by Neville Ladduwahetty
The bipartisan House Res. 413 introduced by Congresswoman Deborah Ross (for herself, Mr. Johnson of Ohio, Mr. Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Mr. Sherman, and Ms. Manning) on May 18, 2021 was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The Preambular Paragraphs contain the background material from which the initiators of Res. 413 resolved on seven issues to be presented to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
These seven issues are presented below:
(1) acknowledges the 12th anniversary of the end of the war in Sri Lanka and offers its deepest condolences to all those affected by the conflict;
(2) honours the memory of those who died and reaffirms its solidarity with the people of all communities in Sri Lanka in their search for reconciliation, reconstruction, reparation, and reform;
(3) commends the United Nations Human Rights Council for prioritizing the collection and preservation of evidence related to human rights violations, a process that must not be interfered with by the Government of Sri Lanka;
(4) recognizes the bravery and commitment of advocates for justice across all communities in Sri Lanka, including the Tamil families of the disappeared, whose protests and demands for answers have at times been met with threats, intimidation, and harassment by government security forces;
(5) urges the international community to advocate for and protect the political rights and representation of the historically oppressed northeastern region of Sri Lanka and work towards a permanent political solution to address the underlying issues that led to ethnic conflict;
(6) recommends the United States explore investigations and prosecutions pursuant to the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and
(7) urges the United States to work with the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a credible and effective international mechanism for accountability for the grave crimes committed during the war in Sri Lanka.
The Comments presented below are in respect of Resolutions (2); (5); (6); and (7). Resolution (2) is to “honour the memory of those who died…”, Resolution (5) calls upon the international community to “work towards a permanent political solution to address the underlying issues that led to the conflict” and Resolutions (6) and (7) relate to issues of accountability.
RESOLUTION (2) – “memory of those who died”.
While it is customary to honour the memory of those who died during to the armed conflict, it must be acknowledged that those who died are from all ethnic and religious communities. Therefore, it is natural that the practices adopted by different communities would be in keeping with their respective cultural traits. However, an issue that needs to be acknowledged is that it would be unlawful to publicly display symbols of the LTTE during memorialization procedures in member states that have proscribed the LTTE as a terrorist entity. To permit the display of such symbols is to violate their own provisions under which the LTTE was proscribed.
– “work towards a permanent political solution…”.
The permanent political solution introduced by Sri Lanka at the behest of India following the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987 was the 13th Amendment. The fact that the conflict persisted for the next 22 years until May 2009, despite serious attempts to negotiate a permanent political solution within the framework of the 13th Amendment, demonstrates with absolute clarity that the political rights granted under the 13th Amendment fall far short of the expectations of the Tamil people. On the other hand, leaving aside the fact the people of Sri Lanka also opposed the 13th Amendment, fulfilling the aspirations of the Tamil people to the extent they aspire to, is NOT in India’s own national interests because India cannot accept a situation where the Tamil community in Sri Lanka enjoys political rights in excess of what is granted to the Tamil majority in Tamil Nadu. This being the case, India saw to it that a limit to political power to the Tamil people in Sri Lanka was recognized and accepted by the international community during the recently adopted UNHRC Resolution A/HRC/46/L.1/Rev.1 which stated: “Calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitments on the devolution of political authority…and to ensure that all provincial councils, including northern and eastern provincial councils are able to operate effectively, in accordance with the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka”.
India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar is reported to have stated during his last visit to Sri Lanka that ‘Delhi insists on the importance of the 13th Amendment in fulfilling the expectations of the Tamil people for equality, justice, peace and dignity’ (The Island, January 7, 2021). Therefore, it could be concluded that as far as India is concerned the 13th Amendment is expected to be the upper limit beyond which a permanent political solution would be unacceptable to India. The rationale for this limit is because the “Stability, security, and prosperity of Sri Lanka is (not only) in India’s interest, but also in the interest of the entire Indian Ocean”, as stated by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to India.
The observations of a former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee in his autobiography is of extreme importance. He opined that bilateral ties between India and Sri Lanka had been “greatly influenced by Tamil politics in India, particularly with the emergence of a strong Dravidian party (DMK) in Tamil Nadu since the mid-60s”. Continuing, the report also states “on the concept of Tamil Eelam the former President observed that it was raised by ‘the Tamil population residing on both sides of the Palk Strait…” (Daily News, January 11, 2021).
The perspective presented by the Tamil diaspora is that a political solution based on a federal arrangement with the right of self-determination, is realistically achievable. The hard reality is that such an arrangement is unacceptable not only to the people of Sri Lanka but also to Delhi because any political arrangement beyond the 13th Amendment would impact on the security and territorial integrity of both States. Now that the DMK who supported the aspirations of the Tamils in Sri Lanka is back with a majority in the State Assembly of Tamil Nadu, not only Sri Lanka but also Delhi is deeply concerned that the initiative taken by Res. 413 for a political solution to meet Tamil expectations in Sri Lanka would impact seriously on the security and stability in respect of India’s territorial integrity and that of Sri Lanka as well. Hence, the insistence by Delhi of the importance of the 13th Amendment. Furthermore, any arrangement beyond the 13th Amendment that would have serious implications on the territorial integrity of India would impact on the ability of India to be play an effective role as a member of the Quad that is intended to partner with the US in the security of the Indo-Pacific.
RESOLUTION (6) – “US to explore investigations and prosecutions pursuant to the recommendations of the UN
High Commissioner for Human Rights”.
Since the Res. 413 is influenced by the recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it is pertinent that the Resolution pays particular attention to recommendations in Paragraphs 182 and 183 in the Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sri Lanka (OISL).
Paragraph 182 states: “Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions relating to conflict not of an international character is applicable to the situation in Sri Lanka” AND Paragraph 183 states: “In addition, the Government and armed groups that are parties to the conflict are bound alike by relevant rules of customary international law applicable to non-international armed conflict”.
Since Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions have been expanded and incorporated as Additional Protocol II of 1977 applicable to Non-International Armed Conflict and ratified by 168 Member States as of 2020, the conduct of the conflict in Sri Lanka should be evaluated in the context of an Armed Conflict under provisions of Additional Protocol II of 1977. Thus Additional Protocol II should be included within the body of Customary International Law, and any investigations and prosecutions the US intends to explore, should follow the guidelines in Additional Protocol II.
RESOLUTION (7) – The US to work with the UNGA, Security Council and UNHRC to establish an international mechanism to address accountability.
For the US to work with three organs of the UN namely the General Assembly, the Security Council and the UNHRC is a direct violation of Article 2 (7) of the Charter of the United Nations .
Article 2 (7) states: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter…”
The need for Resolution (7) is perhaps because of the prejudice against the domestic mechanism established by the Government of Sri Lanka. In order to convey its credibility key provisions of the mandate of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry as per Gazette No. 2211/55 of 21, January, 2021 is presented below.
“Whereas the decision taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to withdraw from co-sponsorship of 40/1 Resolution on March 2019 on Reconciliation, Accountability and Promotion of Human Rights in Sri Lanka and its preceding resolution 30/1 of October 2015 and 34/1 of March 2017 has been announced at the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 26th and 27th of February 2020″…
“appoint you Hon A. H. M. D. Nawaz Esq, Judge of the Supreme Court; Chandra Fernando Esquire, Retired Inspector-General of Police; Nimal Abeysiri, Retired District Secretary, to be my Commissioners to investigate and inquire and take necessary action to report on the following matters, namely –
(a) Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Commissions which had been appointed to investigate into human rights violations have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences;
(b) Identify what are the findings of the said Commissions and Committees related to the serious violations of human rights, serious violations of international humanitarian law and other such offences and whether recommendations have been made on how to deal with the said facts;
(c) Manner in which those recommendations have been implemented so far in terms of the existing laws and what steps need to be taken to implement those recommendations further in line with the present Government policy;
(d) Overseen of whether action is being taken according to (b) and (c) above”.
Further, I do hereby authorize and empower you, the said Commissioner, to cause or cause the conduct of necessary investigations and inquiries and require you to transmit to me Interim Reports where necessary and the final Report within six months of the date hereof…”
The key intentions of US House Res. 413 are to work towards a permanent political solution to address underlying issues that led to the conflict (Resolution 5) and to address issues relating to accountability (Resolutions (6) and (7).
In the background of India insisting on the importance of the 13th Amendment as the means to address concerns of the Tamil people, the attempt by the US to explore fresh political arrangements is to engage in efforts that run counter to the geopolitical and strategic interests of one of the key partners of the security alliance of Quad. Furthermore, this attempt by the US ignores the rationale for India to initiate the Indo-Lanka Accord judging from the statement made by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He stated that the Accord had “Prevented the island nation from coming into the orbit of some superpower trying to tighten their hold in Sri Lanka on the pretext of helping to find a solution to the four year old ethnic conflict” (Kodikara, p.147, Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement). As far as India is concerned US Res.413 is nothing but an attempt to get a “hold in Sri Lanka” as warned by a former Prime Minister, even though India is with the Quad security alliance.
As for addressing issues relating to Accountability, any intended action should be cognizant of the fact that from February 2002 until May 2009 the conflict was a non-international armed conflict and therefore applicable provisions of Additional Protocol II that are based on Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions should govern any investigations and prosecutions; a fact endorsed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OISL).
The attempt by the US to work with UN and its Agencies to establish international mechanism to address accountability is not only a violation of Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter because the UN and its Agencies are not authorized to intervene “in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any member state….”, but also to question the credibility of the domestic mechanism established by Sri Lanka.
In summary, House Res. 413 appears to be more of an attempt to please its promoters, and in the process the drafters of the Resolution have failed to recognize broader geopolitical ramifications of their proposals and have even gone to the extent of ignoring the fundamentals such as violating the provisions of the UN Charter itself.
Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role
Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.
As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.
Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.
Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.
Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.
One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.
Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.
The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.
Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.
Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?
In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.
Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.
In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.
UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.
Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.
The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.
Country Roads …concert for children
I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.
They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.
I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.
However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.
Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.
This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.
In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suﬀering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.
The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th ﬂoor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.
The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.
Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”
Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.
Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.
“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.
“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”
The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Fireﬂy.
Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.
Healthy, Glowing Skin
Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:
Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.
They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.
Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.
Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.
You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.
Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.
* Dark Chocolate:
Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.
* Green Tea:
Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.
A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.
Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.
Additional tips for healthy skin…
Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.
Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.
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