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Does Geneva matter to Sri Lanka?



Any action matters only if the motive is genuine and not clouded by double standards and inconsistency. The UNHRC, from top to bottom is biased, and seems to be controlled by the Western powers. Just look at the way its High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet’s behaviour as regards Sri Lanka.

Her biased attitude was on display when the mass grave in Mannar was discovered in 2018. Now, she is on a witch hunt against Sri Lanka and is going beyond her mandate in interfering in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. The UNHRC is silent or does the least about massive human rights violations by big powers, not only in their own countries but in other parts of the world too, where rich natural resources are available, like the Middle East. They have no scruples about killing millions on the pretext of human rights, just to get their hands on the oil. They have no hesitancy on grounds of conscience in supporting big violators of human rights, like Saudi Arabia, which killed and dismembered the body of dissident Jamal Khashoggi inside their Turkish embassy. And UNHRC does very little in such instances, except to issue a statement condemning the incident. On the other hand, even with no evidence, Sri Lanka is hauled over the coals and if possible dragged before the International Criminal Courts.

Judgment on the bones found in Mannar were passed even before the carbon dating reports were available, and separatists were in great expectation that evidence for their genocide claims were forthcoming. UN ‘s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, herself took the lead in this respect and issued a statement in consonance with the separatist sentiments. She spoke about past mass graves and future ones too, and the important role the Office of Missing Persons has to play in this regard. She had obviously jumped the gun and also given hopes to the separatists. All their hopes had been dashed to the ground by the lab reports. Ironically, it was a laboratory in the US, the country that originally cosponsored the UNHRC Resolution, which had carbon tested the bones. If it had been China or Russia there would be hell to pay.

UNHRC Resolution 30/1 cosponsored by Sri Lanka at the behest of a minister in the ‘yahapalana’ government, is totally lacking in substance and substantiated evidence. The whole thing had been fabricated according to the agenda of the West, well supported by the Tamil separatists. Both parties are angered that

their pet terrorist organization, the LTTE, had been defeated by our armed forces, something that nobody had done anywhere in the world. The West, which assumes the role of the global policeman without any qualifications to do so, would like to teach Sri Lanka a lesson for disregarding their ‘orders’ to let the LTTE, the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world, escape. LTTE was a tool in their hands, which they used to destabilize Sri Lanka, and as the LTTE is no more the West uses fabricated HR issues to pressure us to do their bidding.

These Resolutions reveal the depth of depravity that the UNHRC, which is supposed to be a respected organization of the UN, could descend to. Of the ten organizations of the UN that are concerned with human rights, the UNHRC is the largest and is the one that is representative of the different views across countries. Forty seven countries hold its membership, which changes periodically. Some of these countries are not democracies, and there are human rights allegations against most of these countries. Some of the democratic countries such as India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka are also accused of HR violations. The Western powers are seldom accused, though they commit HR violations not only in their own countries but elsewhere too, as mentioned above. Thus its a mixed bag of members in relation to HR that comprise the UNHRC. The stand they take on issues such as the Resolutions against Sri Lanka would be decided, more often than not, by political reasons rather than the merit of the individual case. The US and the West resort to cheque book diplomacy, and have the power to influence a majority of countries to support their point of view. China and Russia wield similar power but to a lesser degree, but their sphere of influence is growing.

Therefore, the decisions taken by the UNHRC at Geneva and most of its activities are political in nature, and lacks a basis of human rights considerations. The (mis)guiding light in this regard obviously is its High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet. Not that her predecessors were any better. These are people with high qualifications and who have held high posts. Bachelet is a physician and was twice the president of Chile, a country which produced democratic leaders like Salvadore Allende who was killed by the CIA of the US, and also despots like Augusto Pinochet who was supported by the US. The High Commissioners of the UNHRC, of the past as well as the present, are capable of fair and just words and actions, but they don’t seem to do that, for they are under the thumb of the Western powers which finance and control the UN and its organizations. Bachelet had, without compunction of conscience, done her utmost to lay the blame of the Mannar skeletons on Sri Lankan armed forces, before scientific evidence was available. This is unbecoming, to say the least, of a person who holds such a responsible post. Could she or the organization she heads be taken seriously.

The world by now knows that Sri Lankan forces did not commit HR violations; on the contrary, they saved about 350,000 civilians from the clutches the terrorists and in the process took heavy casualties themselves. However the vote on the Resolution against Sri Lanka would be decided by the members of the UNHRC, which as mentioned above, would not look at the truth of the matter but would be guided by their political affiliations. Therefore, the result will not be a fair by Sri Lanka. For instance India has not shown a consistent position on this matter, and has changed its stand according to its own interests rather than on the matter at issue; it has voted for and against the resolution and also remained neutral at different times. Several other countries have similar difficulties in sticking to one position. Thus could the upcoming vote at Geneva be taken seriously. Should Sri Lanka be morally bound by the goings on in Geneva. In short, should Sri Lanka be so much bothered about Geneva?

Several commentators have attempted to make Geneva appear to be crucial, and one of them has attempted to give it a different meaning. He has said Sri Lanka is stuck with the UNHRC in the foreseeable future, unless and until the Sri Lanka government enlightens itself to find an internal solution to its external problem, which actually is an externalised internal problem (Rajan Philips – Sunday Island 08.03.2021). No doubt what he means by an “externalized internal problem” is the so-called Tamil Problem. He goes on to say that the problem has dragged on for 70 years, from the time GG Ponnambalam asked for 50% representation for minorities in the legislature from the Soulbury Commission, in 1946. He has let the cat out of the bag. Have no doubt, what he means is that UNHRC Resolution has nothing to do with human rights. It has everything to do with Tamil separatism. And he says “Speculating about motives of the US or other core countries is not going to help Sri Lanka”. What he probably means is someday we will have to give in to Tamil separatism.

Another columnist has commented on the possible unsavoury HR record of some of the countries that may support Sri Lanka such as Russia, Belarus, Venezuela etc. However, he is silent about the HR record of countries which may vote against Sri Lanka.

So we are dealing with a human rights problem which is not a human rights problem. What then is the problem? The problem for Tamil separatists, it appears, started 70 years ago and if the government agrees to grant a federal state or a near separate state, they will not support UNHRC resolutions against Sri Lanka, and they will forget about the baseless allegation that 40,000 civilians were killed by the armed forces. Similarly, the problem for the US-led West is China and the geostrategic place Sri Lanka occupies in the Indian Ocean. If Sri Lanka signs agreements like the MCC, ACSA, SOFA of the US and play ball with them, and generally spurn China, there will be no UNHRC resolutions.

In view of the above, should Geneva be taken seriously? Even the authors of the Resolution, the core countries, seem to be not sure of themselves. Bachelet proposed that Sri Lanka should be hauled before the International Criminal Courts, subjected to universal jurisdiction and placed under targeted sanctions. Recommendations in the draft stage, however, have only targeted sanctions. How could the UK, one of the core countries, which recently passed laws banning legal action against their armed forces who are tainted with war crimes in Iraq, pass judgment on Sri Lanka or its armed forces who have not committed any HR violations. The Government of Sri Lanka must deal with UNHRC on its merits, and must reject all baseless allegations, and tell them our internal affairs are not their business. The Government must be resolute in its stance on Tamil separatism, constitution and national assets and must not capitulate as its predecessor did and give in to the dictates of the West. S. AMARATUNGA

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This refers to the superlatively interesting and provocative piece on the above subject by Dr Upul Wijewardene{UW) appearing in The Island of 21/3/23 wherein, as he states, he had been a victim himself at the hands of a well-known Professor of Medicine turned health administrator. He makes it a point to castigate the leaders of the Buddhist clergy for their deviation from the sublime doctrine of this religion.

My first thought on this subject is that it is a cultural problem of exploitation by the privileged of the less fortunate fellow beings. The cultural aspect has its origin in the religion of the majority in India, Hinduism. There is no such discrimination in Islam.

The first recorded case was that of a Sinhala member of the Dutch army fighting against the Portuguese (or the army of the Kandiyan kingdom) being prevented by the members of the higher ranks from wearing sandals due to his low status in the caste hierarchy. The Dutch commander permitted the Sinhala solder to wear sandals as recorded by Paul Pieris in “Ceylon the Portuguese era”

There is also the instance of a monk getting up to meet the King when it was not the customary way of greeting the King by monks.

In an article by Dr Michael Roberts, a Sri Lankan historian published in a local journal, it is said that members of the majority caste (approximately 40% of the Sinhala population) were not permitting lower ranking public officials serving the British government wear vestments studded with brass buttons. The second tier of the hierarchy who had become rich through means other than agriculture like sale of alcohol in the early British times took their revenge by lighting crackers in front of houses of their caste rivals when a British Duke was marching along in a procession in Colombo.

It is not uncommon for members of minority castes numerically low in numbers to help their own kind due to the discriminatory practices of the higher tiers of the hierarchy.

Dr Leo Fernando
Talahena, Negombo

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Billion-dollar carrot



The IMF successfully coerced the government into falling line with its instructions on debt restructuring and increasing of revenue, among others, and in all probability will release the first tranche of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) during the course of this week. Regrettably, the IMF is not coercive where the violations of fundamental rights of a country, vis a vis universal franchise, is concerned. On its part, the government flaunted this invaluable tool on the public, as the only remedy for all its financial ailments. It was least worried of the consequences that would necessarily follow.

Taking the cue, professionals and trade union activists dangled the carrot of carrot of strikes to restrain the government on its implementation, the results of which are still in abeyance. Not to be outdone, the powers that be has refused to relent on the grounds that the economy has to be strengthened at whatever costs.

Now that the IMF loan has materialized, the government is already focusing its attention on securing further assistance from other lending agencies. How will the IMF monies be expended, and for what purposes? Naturally, the people would want to know since it is they who have to foot the bill at the end. The Treasury insists that it has no funds to provide for the conduct of LG polls. Just 10% of the rupee equivalent of the first tranche of US $ 300 million will suffice for the successful completion of the elections. Provided the government wants to.

The President has assured that no sooner the Agreement is signed with the IMF, he would submit a copy of it to Parliament. It would be prudent if he would also submit (without plucking figures from thin air) a comprehensive expenditure account on the disbursement of the first tranche. And continue to do so for the rest.

Being fully aware of the country’s top priority needs, attention should be focused on providing them at reasonable prices. Besides them, agriculture, fishing and domestic industries should also be given due consideration. Merely dangling of carrots before them will not suffice.

Non-essential development projects should be shelved until the dreamed of economic stability is achieved. Of special note is that upkeep and interests of politicians should not be addressed with these funds.Can the people expect some sort of genuine transparency even at this late stage?


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Death penalty – another view



In his article, (The Island, 8th March), Dr Jayampathy Wickremeratne, would have us believe that the Death Penalty is not an effective deterrent and it should be abolished in Sri Lanka. Similar arguments are presented in India, home to some of the most horrendous crimes of violence against Women and children, and also in South Africa, where the death penalty was abolished despite strong opposition from the vast majority of the population.

Use of the Death Penalty purely for political purposes is always bad, but that’s not what the public are calling for. The public want the Death penalty implemented RIGOROUSLY, against those who have undeniably murdered children, and also serial killers whose victims are invariably women. Their crimes are gruesome but unfortunately need to be detailed to counter the pseudo- academic arguments of Death Penalty abolishonists. For example:

South Africa abolished the death penalty despite vigorous opposition. In South Africa one of its worst serial killers, led the police to the remains of 38 of his victims all of them women and all from the poorest class (mostly domestic servants).

On 12 March, India’s National Broadcaster NDTV reports the case of a man in Kashmir, whose marriage proposal was refused. He murdered his prospective young bride, cut up her body and disposed the remains in several places to avoid detection. A few days ago, a similar incident in India was reported by NDTV, where a 17-year-old was stabbed and dragged through s crowded street and murdered with no public intervention! In Sri Lanka a few years ago, four-year-old Seya fell victim to a murderer, rapist, a person known to her family, whom the child trusted. Likewise, a 17-year-old girl miss Sivaloganathan was raped and murdered in the North by a gang led by an individual known as “Swiss Kumar” a porn film maker of Sri Lankan origin, living in Switzerland. (One wonders whether he subsequently received the benevolent “Presidential Pardon”!

Other arguments used in Dr Wickremeratne’s article, are out of date. For example, he refers to wrongful convictions in a bygone age where DNA testing did not exist. DNA tests enable identity to be established and tie a murderer to the crime, beyond any doubt. Elsewhere he cites a Table where Murder rates are calculated as follows- “divide the number of murders by the total population, in death-penalty and non-death penalty states”. This methodology is patently flawed. It assumes that the populations of ALL 50 States in the USA are homogeneous in demography and other characteristics- it equates the violent State of New York with relatively peaceful Alaska.

Dr W advocated “long term imprisonment” in lieu of death penalty. Frankly this is the academic argument of a person removed from everyday life and steeped in Academia, “the social cost of rehabilitation” is Immense! It has been estimated that the cost of keeping a person on death row is at least Rs 50,000 per month – for the rest of the murderers’ life! It should ALSO be pointed out that in Singapore and other countries where the death penalty operates, murder rates are significantly low.


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