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UNHRC resolution: Subverting truth about Sri Lanka

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The UNHRC resolutions on Sri Lanka in the past and present, are characterized by their duplicitous and treacherous attempt to subvert the truth about what happened during the war against the LTTE, and what is happening now. Though the latest resolution deviates from the past and avoids reference to specific allegations of war crimes committed during the war against the LTTE, including the alleged killing of 40,000 civilians, rape, and bombing of hospitals, the reason for all these dubious resolutions remains the same. It has nothing to do with human rights, and is a politically motivated course of action that Western powers have undertaken, to force Sri Lanka to do what they want, such as signing the MCC agreement.

The UNHRC Resolution 30/1 which was cosponsored by the Yahapalana government, had no evidence to back its allegations of war crimes against Sri Lankan armed forces, except hidden witnesses who cannot be questioned to get at the truth. What is worse, Britain had decided not to divulge the wartime dispatches of their defence attache who had knowledge of the ground situation, because they did not want the truth revealed. Neither did they take into consideration the revelations made by the US defence attache, nor the reports of the Red Cross or the former judge C R de Silva’s findings. Further, they decided to ignore the fact that a LTTE cadre, who had trained children to be suicide bombers, was living in England – Adele Balasingham – was neither questioned nor accused of any crime, and remains quite free to date in England. Could anything be more unfair, unjust, crooked and roguish? Could we expect any justice or a change of heart from them this time around? Not likely.

Some supporters of the Resolution argue that UNHRC has been fair to both sides, and has accused both the armed forces and the LTTE of war atrocities. However, has the Resolution recommended any action against the LTTE? There are LTTE members living in Sri Lanka and also in other countries. Adele Balasingham is one of them. No investigation, or a method to bring them to justice has been recommended in any of the UNHRC Resolutions. Moreover, there is undeniable evidence of the brutality of these terrorists, and the heinous crimes they had committed against human beings, which could be examined by neutral judges. Whereas the UNHRC is not willing to make available the evidence that they claim they have against Sri Lankan armed forces for examination by neutral judges. Could anything be more unfair, unjust, crooked and roguish. Has the latest resolution made any recommendations in this regard. It has not. Could we expect any justice from them this time around?

And what about the victims? Even the victims that they say must be compensated are not accessible for verification of identity, and other facts regarding the crimes committed against them allegedly by the armed forces. The surviving victims of LTTE terrorism and their dependents, however, are available for thorough investigation and verification of facts, if needed. And who would compensate them? Has the UNHRC taken this aspect into consideration when drafting the latest Resolution?

The world knows that the US would not get UNHRC resolutions passed against Sri Lanka, if the latter supports the US in its conflict with China. Even the countries that voted for the Resolution know this, and they also know that there would be no resolutions against Sri Lanka if it had signed the MCC. Everybody, including those who voted for or against or abstained, knows that it was a political game and that it has nothing to do with human rights. Further, they all know that the biggest human rights violators are the US and the UK. Thus, even the vote was more a political affair than a human rights affair. Big powers who can use the stick and the carrot could get what they want. Could we expect justice from such an organisation?

The latest UNHRC Resolution has deviated from the previous ones, and has made an unusually lengthy adverse criticism of the present government, in relation to a wide variety of subjects including media freedom, independence of the judiciary, the National Police Commission, the human rights commission of Sri Lanka, 20th A, Covid burials, militarisation of civilian functions and interference in the judiciary process in emblematic human rights cases. Is this criticism, even if it is justifiable, within the mandate of the UNHRC? It may be violating the UN Charter, which prohibits its organizations from interfering in the internal affairs of individual countries. This shows how far the UNHRC will go to harass small countries, to force them to do the bidding of the big countries.

The UNHRC Resolution has advised its High Commissioner to create an office to collect information about war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka, during the war and up to the present times. The Government has already asked the question whether Britain would release the wartime dispatches of the British High Commission defence attache, which categorically exonerates the armed forces of war crimes. Going by what they did in the past, one cannot expect them to be honest. They had released some of the dispatches due to the unrelenting effort of Lord Naseby, but these too had been redacted in order to obscure or remove sensitive information. And Lord Naseby has said that the UK had suppressed robust evidence at the expense of Sri Lanka; and referring to the day the Resolution was submitted by the UK he had said its a “black day for his Government” .

Michelle Bachelet in her damning statement has said the Sri Lankan government has failed to pursue genuine truth seeking and accountability processes. On the contrary, it is the organization she heads that has failed to be truthful and honest. If this is the level of honesty and integrity that the High Commissioner for Human Rights could demonstrate, could we expect justice from the UNHRC. What we could expect is a concerted effort to subvert the truth about what happened during the war and what is happening now in Sri Lanka.

N. A. de S. AMARATUNGA



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Opinion

The faithful Lankan matriarch from Negombo

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(UCAN) Every day around 7pm, octogenarian Sembuwalage Mary Hariyat faithfully recites the rosary and litany from her old prayer book with lightly frayed edges and irregular-shaped pages.She is never alone as she settles before the statues of Mother Mary and the saints at home. Among those around her are some of her growing brood of 24 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, not to mention her eight children.

“My prayer book and rosary are my weapons in times of joy and sorrow,” says the 82-year-old from the tourist village of Negombo, known as the “little Rome” of Sri Lanka because of its predominantly Catholic population.

The majority of some 150,000 Catholics in Negombo depend on fishing, just like many other coastal communities in the island nation. Despite a life hit hard by poverty, thousands of Catholic mothers like Hariyat are considered important in building up the local Church.

Hariyat never forgets to neatly arrange a small dish of raw white flowers and light an oil lamp before her prayers at home. On some days, she will burn incense sticks according to traditions passed down from generation to generation.But above all, Hariyat loves to teach the kids prayer rhythms and styles.

Her son Liyanage Samantha said: “It is our mother who taught us rhythms of all prayers. We learned every prayer from her. Now she is teaching our children and their children too,” he said. Her sons, daughters and their families credit her for teaching them how to live their Catholic faith.

“All my eight children and their children and grandchildren are devout Roman Catholics,” Hariyat proclaims with pride.

“I stay with one child for a week. That’s how I divide my time among all my eight children, week after week. If a family member is sick, I stay longer to help and serve in that house,” she says.Every word she utters hints at how grateful she is to God for everything she’s got.

“God has abundantly blessed me and all the members of my large family,” she saiys.

In February 2021, Hariyat suffered a severe heart attack and had to be hospitalized.  She says God and Mother Mary “stayed close to her during the terrible time” and if not for their blessings she would have been long gone. Like a true Sri Lankan Catholic, whenever she or a member of the family faces a problem, Hariyat takes a vow to visit national shrines on a special pilgrimage.

Most of the time it is Our Lady of Madhu, a Marian shrine located in a dense forest in Mannar district, some 220 kilometers from Negombo. The shrine is considered the holiest Catholic site on the island.Hariyat has been attending the August festival at the shrine since she was 20 years old. She even visited during the height of the Sri Lankan civil war, when the shrine was surrounded by refugee camps and shelled many times.After recovering from the heart attack, Hariyat accompanied by the family of one of her sons visited Our Lady of Madhu last June.

Her son too had recovered from a major illness even though the doctors had said he could not be cured. He could not stand or do any work and suffered unbearable pain that prevented him sleeping. Doctors said some tissue lining his spine was torn and could not be rectified.Hariyat recalled praying to Mother Mary for months to heal him. She believes that Mother Mary intervened at her request.

“My son had a major operation and the doctors wanted about 600,000 rupees (US$ 1,715) to carry out the operation. His children decided to hold a lottery to find the necessary amount,” she said. “I continued to pray to God, Mother Mary to heal him and vowed to bring my son” to Madhu and Kattara churches in Mannar diocese.

Hariyat said no operation was required and even the doctors were surprised with her son’s miraculous recovery.

“For more than fifty years, I have been going to Madhu and Kattara churches with my children. I have experienced many miracles in my life,” Hariyat said.

She remains as enthusiastic as ever about the pilgrimage to Hiniduma Calvary shrine and joins other Catholic faithful in walking around the small hill on which the shrine stands overlooking St. Anne’s Church and the Gin River quietly flowing beside it.Hariyat’s house is located in a beautiful village called Pitipana nestled between the sea and a lagoon. It is a village of fishers and except for a few families, everyone else is Catholic.

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Opinion

Evening with Julia Cameron

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We were treated to a Sri Lankan cultural feast on Sept. 9. It included old photographs, old paintings, glimpses of the old sculptures, temple paintings – together a cultural heritage most of our countrymen are ignorant or have little knowledge of. However prevalent Buddhist fervor has given some knowledge to the average Buddhist about the temple paintings that are a part of this heritage. Fortunately, the audience present at the film that evening comprised people familiar with what was on offer and continue their quest for more knowledge.

The evening was an ode to the life and times of Julia Cameron, who was born in India in 1815, but chose to make Sri Lanka her home. She lived for some time in the Isle of Wight in high society making friends with many famous persons like Lord Carlyle, Lord Tennyson and Sir John Herschel, the British astronomer, among them.

Julia, from a young age was interested in photography but it was rather late in life that she took to it seriously. Apparently encouraged by her friend Sir John (Herchel), she in her late forties went on to become one of the most famous photographers of the 19th century, best known for her soft focus photography. She is today considered one of the greatest photographers of all time. The short film screened on Sept. 9 was indeed a treat and revelation.

This was followed by another short film on the 43 Group. That included Lionel Wendt, well known to most Lankans. I don’t think he had the same international reputation that Julia Cameron did but enjoyed seeing his work again. Then came a series of pictures of paintings by our best known artists: Keyt , Ivan PIeris, Daraniyagala and Manjusri to name a few. The 43 Group had a great reputation at that time but are almost forgotten now. Its last member, June Somasunderam died a few years ago. Seeing these pictures was a pleasure, like seeing old friends. They are hardly seen today and maybe many are in private hands here and abroad.

There was also a short clip on a dance form making you aware of the many dance forms Sri Lanka has: up country, low country, ritual dances including one to drive away the devils and one to intervene between God and the supplicant in time of illness or bad times. Few people are familiar with these rituals, but they are not that many. Thanks to the Kandy Perahara, most people are familiar with the Kandyan dance form.

The creator of this lovely film didn’t forget the lowly kite which rose in splendor to the sky at the end of the film.We owe this pleasurable evening to two people whose intrepid research and study documented our cultural heritage for posterity. Thank you Ismeth Raheem and Martin Pieris.

Padmini Nanayakkara

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Opinion

PEOPLE’S FRIENDLY POLICE

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The Sri Lanka Police has come a long way from where it started having celebrated 155 years of its existence this year. I thought of adding my perception of how the police have changed from being people’s friendly force to one that has gone down in many ways.

Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) having been a colony under the British gained independent status in 1948 as a Dominion. We adopted the Westminster system of government and all other good things that the British were used to at that time. Even the police force was similar to the British counterpart in that they acted impartially without interference from the politicians. The officers in charge of police stations and their subordinates would carry out their duties without fear or favour. They never curried favour with the politicians and the politicians did not interfere in their duties.

However, all these changed after 1977 and the rot set in. Thereafter, the bootlicking started. Now most of the transfers and promotions began to take place according to the whims and fancies of the political leaders. Even when it came to the appointment of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), on many an occasion, it was a person who curried favour with the political leaders who got the position.

Sometimes the persons so appointed had got the promotion over more deserving and honest officers senior to them, who refrained from stooping to low levels. While the honest police officers did a job of work according to their conscience, there were the others who stooped low to get their promotions and perks.

For a long time as I remember there were nine Superintendents of Police (SPs), one in each province, and four Deputy Inspectors Generals (DIGs). Each province had a few gazette officers – One SP and a few ASPs. I believe it was President DB Wijetunga who got the cadre of senior officers increased with a view to accommodating more favorites.

It has come to a stage now where a Senior DIG is subjected to manhandling by the people for the wrong things he had done. This has never happened earlier. This happened because the people were frustrated and angry that the police who are supposed to look after the safety of the people turned a blind eye when political goons attacked peaceful protestors.

I wonder whether we will ever get senior police officers like Mr. WB Rajaguru. When he was a DIG, he used to go to the fish market which was at Saunders Place then, in a pair of shorts to buy the requirements for his home. Usually this is a task entrusted to a police constable by such senior officers, as in the Army where the batman must attend to these matters.

I have read a few memoirs of senior police officers (who never stooped to low levels to seek promotion) after their retirement and some articles in the daily newspapers where they have indicated how the standards of the Sri Lanka police have deteriorated so badly that they seemed to be ashamed to state they were officers in the police force at one time.

At least after celebrating the 155th anniversary, we hope that there will be change in the attitudes of the police in carrying out their duties. Of course, this will depend on the political leaders who must change their ways first.

HM NISSANKA WARAKAULLE

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