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US re-joining UNHRC: American attitude towards terrorism and human rights

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‘The US returns to UNHRC, ahead of 46th session’ was a leading news item in The Island of 10.02.2021.

The US of A does what it needs to do, to serve its cause as best as possible, at any given time.

When being with the UNHRC was not convenient, it left the organization. The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, did not mince her words, announcing the decision, calling the council a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation”. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44552304 . Now the time has come for the US of A to rejoin the UNHRC to propagate its international agenda!

It would be worthwhile at this juncture for us to remind ourselves of how the US of A behaves when it comes to terrorism and human rights.

The response of the US of A to the terrorist bombing of the Twin Towers in 2001 was the PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty – uniting and strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. It is well documented that multiple violations of human rights such as water boarding, physical torture, sexual abuse, to name a few, have been committed by US troops against suspects of terrorism (Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse (https://enwikipediaorg/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse ). Under the PATRIOT act, all these violations were deemed ‘acceptable’. For example, The Geneva Convention prohibits prisoners’ rights being abused. However, with the use of the PATRIOT act, the term prisoner was not used. Prisoners were referred to as ‘enemy combatants’ (Enemy combatants. https://wwwhumanrightsfirstorg/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Enemy%20Combatantspdf ). Therefore the Geneva Convention rules did not apply. The ‘enemy combatants’ were ‘tortured’, kept in custody indeterminately without been given legal representation, the hearing of their cases was postponed indefinitely etc…. Furthermore, when these enemy combatants, who were imprisoned indeterminately, committed suicide out of sheer desperation their deaths were not investigated as suicides in custody but were called ‘manipulative self-injurious behaviour’ (Ratner M. America’s Disappreared Detainees, Secret Imprisonment and the ‘War on Terror’) and as an ‘act of asymmetric warfare’ committed against America. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/jun/18/usa.guantanamo.

The other legal manipulation that the US of A employed was to do with sovereignty – the deniability of its actions as a sovereign country. For example, if one takes the Guantanamo Bay Naval Camp, one of the sites where abuse of ‘prisoners’took place, the camp was not based on American soil. Therefore on the one hand, the US of A proclaimed that none of these so called atrocities carried out against ‘enemy combatants’ was on American soil where the sovereignty, rules and regulations of the country apply; therefore no American laws as such were broken. At the same time since these ‘atrocities’ were not carried out on American soil, the normal rules and regulations of the US of A did not apply either. A win win situation whatever way you looked at it!

It is because of this ‘clever legal manipulations’ that at no point during this period were George W. Bush (President), Donald Rumsfeld (Defence Secretary), George Tenet (CIA director), John Ashcroft (Attorney General)- all whom were well aware of what was happening – were ever asked to account for these atrocities that were being carried out (https://wwwhrworg/report/2011/07/12/getting-away-torture/bush-administration-and-mistreatment-detainees).

As to the US of A approach to human rights; all one has to do, is to look at the ‘birth’ of the US of A. The declaration of Independence in its second paragraph states that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This was at a time when slavery still flourished in America. Freedom for the slaves did not matter. There were no qualms in the signing of the declaration of independence with 41 out of the 56 who signed the declaration of independence owning slaves! (Slave owners among those who signed the declration of independence. http://wwwmrheintzcom/how-many-signers-of-the-declaration-of-independence-owned-slaveshtml.) So how was the reality of these “self- evident truths” resolved? The answer lies in the wording in the final paragraph where the newborn US of A state their premise of separation – “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;”

Very elegant. For everyone knows that, what gives context to a land is its occupants and one cannot constitute free and independent states from slaves that are neither free nor independent. Therefore this issue of freedom, independence, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the intentions of the declaration, do not apply to slaves; just the free men who represent the US of A.

The UNHRC should be ashamed to take guidance from such a nation. I would like to ask the Tamil diaspora and our own Tamil politicians who are supposed to represent the rights of the Tamil people in this country, by standing with the UNHRC and the US of A on this matter, are you acknowledging that this is the kind of justice you seek?

 

Dr. Sumedha S. Amarasekara



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Opinion

An island of Pain and Destruction?

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When there are several ‘tivus’ in the North, why was Iranativu selected for Muslim Covid burials? Why select an island with people living there, with Catholic priests, too? Why not an island with no humans at all: Is that so difficult for the Burial Experts in the Covid management?

Looks like the disposal of dead bodies, if they happen to be of Covid-infected Muslims, is the biggest problem Sri Lanka is facing  today. This is bigger than any economic issue, or any other aspects of development the country and people may be facing. It looks like there is no possibility for a “Saubhagye Dekma” or Vision of Prosperity & Splendour if any Covid Muslims are buried in this Sinhala Bauddha Dupatha.

We tried to send these bodies all the way to the Maldives, on an official request. But failed. This time it is Iranativu – and once again a failure.  So why not keep trying at Neduntivu, Sampaltivu, Vidataltivu or any other ‘tivu’ in the North or East; and till a suitable place is found, keep the dead bodies frozen at taxpayer expenditure? 

Now that the US has decided to take some un-Trump moves about Saudi Arabia, why does not the former and present US citizens  that rule Sri Lanka, think of sending all Covid Muslim corpses to Saudi Arabia, for sacred burials? With the Saudi leaders thinking of new plans for investment, Sri Lanka could become a new target of Saudi funds pouring in. But will this lead to the Sri Lankan Muslims getting any stronger than they are now?

Or, will we wait till we discover or develop a new “Gotativu or Nandasenativu” off Sri Lanka, an Isle of Saubhagya?

Are the Indian Aircraft flying in the special  70-year celebrations of the Sri Lanka Air Force an assurance of new Indian warmth  in Sri Lanka-India relations?  Did the power of the Indian Air Force, displayed over Galle Face Green, make the government take a quick pro-Indian decision on the West Container Terminal (WCT) in the Port of Colombo? 

Can President Gotabaya or PM Mahinda give any explanation why handing over the development of the WCT to the same Indian company, involved in the ECT, could be any better for Sri Lanka? Apart from the Port Trade Unions  that are likely to launch a new protest, will the Weerawansa-Gammanpila-Vasudeva team also carry out protests about the WCT? Or, will they be silenced by the realities of pro-Gotabaya Politics? 

Has Gotabaya Team’s new position that the Provincial Council elections will be held under the new Constitution, an assurance given to India  that the 13h Amendment will remain part of the structure of governance in Sri Lanka? What happened to all those voices of the Pohottuva political players who had virtually written off the 13A? Have they been silenced by the flight of Indian aircraft in the Air Force celebrations?

The Nandasena Gotabaya Team of the Rajavasala had better think of how the yellow robes of sections of the Maha Sangha would react to the WCT deal with India? 

The problems of Iranativu and the WCT or Muslim burials  and the Port of Colombo are certainly pushed back by the realities of Geneva. The Sri Lankan TV stations that have been very strong in their criticism of Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, about her handling of Human Rights, have given big coverage to her statements critical of the Myanmar coup and its military leaders. Will Michelle Bachelet have a big score against Sri Lanka? Keep guessing.

The issues facing Sri Lanka in Geneva are more about the policies of the present Gotabaya-Mahinda Rajavasala, than issues involving the defeat of the LTTE and matters of responsibility and accountability in the post-war period. 

The Easter Carnage that took place, long after the end of the war against LTTE terror, and under the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Yahapalana regime, is certainly at the height of the Rajavasala problems today. Having promised the people that the truth about this carnage will be found and revealed, and the planners and manipulators identified and punished, the Rajavasala is trying to escape its promises and responsibilities. 

This is certainly no easy task as it involves the hopes and expectations of many thousands who voted for the Gotabaya and the Pohottuva at the last Presidential and General Elections. Just look at the thousands in the Wattala-Negombo area who turned away from the UNP, did not support the Sajith Premadasa – Telephone, – and voted for the Pohottuva. It was the biggest Catholic turn away from the UNP, as took place in votes for the left in 1956.

We are now moving to a Black Sunday, when Catholics have been asked to wear black in protest at church services, seeking divine intervention to reveal and punish the Easter Sunday killers nearly two years ago. The response that divinity will provide remains to be seen, but with the voice of the Catholic Cardinal echoing the pain of hundreds who have suffered in this carnage, we are certainly moving to a period of much sorrow and even disaster.

Black Sunday may come and go, but by April this year, when black flags are to fly over houses, mainly Catholic, throughout the country, we certainly face a new rise of a major Majority/Minority conflict. Do we have to think of the possible revival of all the pains of the war against the LTTE terror, or think more in terms of peace and cooperation among people, with or without divine intervention.

This will certainly not be easy in the coming months, as we see so much of nature destroyed, forests cut down, sand mined and transported without permits, the greenery of the country rapidly vanishing and only hearing the call of a painful Saubhagya! 

Will the call for Divine Help bring us to be an Isle of Peace and Understanding, and not a large Isle of Pain and Destruction?

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Opinion

Go forth boldly against global enemies

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At the UNHRC meeting the true friends of Sri Lanka emerged to speak and defend the country battered mercilessly for defeating the world most brutal terrorist organization, i.e., Tamil Tiger terrorists in 2009, who held 20 million Sri Lankans to ransom for well over 25 years.

Leading the Sri Lanka bashing were the UK. Germany. Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands. Belgium and the USA, all of them having a chequered history in violating human rights at different times. India, our friendly neighbour, while thankfully taking a fair distance from the punitive stance of others, opted to emphasize on “the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils and their ‘aspirations’ insisting on the FULL implementation of the 13 A”. India should be requested to point out whether any Tamil person in Sri Lanka is deprived from enjoying a basic right because he or she is being purely a Tamil. On the 13th A, which was thrust on Sri Lanka along with the so-called Indo-Sri Lanka agreement, most Sri Lankans are of the view that it was a faulty restructuring effort of Sri Lanka’s government by India, and the Police and Land powers under the 13 A are a direct threat to the sovereign Sri Lanka. Further, the Provincial government system has not benefited Sri Lanka in any measurable manner, and has been an exercise in colossal wastage of hard-earned funds of the central government.

As regards aspirations, we are amazed how we can consider ONLY the aspirations of Tamils, as all other ethnic groups and the individuals too have aspirations, and it will be impossible to walk that talk. We need further training in the recognition of aspirations of different groups from India, and we pray for further comments from the HR specialists in India how they have reconciled the aspirations of other than Hindu religious groups — Sheiks, Kashmiris and other minority groups in Northernmost India.

But, many nations at UNHCR rejected the proposition of the Sri Lanka bashers who directly and indirectly were supportive of the LTTE armed insurrection and the separatism, threatening the unitary Sri Lanka. They also rejected the ‘the preventive prescription’ of the Secretary General Bachelet. The nations who supported Sri Lanka stood for the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a democratic country. Any weaknesses in Sri Lankan affairs should be allowed to be rectified domestically, in keeping with the constitutional provisions of the country, rather than to be dictated and decided upon by the holier than thou sloganeers. Most of the nations who attempt to foist their plan on Sri Lanka are from the Western bloc who killed and maimed millions of persons living in the colonized countries and subsequently destroyed other nations as pawns of the world power games. Their “adherence”to human rights are completely at variance with their practices on the ground.

Now, Sri Lanka should re-examine their directions and resolve to work with the friendly nations who supported her to extricate from the trap laid out by the countries who desire an unstable Sri Lanka. The Government and the people should resolve to reduce our dependence on Sri Lanka bashers, and re-design our imports to suit the geo-political reality and to avoid any plot to impose sanctions by the wounded nations. Time has arrived to consider the nation’s priorities by curtailing the luxuries even for a given period. We should try to get our requirements from the friendly nations, and try to improve our trading relationship with our friends.

This the ONLY way to extend our hand to REBUILD a new world order, to be less dependent on the predatory countries who always insist on their pound of flesh from the developing nations. While we thank the President, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Government for having rejected co-sponsorship of resolution 30/1 at UNHRC, we urge the Government to plan to reshape our trade and foreign relations, to play our role as an independent member of the international community.

 

RANJITH SOYSA

 

 

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Opinion

Gama Samaga Pilisandara  Round 2

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Gotabaya Rajapakse’s election manifesto “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” says on its page 4, “This policy document tilted ‘A Vision for a Resurgent, Prosperous Country’ is the result of a series of discourses, ‘interaction with the village’, conducted in 25,000 villages throughout our country during the past one year. We have identified the requirements of housing, electricity, drinking water, access roads, and irrigation facilities in every village”. That is about 65 villages per day and as we have only about 14,000 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions, coverage would have been about 100 GN divisions in a day. Whatever it is, why did the President decide to repeat this discourse? Is it because he does not accept what was given in his Manifesto as true or is he trying to restore the trust people had in him which is fast dwindling? President may also be thinking that as most of the masses in urban areas who voted for him have become disillusioned with his government’s performance, it would be more prudent to resolve some minor issues in the villages and keep them still faithful to him.

 Rohana Wijayawardhana

 

 

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