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Has Geopolitics Virus infected UNHRC?



The pile-on over Sri Lanka by UNHRC is a blatant use of human rights as a political weapon in the geopolitics of today’s world. Many have argued in these columns that Sri Lanka cannot capitulate merely on the grounds of allegations, which are serious in nature, levelled without regard to due procedures of fact and evidence. In the world community of states, the rule of law must apply alongside the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. But our pleas are to no avail when the cause of justice is conflated with a hidden quest for political acquiescence to a particular road map.

It is geopolitics that is driving the UNHRC agenda and demonstrates the unfortunate result when power, politics and principles collide. What the Commissioner of Human Rights is attempting to do, is to find Sri Lanka guilty, based on a fabricated report which is a monstrous perversion of justice, the likes we see in Orwell’s Animal farm or Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. We have to agree with Dr Laksiri Fernando’s claim that the failure of the UN to promote human rights and duties, guided by conscience, reason and morality, appear to be a major reason for the increasing conflicts, violence, chaos, and wars, not only in developing countries, but also increasingly in the developed societies.

If the hidden agenda is to do with geopolitics, there are sufficient grounds to believe that we are sandwiched in the tussle between the Western bloc and China. If so, no inquiries will resolve the issue, nor the facts. The core group that is behind the campaign is demanding a weaker test than the rule of law; such that Sri Lanka will be tainted, keeping the allegations alive. Such demands are filled with sophistry and hypocrisy. This is the new principle, and, if it succeeds, the efforts can be redeployed in the future. The editorial (11/3) gives us a good dissection of the issue. It says ‘many are those who flay the western bloc for duplicity and its handling of human rights issues. The West, in fact, deserves such criticism in that the powerful nations in the Global North are unashamedly using democracy as a weapon to further their geo-strategic interests; they manipulate the UN, especially the UNHRC…., to tame the nations that refuse to follow their diktats’.

It is official that there is a dire need on the part of the Core Group state parties to move to the Indo-Pacific region. The UK is pledging to shift its focus towards countries such as India, Japan and Australia, after a year-long review of its foreign policy. The UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said today that his government ‘would boost alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, describing it as, increasingly, the geopolitical centre of the world’.

The Biden Presidency in the USA has pledged to confront what it called Beijing’s attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance.

Last week, Biden convened the first leader-level summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an informal alliance among the US, Japan, India and Australia that aims to counter China’s rise. The US officials told reporters that the QUAD summit, as well as Secretary Blinken’s visit to Japan and South Korea, was part of the Biden administration’s effort to formulate a new China policy. The US made clear its deep concerns about a range of issues, Xinjiang, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and most importantly Chinese economic coercion of our allies and partners. Could we be one of the whipping boys of choice at the UNHRC! It will be an intellectual failure of the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry not to come to terms with this scenario of geopolitics.

The editorial (11/3) made it exceptionally clear how another UN agency was overtaken by geo-politics in the same manner, when WHO recommendations were overridden by political fiat. The EU campaign against the Oxford AZ vaccine is more likely driven by Brexit-EU politics, which put paid to the global efforts to control the pandemic, disregarding the cost in human terms in their own backyard.

Dr Wijayawardhana pointed out (The Island 11/3) that the cases of blood clots detected among those given the Oxford AZ vaccine is slightly lower than the Pfizer jab in the general population, as stated by the WHO, British Authorities and the head of the European Medicines Agency. Yet political interventions seem to have dictated the EU anti-AZ stance. Is it bitterness over Brexit that is driving this agenda? Or, whether Germany had a different agenda: to make money for the German business BioNtech behind the Pfizer vaccine. If such are the machinations of geopolitics in the face of a deadly virus, what vaccination will match the geopolitical virus that has infected the UNHRC.

Donald Chandraratna

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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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