during the visit of then Sri Lankan Foreign Minister to France—a discussion at which I was present. Surely that is a better reflection of my competence than what happened in Geneva. I might add though that I was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry and a complaint was made to me by France’s Ambassador on Human rights, concerning the conduct of the Sri Lankan delegation to Geneva in 2012; behavior which probably contributed to France’s vote there.

*Petty attempts to clutch at straws such as this goes a long way in convincing most people that the signatories appear to be ‘furthering a personal agenda’, to borrow a phrase from their letter.

"…the potential for damage to this current administration which seemingly does not align with his ethno-nationalist views will be significantly greater."

*While I am a patriot, I am also an internationalist, and have never held ethno-nationalist views-- which is why I get criticized often in the media by those who do.

*Anyone who claims this is engaging in deliberate misrepresentation.

"On both previous occasions when Dr. Jayatilleka was sent on diplomatic postings, to Geneva and Paris, he furthered a personal agenda which had detrimental consequences to Sri Lanka among its most important allies."

While I refute that my performance has led to detrimental consequences as they claim, the Editorial in The Island refutes it and makes it a moot point:

"With or without Dr. Jayatilleka as Sri Lanka’s permanent rep in Geneva, the West would still have taken hostile action against this country in a bid to tame the Rajapaksa government. If he had been the cause of its resentment, the West would have softened its stand on Sri Lanka after his removal in 2009; nothing of the sort happened...The question of diplomatic rows between him and the Western world, however, will not arise again because he is to be posted to Russia." (The Island, Editorial, 4.5.2018)

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...