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Govt. should obtain support of SL’s natural allies in NAM and Global South who form a majority in UNHRC



While taking action to negate and disprove the charges

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has scheduled, at its February/March 2021 Sessions, to take up for discussion the report on Sri Lanka prepared by the High Commissioner, Mrs. Bachelet on human rights.

This is to discuss the implementation of Resolution 30/1 adopted in 2015, and the subsequent resolutions co-sponsored by the previous government on alleged past violations of human rights in Sri Lanka.

The arguments advanced by the High Commissioner are what she uses to justify the imposition of sanctions against Sri Lanka and to take it before the ICC, the International Criminal Court of Justice. There is also provision for legal action to be taken in the courts of any foreign country against individual citizens of Sri Lanka alleged to have committed crimes against humanity, (which are genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes).

If we are to counter these sinister moves against Sri Lanka and its citizens, then action must be taken within Sri Lanka to deprive the High Commissioner and the Western Group led by the UK (in the absence of the USA, which has left the UNHRC) of the arguments levelled by the High Commissioner to the extent that they interfere with Sri Lanka’s responsibility under the UN Charter and international human rights conventions.

Action must also be taken by the government to expose the manner in which the Report and its recommendations, should they be endorsed by the Council, will seriously undermine the Charter-based multilateral system, which is the guarantor of state sovereignty and independence established under the multilateral system based on the UN Charter.

Such action will also help to draw in its natural allies in the Global South to extend their own support to Sri Lanka within the UNHRC, and help defeat the sinister moves.

The High Commissioner’s arguments are based on the following six broad areas of concern:

* Militarization of civilian government functions.

* Reversal of Constitutional safeguards, including the passage of the 20th Amendment.

* Political obstruction of accountability for crimes and human rights violations such as the presidential commission of ‘political victimization’, which has intervened on behalf of a number of military officers implicated in gross human rights violations, including the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga abduction of Prageeth Ekneligoda, and the naval officers implicated in ransom induced abductions and murder of Tamil youth in Trincomalee.

* Majoritarian and exclusionary rhetoric.

* Surveillance and obstruction of civil society and shrinking democratic space.

* New and exacerbated human rights concerns.

These concerns are already being addressed domestically by the people of Sri Lanka themselves, both in the past (LLRC Report) and the present. The UK-led forces backing the UNHRC resolution are well aware of this. It is important that the government should also further intensify its efforts in this direction.

In doing so, the government should fully appreciate the real motivations for these concerns by the High Commissioner. They are to advance the global agenda of the United States to maintain its hegemony and consolidate the unilateral global order that it desires.

Therefore, while taking action to negate and disprove these charges, the government should obtain the support of our natural allies in the Non-aligned Movement and the Global South, like Russia, who form a majority in the UNHRC, so as to counter what is a common threat.

Some sections of the government, including the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are seeking to reach a consensus with the UK-led Western bloc. The danger of trying to reach a consensus with the US and its Western allies is that the negotiations will necessarily be between unequal partners, as a result of our high economic dependence on the very same powerful Western countries that are leading the resolution against us.

Moreover, if there are direct bilateral negotiations, then Sri Lanka’s natural allies in the Global South, which are the majority in the United Nations, will not want to get involved by supporting Sri Lanka, as shown by our own past experience.

A consensus between such unequal partners can only, therefore, result in Sri Lanka having to make compromises and also accommodate America’s global agenda, undermining Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. We may be even compelled to accept the MCC, SOFA and ACSA agreements that were rejected earlier.

Under these circumstances, the option is to call for a vote in the Council through a friendly nation, such as Cuba, and to work towards obtaining the support of the Council’s majority, who are members of the Non Aligned Movement, and the Global South, including Russia. This option has already proven to be successful in numerous cases where draft resolutions against individual countries by the Western Group have been defeated.

For example, in the specific case of Sri Lanka, in September 2011, we even succeeded, with the support of the Non Aligned Movement and Russia to force the US and Canada to withdraw a draft resolution against Sri Lanka, even before it was tabled.

The support of most, if not all, Non-aligned countries and others like Russia is a certainty provided they are all made aware of the hidden agenda motivating the USA/UK led Western action against Sri Lanka, as well as the precedent that such a resolution would create in the future for the Global South as a whole.

Even if the matter is brought before the Security Council, which alone can take punitive action against a member state, and even then only when there is a threat to international peace and security or a war of aggression, both Russia and China can, and I am sure will, be able to use their veto in our defense.

In the circumstances, Sri Lanka must under no circumstances try to reach a consensus that will necessarily require compromising the multilateral principles of the UN system. If it acts on its own, it will get the necessary support of the Non-aligned countries and the Global South as it is acting on a matter of common concern for a vast majority of the countries. We must follow the successful example of Cuba, which regularly gets the support of all countries, except the USA, and Israel on its General Assembly Resolution condemning the illegal US blockade against Cuba.

Prof. Tissa Vitarana

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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’



By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners



By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered



A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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