Sri Lanka and its ‘Geneva-problem’


Maria Otero, US Under Secretary, Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights meets Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary of Defence in February 2012. Photo courtesy Lanka Standard.

The year 2009 was when the Western group of States at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) made a serious diplomatic blunder, by attempting to pass a resolution against Sri Lanka. The West missed the plot. This was just days after a bloody three decades long war had ended in Sri Lanka; just days after a group which was listed as a terrorist group in their own countries had been comprehensively defeated; at a time when they themselves had already begun a ‘War on Terror’; and soon after they were proven once again to be hypocritical defenders of human rights, given their convenient abstention from voting during the UNHRC Special Session on Israel. It was a serious diplomatic defeat for the West, a significant diplomatic victory for Sri Lanka and its allies.

Rise of ‘Eastphalia’

In addition, the victory attracted considerable attention through out the world. An interesting interpretation was offered by Sumit Ganguly, David P. Fidler (leading the Indiana University Centre on American and Global Security) and Sung Won Kim (of the Legal Affairs Division, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Korean Republic). In a paper which argued that with the shift in power to the East, the centuries old ‘Westphalian’ concept is being slowly supplanted with a new ‘Eastphalian’ alternative, they stressed, inter alia: “… Sri Lanka’s ability to gain Chinese and Indian support in the [UNHRC] to defeat Western-backed resolutions critical of Colombo’s bloody crushing of the Tamil Tiger insurgency is perhaps also a sign of Eastphalia’s arrival.” (‘Eastphalia Rising?’, World Policy Journal, Summer, 2009). It was then a significant set-back, one that the US and its allies cannot forget. The UNHRC is a human rights debating forum; that we all know. But the UNHRC can be a useful forum too. The US knew that. The UNSG-Panel of Experts knew that too. Otherwise its members would not have written about the importance of revisiting the place in their Report.

Draft US resolution

Contrary to what the main Opposition-party, the UNP seems to think, what is happening in Geneva-2012 is as significant as the situation Sri Lanka faced in Geneva-2009. The vocabularies have slightly changed, the context is somewhat different (but a continuing one), but the country is faced against a Western block which is out to slowly change the outcome of 2009.

Through the draft resolution proposed by the US against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, we are made to believe that the US wants the Sri Lankan Government to implement the recommendations contained in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report, and to address serious allegations of violations of international law by conducting independent prosecutions. The US says that it is quite concerned about justice, reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka. It appears that the US is playing the role of a concerned and benevolent father of the family of States in the international community.

Defeating US-hegemony

But the US, as we all know, is no Papa Bear. And there are a few problems about the politics of this proposed resolution. Yes, what is needed is the implementation of the LLRC-recommendations. What is unnecessary, however, is what India has correctly pointed out: a country-specific resolution to get it implemented soon after the Report was released.  The proposed resolution is not one that attempts to place the US forces on Sri Lankan soil tomorrow. That we can understand. But there is more ‘arrogance’ and ‘insensitivity’ than ‘concern’ written all over the haste with which the US is demanding the Sri Lankan Government to produce a ‘comprehensive action plan’ as regards the implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations.

And yes, there has to be a critical discussion concerning some of the contents and the recommendations of the Report. But the US cannot set deadlines when it comes to the matter of implementing recommendations of the LLRC. That critical engagement about the contents of the LLRC Report (especially those aspects pertaining to human rights and humanitarian law) should, firstly, take place in a spirit of dialogue; and not by attempting to introduce a resolution that binds a Government to some international time-table, especially one set by a country which has no moral right to extract commitments from other countries on human rights protection.

The US, as critical legal scholar Martti Koskenniemi pointed out soon after the killing of Osama, is a “completely impossible international player.” It reduces small and weak States, in particular, to a state of helplessness in the world; for, its hypocrisy, its arrogance, its “impossibility” cannot be easily dealt with. But the UNHRC does provide opportunities when that impossibility can be met squarely. Like in 2009, Geneva-2012 provides another opportunity to tell the US where to get off. If then, the choice before Sri Lanka and many others at the UNHRC this March would be clear. Any moves made by the US, any resolutions introduced, would need to be defeated.

Correcting Sri Lanka’s arrogance

But then, there has to be some mechanism, some process, through which Sri Lanka needs to be told where to get off too. Uncritical, anti-Western ‘patriotism’ doesn’t take us very far. That should begin (and perhaps it has) with a stringent domestic, internal, critique of the Government’s policies. If so, the critique of the Left, the TNA and other political formations becomes extremely useful. Most important would be peoples-movements, the voices of its citizens. While internal pressure and demand for course-correction is essential, international pressure in the form of greater discussion and dialogue will prove useful (that is, without engaging in this hurried and absurd business of resolution-passing at the UNHRC to get recommendations of domestic reports implemented).

What is astounding in much of what the Sri Lankan Government is doing is that it acts as if there is absolutely no link between a country’s domestic policies and its foreign policy. That is a fundamental mistake. The political leadership is still unable to grasp that link in any serious manner; and ultimately, the burden falls on the diplomats who have to represent the country and defend its Government’s horrendous policies.

Sri Lanka has Ministers and Monitors in charge of, and overseeing, the subject of External Affairs. It has an educated Minister, but one who is either utterly unprincipled, inefficient or clearly lacking any influence in the matter of foreign policy making. There is no clear substitute either. All seem to be ‘Ministers’, ‘Monitors’ or ‘Special Representatives’ of some form or the other. As Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Geneva very correctly pointed out, too many cooks can certainly spoil the soup.

But there’s a further problem here. What is to be noted in that old saying, in relation to Sri Lanka, is not only the fact that there being too many ‘cooks’, but also the fact that they are dealing with one big ‘soup’. That seems to be what we are in, today; hence, the current complications and confusion, within and without. Whether Sri Lanka’s diplomats engage in their task of defending the country with any enthusiasm in this prevailing environment, or whether they really can be expected to do so, is a serious question.

Sri Lanka got an opportunity, soon after the war, to strengthen and perhaps build on the support base it was able to create in Geneva-2009. This would have happened (with very little complications and a lesser number of foreign trips) had there been more principled and responsible domestic policies adopted by its political leadership. Taking note of the changing global political environment is essential. Sri Lanka has to think far more broadly, have a clearer grasp of who its closest allies are, but while recognizing that the US/West, however hypocritical that block may be, cannot be ignored and dismissed with arrogance. The US, in particular, can always be critiqued on the issue of human rights protection and promotion. As even Fareed Zakaria admitted, the US has every kind of power but what it sorely lacks in this ‘Post-American’ world is legitimacy. But what needs to be remembered is that Sri Lanka lacks the same too, and as long as it does, Sri Lanka cannot be easily expected to play the role of the ‘innocent underdog.’

Sri Lankan goal: running away

What does Sri Lanka want to achieve in this ‘post-war’ phase of its history? What are its goals? How can State-sovereignty be used for better purposes, for the betterment of the people? These are fundamental questions that it needs to answer. A close observation suggests that we are going in circles. The same problems and issues come up, over and over again. Those problems that Sri Lanka promised would be addressed are still being improperly and inadequately addressed; from accountability, to human rights protection and power-sharing. To understand the sheer ridiculousness of the situation, one need not go that far. Sri Lanka has reached a stage where other countries are demanding the implementation of a Report handed over by a Commission appointed by its own Government; the LLRC. For example, very soon, there will be (as reported) another updated version of the Channel 4 video released to the public. And the same, stale, rhetoric will be dished out by the regime. What was amusing was this: even the LLRC wasn’t ready to but it.

Very soon, the Government would need to take serious note of its rottenness. It is today the popular argument that while national sovereignty ought to be defended staunchly, popular sovereignty of the people will decide what changes the internal political and social structure should undergo. Fair enough. The people will decide. But then, what the community of people within the country would do internally, the community of States might decide to do externally too; not by military intervention only, but through various other means. We can defend ourselves; but how strong that defence would be depends in turn on how strongly our friends and allies are ready to stand by us. For that, we need to take corrective measures. Running away is not an option today.

A final word from Kafka

From Kafka’s ‘The Departure’ comes a beautiful section:

At the gate he stopped me and asked: “Where is the master going?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “just out of here, just out of here. Out of here, nothing else, it’s the only way I can reach my goal.”
“So you know your goal?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “I’ve just told you. Out of here – that’s my goal.”

Here. Geneva. March, 2012. Again, October, 2012. Again, 2013. And how did Kafka, Master Kafka, know about the goals of our leaders?

  • Sarath Fernando

    Dear Kalana,

    A very illuminating and commendable article – thank you so much. What the country needs are non-propagandists who can truly raise awareness one way or another that collective civility is the only way out of the ever deepening morass.

    One fundamental question.

    In most of even the well meaning discussion towards defining a way for progress, we take it for granted that the Government (“regime”?) somehow has an intrinsic incentive for “better behaviour,” whereas decades after decades of Sri Lankan history has indeed proven to be exactly the contrary.

    Since Bandaranaike, every Government unfailingly has been probably legitimately suspected of promoting disharmony rather than harmony between the majority and the minority; Tamils in particular. Such induced disharmony has always proved to be helpful rather than hurtful to the Government.

    The divisiveness has been largely to the benefit of the Government in several ways: has helped harness popular vote and has enabled pushing economic tribulations out of sight, while also providing the necessary excuse for international “begging” to compensate for the economic failings Further, the conflict at the international front, including that with the Diaspora, has also proved to be valuable in further consolidating voter base.

    Given that disharmony has proved to be so beneficial to the rulers, what has the Government to gain by “good behaviour” towards improving national harmony, aside from pretending to do so?

    My point is, how does a society remove such an ill-incentive that drives political behaviour that is self serving at a humongous cost to the country, both now and more so in the future.

    Will appreciate your comment.

    • Kalana Senaratne

      Dear Sarath,

      Indeed; disharmony has been quite useful for many Governments. My short response to your query is a further question: what kind of ‘harmony’ do we (the people) desire? While I like to blame Governments, as you have done, I think we might need to re-think the accuracy of this neat distinction we often make between ‘politicians’ and the ‘people’. I think we have not been critical (or self-critical) enough to entertain the idea that today’s public institutions (especially the Parliament) reflect to a degree the kind of society we live in. All institutions are perhaps mirror-images of what and who we are, what we are capable of, what we stand for, what we are comfortable with, etc.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Kalana, your excellent piece coming on the heels of Chaminda’s similarly superb contribution, makes me feel relieved that the younger generation has produced policy intellectuals amply capable of foreign affairs analysis.

    It seems that not only does Sri Lanka have a Geneva problem but the West also has a Sri Lanka problem.

    If I may add a few facts to your reconstruction:

    As the dissident websites note, the pro-Tiger spokesperson Mr Kirupaharan from France pointed out at a seminar on the sidelines in Geneva last week, that there was a draft resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN HRC already in 2006 under the presidency of Finland. This, obviously, was way before ‘the final stage of the war’.

    Secondly and more importantly, though the West was mistaken in moving their resolution in May 2009 shortly after the war was over, the record shows that in point of fact the intention and attempt was to move a resolution for a ceasfire while the war was not yet finished and the LTTE leadership was alive. The EU parliament resolved to support that resolution in the UN HRC. The joint statement of Hillary Clinton and David Miliband in April, called for such a halt to the fighting and the resumption of dialogue with the LTTE leading to a settlement of the political questions!

    The project was to secure a UN mandate for the above stated purpose. That was attempted through the UN HRC, because the Russian and Chinese vetoes protected us in the UNSC and the numbers were in favour of G77/NAM at the UNGA.

    Thus an attempt was made to secure the necessary signatures for a session on SL. A determined resistance by us in Geneva prevented the achievement of those numbers. This was detailed by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha in an article in The Island at that time.

    A few weeks later, the number of signatures was secured, but we had done our main job, which was to resist a resolution till the war had been won. When the special session was held the war had been over for a mere ten days. Of course, with our pre-emptive counter resolution, we won that battle.

    • Rita

      Successive Sri Lankan governments have been successfully controlling damage at the UN (and the Commonwealth) in the last 40 years or so by ”appointing commissions” which served their purpose of warding off international pressure till their attention moves on to another crisis – there has been no shortage of oppressive regimes causing crises around the world. Their power combined with geopolitics will not bring world peace and prosperity in the near future:

      ”On 27 February 2012, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul gave press interview on the High Level Segment of the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC.) ……
      The Foreign Minister also reiterated Thailand’s determination to deliver on its pledges made to the international community, such as becoming a signatory to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, receiving the Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, especially children and women and arranging for more mandate holders to visit Thailand in the near future. On support for the Universal Periodic Review, Thailand has actively engaged in the review process and has accepted most of its recommendations for serious consideration. ….
      In dealing with urgent situation as highlighted by the HRC, the Foreign Minister stated that the Council needs to enhance a cooperative approach under a spirit of dialogue and engagement with involved countries. Such an approach is indeed applicable to cases such as that of Sri Lanka. …..
      The Foreign Minister took this opportunity to seek support from Sri Lanka on Thailand’s candidature to the HRC once again for the term 2015-2017 and to the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) for the term 2017-2018. In this regard, Sri Lanka expressed its strong support to Thailand for the HRC. As for the UNSC, Mr. Samarasinghe said he would forward the request through the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry to consider” – http://www.mfa.go.th/web/2642.php?id=42264

      What does the Thailand Foreign Minister know about the ”pledges” successive Sri Lankan governments have been making in the last 40 years? Of the ”pledges” in election manifestos, esp. MCI and MCII?

    • Ward

      In 1956 and 1958 unspeakable things happened because Tamils asked for federalism. In 1959 a Buddhist monk finished off SWRD Banadaranaike for trying to be ”fair to the ethnic minorities”.
      In 1966, a bhikku was accidentally shot by the police when the South protested to the feeblest of devolution.
      … ….. ……. APRC, APCDR, LLRC, PSC, …. ……
      ”Over the emigration counter was a printed sign issued by the Immigration and Emigration Officers Union condemning meddling western countries for supporting separatism in Sri Lanka. In a local daily in the departure lounge, the cartoon on the op-ed page showed a unified island under the title of ‘No Devolution’; in the next panel, the country was fragmented into a dozen parts with the legend of ‘Devolution’ under the illustration” – http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/05/the-dangers-of-denial.html#comment-467441

    • Sarath Fernando

      Dear Dayan,

      “Makes me feel relieved that the younger generation has produced policy intellectuals amply capable of foreign affairs analysis”

      – Can we now assume you have had a change of mind with respect to these open-minded analysts whom you not a week-ago vilified as “domestic Diaspora”?

      Is it a true change of mind, or is it the continuation of weather-wane philosophy?

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        Hi ‘Sarath Fernando’,

        Kalana and Chaminda were never part of the ‘domestic Diaspora’ and their current articles prove my point, because defining characteristics of the ‘domestic Diaspora’ are that 1) they advocate or support a UN mechanism or so-called independent international inquiry into ‘war crimes’, 2) never denounce Prabhakaran and the LTTE, 3) consider Mahinda Rajapaksa worse than Prabhakaran, 4) never criticise the West for its hypocrisy in denouncing Sri Lanka, and 5) support Ranil Wickremesinghe.

        These two young scholars, or Asanga Welikela or Dayapala Tiranagama would never fit the bill, while you, on the other hand, perfectly fit my description of the domestic Diaspora :))

        Get the picture?

      • Sarath Fernando

        Dear, dear Dayan,

        Having said that there is a prevalence of “Domestic Diaspora” contributors in this blog, I asked you if you would specifically identify some at the top of your list who qualified for that.

        How come you became suddenly shy? Or, to repeat one of your own previous question in the blog – “don’t you have the courage”?

      • Burning_Issue

        Sorry Dr for butting in; does one need to be a Sinhala or Tamil before those defining characteristics can be applied? How about one passes two characteristics and failed the rest? For example; one were to pass the points 1 and 5 and failed the rest, how would term that person?

  • Kusum

    Thank you, Kalana.

    Will the civil society, esp the academia, note the speech by the French Ambassador at Peradeniya University on 16 December 2010:

    ”After almost 30 years of conflict, it also has to rebuild a Nation, a Sri Lankan Nation united in its diversity, where communities and individuals feel at ease. For this, there is not much foreign friends can do. This is the responsibility of Sri Lankan people, their political leadership, in the government and in the opposition, and also their civil society, and this is where academics and researchers have an important role to play, particularly those who are working in the fields of history, law, economy, sociology and political sciences.”

    How many of those forced to protest against the UN know what has been going on in the Northeast in the last 3 years, leave alone the previous 63 years?

  • http://- Sam Thambipillai

    The UN was established to restore the dignity of people and contribute to justice. Conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy had been the justification for the existence of the UN since its inception.

    Reacting to the traumatic experience of genocide and other forms of mass violence in Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia and Somalia, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty(ICISS), enunciated the policy of Responsibility to Protect(RtoP), in the year 2001.

    The report by ICISS stressed human security, including Human Rights and Human dignity as fundamental essentials in all international institutions.

    Subsequently, in 2009, the UN General Assembly, by an overwhelming majority, accepted the principle of RtoP as defined by ICISS.

    It was also accepted by the UN that if the UN does not act somewhere it does not mean that it must not act everywhere.

    In matters of global concern, the principles of state sovereignty became altered. A permanent shift from non-interference to non-indifference became firmly accepted.

    Rto P accepts that sovereignty is not a licence to kill. Empathy with suffering people justifies interference and obligates protection. It took forms such as sanctions and selective boycots.

    Obviously, the world did not do enough in response to the butchering of Tamil population by the GOSL and its repression to the people of Tamil Eelam(TE). There was indifference.

    Dag Hemmerskjold, the Secretary General of the UN in 1960′s said ” the UN was not created to bring heaven on earth but to save us from hell”.

    The people of TE need to be saved from hell created by SL.

    • Rita

      The government that has been preventing willing NGOs access to suffering IDPs in the Northeast is prepared to spend a great deal of millions to block the international community from discussing it.

  • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com Mango

    A brilliant point, succinctly made.

    “What is astounding in much of what the Sri Lankan Government is doing is that it acts as if there is absolutely no link between a country’s domestic policies and its foreign policy. That is a fundamental mistake. The political leadership is still unable to grasp that link in any serious manner; and ultimately, the burden falls on the diplomats who have to represent the country and defend its Government’s horrendous policies.”

    Can you get this translated into Sinhala & Tamil and distributed the Foreign Ministry and of course, MR & GR, too ? :) Those of us watching from the sidelines can only conclude that GoSL is on some sort of auto-pilot, with the ship of state heading for rocks, rather like the Capt on the Costa Concordia.

    • http://www.groundviews.org Groundviews

      Why translate for the Rajapaksa’s, we wonder? If MR was repeatedly photographed reading the LLRC Final Report in its original, 400+ page English version, surely this is peanuts for consumption and comprehension?

      • http://thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com Mango

        Why would read a report whose contents he was already aware of? i.e. never hold an official inquiry whose results aren’t known beforehand. I reckon he was reading a comic book, instead :)

  • justitia

    Only now, the state wishes to create an “Action Plan to implement Human Rights” – 63 years after independence.

    Does this imply that ‘human rights’ was lacking or was deficient all these years?

    I suspect that this ‘Plan’ has more to do with ‘whitewashing’ the ongoing human rights violations, – such as, shootings of democratic protesters, ‘disappearances’, abductions, assaults/murders of journalists, arson/attacks on media institutions which protest/highlight these, deaths and torture in custody,military ‘supervision’ of familial/private/religious ceremonies/functions,military ‘supervision/regulation’ of daily pursuits/livelihoods of citizens,assaults of citizens by police and military with no subsequent judicial inquiries,’grabbing’ of privately owned lands for ‘religious’ & other purposes,prevention of IDPs and others from returning to their homes under many pretexts such as ‘high escurity zones,holding of thousands in custody for months and years without trial,nurturing ‘paramilitary’ gunmen who prey on citizens,arrests of citizens on unsubastantiated charges of “having had contact” with LTTE,and, arrest of failed asylum seekers who tried to escape from the country to avoid these,& who were repatriatd from abroad.
    The international community are aware of these.
    This was why the Commonwealth Secretariat proposed the appointment of a Commonwealth Commissioner for Human Rights at the recent Commonweath Heads of Governmets Meeting.
    This was vetoed by the majority of members of the Commonwealth.
    The full implmentation of the LLRC Report,which will prevent future human rights violations,will be welcomed by all.

    • Ward

      HR commission was proposed by Eminent Persons Group, not by the Secretariat. The Secretary General had been telling a few months uo to the time the EPG report was out that when (opprssive) governments ask for help only the Commonwealth will do anything and that the Commonwealth wouldn’t tell them what to do.

  • Haris

    Yes indeed, this is a very nice piece of thoughtful work. It is essential that the present govt. use the opportunity won in 2009 to create a peaceful environment for the people of all races, castes, faiths, sexual orientations, short and tall, fat and skinny, to co-exist and progress in Sri Lanka.

    Power sharing is not a concept which should be entertained if we are only talking about Sinhala and Tamil. Whatever it is it should be an internal discussion and soul searching where the international players have no right participate. Universal declaration of human rights is fine but all universal may not necessarily suit all countries and societies. Armed uprisings against democratically elected or other governments should be avoided at all costs. Societies govern themselves differently. Changes if required should be ushered in gradually to avoid havoc.

    In our case it does not seem that US is really concerned about the Tamils or any other. Their aim is to retard the growth of India and China, and we happen to be on their path of ‘modus operendi’.

    It is amazing that the worst violators of human rights are shedding crocodile tears for the Tamils.

    As long as SL stands by her true friends and listen to them objectively we should do fine in the international arena. We have to work at these relationships continually rather than appealing to them only when there is a need to wade off the ‘invaders’.

    It took this long for us to get a government who has clear? goals. They have to sell the goal to all citizens of the country and go for it without turning back.

    • Ward

      Haris

      1.”Universal declaration of human rights is fine but all universal may not necessarily suit all countries and societies”:
      Can you point out which part of UDHR contradicts which part of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or Christianity? Which part of UDHR is not suitable for Sri Lanka or any other individual country? Why does Sri Lanka send ”UN peacekeeping forces” to other countries? Only to earn foreign exchange?

      ii.What has the declaration of Poya Days done to us? What has the endless pirith ceremonies done to us? What have the ever-increasing number of Buddha statues and temples doing to us? What is the Ministry of Buddhasasana for? What can we learn from the last 64 years when we have been in charge of ruling the country ourselves? A great deal of internal discussion and soul searching on these is urgently needed.

      2.”Armed uprisings against democratically elected or other governments should be avoided at all costs”:
      Good governance of any elected or unelected government can avoid uprisings to a considerable extent.

      3.”They have to sell the goal to all citizens of the country and go for it without turning back”:

      What happened to Rajapakses’ election manifestos(as well as to those of their predecessors)?

      Sinhalese leaders have taken the country down their path for 64 years, appointing ”commissions” – these have not been given in the manifestos but have been cropping up as the need to ward off international pressure at intergovernmental bodies.

      4.There is no possibility in sight for a change:
      “If I make any devolutionary concessions to the Tamils, 13A Plus, Minus, Divided or Subtracted, it will be curtains for me,” 15 June 2011 – http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers46/paper4558.html

      • Haris

        Ward,
        1. Universal declaration of Human Rights:
        This is a complex matter which could be explained with examples: In Afghanistan after creating all the mayhem, death and destruction, finally the Khasai/US administration seem to give in to the Taliban demand that ‘women are not equal to men’, in simple terms. The declaration of HR is presuming that all human beings on Earth think alike. It fails to understand the cultural practices and tradition. One day we will get there, only with education and making them believing in our logic. We have no right to beat upon other cultures to do things as we do, and believe as we do. Would it surprise you that in Switzerland the women got the right to vote in 1975 and in some cantons women still are not allowed to vote?

        2. Talking about religious holidays, one should understand that the rulers are trying to identify with the masses. Declaring the good Fridays, Christmas, etc. as holidays have not done anything for the Christians to behave better like Poya Days have not had the same effect on Buddhists. What you observe with the statues etc., is the people pushing back on the injustices which the Sinhala community had endured under the Portuguese, Dutch, and British. I suggest that you examine how the British violated all agreement they signed with the Sinhala during their tenure.

        3. There is no government in the world with which all the inhabitants in that domain are happy with. Almost all elections have an unfair advantage on the incumbent. Remember the ‘hanging chad’ affair in FL when Bush got elected? Canada at present is having a ‘Robo call’ scandal where the govt. has no means of explaining. Why is the West always finding problems with elections in other countries? With 64% approval rate Putin is not acceptable to the West and we encourage the minority to rise up. If they got shot at they have provoked the govt. to get them to the point they want. Case to UNHRC! Meanwhile the Wall Street protesters were removed by force and violently by the Canadian govt. Where is AI? Where were they during the FLQ uprising and JVP uprising?

        4. The MR govt. has done remarkably well compared to all others we had in the immediate past. The rest of the Western world has and are putting many road blocks instead of helping them. MR should have been nominated for the Nobel Prize instead of giving it to Obama. Mind you the prize is to commemorate the person who invented dynamite!

        5. Sinhala leaders are all you will have in Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future. Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe was the last of the Tamil leaders. If Tamils aspire to get there learn Sinhala and work with the people for that common goal. If separate country is their aspiration based on language or ethnicity, they should look towards Tamil Nadu.

        6. 13th amendment in any form should not be tolerated.

  • mil

    In America the truth does not necessarily prevail. If you are to deal with Americans you need Americans and done it the American way. That is where the GOSL has failed. Yes, you could hire a couple of lobbyist but we need to recruit some bright American born Sri Lankans too. Over the years I have observed all kinds of Sri Lankan foreign representatives come and go. Most are unacquainted with the American culture, way of life, geography, history, social behavior, humor or you name anything related to America. Does anyone expect positive outcomes?
    My first concern, whose decision was to name this commission LLRC? The worst possible nomenclature for the situation on hand especially, dealing with the Americans. For them this is nothing but acceptance of guilt. GOSL needs to learn some things from the Israelis. I am yet to see Israelis promoting their views with non-American accents in public media. The time is ripe for the GOSL to drop old habits and use foreign born Sri Lankans as representatives to their own countries. All these sound superficial, but living in the West for over 25 years this is what really counts.

  • Velu Balendran

    Could SL have comprehensively won the war without the overt and covert support of the West; particularly without the US? Can someone quantify how much in aid, how much in arms, how much in diplomacy, military intelligence and over how many years the west poured $$$ helping SL? (There are still a few LTTE cadres in American jails who were proscribed in the late 90s when SL was doing all kinds of deals with them). And in the ‘Post-American’ world if the US lacks legitimacy, why would their ‘war-on-terror’ and ‘terrorist group’ terminology be borrowed to de-legitimise a liberation movement of the oppressed? The LTTE lost the war because of the West; especially the US and GoSL won it because of them. Be grateful and acknowledge the help received.

    It is an open secret that no one is seriously interested in human rights (except perhaps Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela). If not – 3 years and counting – where are the telephone transcripts of Gota and satellite imagery of the genocide? The drama being played in UNHRC – one of the stages – is more to do with setting up the pecking order in the geopolitics of the region than anything else; whatever ‘phlia’ one may want to call. Therefore, India will resist American moves – “not in my backyard where I am boss” – to the liking of SL! But say yes to American Hegemony and US will save you in Geneva or anywhere forever. After all it such an innocuous resolution! And as the outgoing US ambassador says, SL is America’s friend. There are no two words about that. That is why, unlike the languishing LTTE cadres, few Rajapaksas are not in detention! This is just a storm in a teacup. Cheer up. There is really no Geneva-problem.

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      C’mon Velu Balendran, are you trying to tell us that CBK and Ranil couldn’t have secured more Western military aid to crush the LTTE than did MR?

      If they did not, what does that say about them?

      Conversely if the bulk of the Western military material was already available during CBK’s tenure — as General Fonseka said in his election campaign– why didn’t she use it to defeat the LTTE?

      • Velu Balendran

        Dayan, we all know the reason you like to play ball only with MR and nobody else. :-) Carry on.

        But don’t pretend you don’t know that America will fully engage and play ball with anyone – including Satan itself or its lesser avatars (MR, RW, CBK…?) – provided they are in power; personalities and preferences being secondary.

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      Dear Kalana, you quote Ganguly et al who in their Summer 2009 essay noted “… Sri Lanka’s ability to gain Chinese and Indian support in the [UNHRC] to defeat Western-backed resolutions…”

      It must be added that such support is not axiomatic and was absent when an SL candidate made a run for the UN S-G post just a year or two before, and failed to secure the support of either China or India (or, to put it differently, obtained the support of neither China nor India).

      So, Ganguly et al were right when they wrote of ‘Sri Lanka’s ability to gain…’

  • http://tagnos.wordpress.com Agnos

    No matter how many pathetic arguments—such as the alleged hypocrisy of the US—that the so-called Sinhalese “moderates” come up with in underhanded defense of the criminal Lankan regime, they know that having indulged in the most atrocious crimes, including abductions, torture, mass murders, bombings, shellings, ransom and rape, they have no chance of being taken seriously by anyone who knows about Sri Lanka. The arguments of the regime and its diplomats like Dayan Jayatilleka, all so rotten to the core, simply cause derisive laughter.

    • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

      ‘Derisive laughter’ where and among whom, Agnos?

      Not among the 97% of Lankans that the LMD poll identified, nor the 65% that voted for Putin, so itsperhaps among the 3% in Sri Lanka and the 7% who voted for pro-West ‘liberals’ in Russia? :))

  • B. Jaya

    One of the recommendation made in the LLRC report (9.28 to 9.32 in page 334)needs consideration by the UNHCR members. The recommendation quoted;

    9.28
    As the unprecedented Sri Lankan experience has demonstrated, where the non state armed group has no intention whatsoever of agreeing to a negotiated declaration of such Zones providing for civilian protection and once unilaterally declared by the State, utilize them to advance its combat strategy and operations (for example, using civilians within the Zone as human shields), the State and Field Commanders are faced with the dilemma of protecting civilians on the one hand and neutralizing the enemy fire power emanating from within the NFZ, on the other.

    9.29
    The Sri Lankan experience has in fact given rise to a debate as to whether, by unilateral declaration of a No Fire Zone, the Government unwittingly provided the LTTE an opportunity to consolidate itself amongst the civilian enclave for strategic purposes.

    9.30
    A host of such difficult issues arise, including the question of verification of actions of non state armed groups in relation to compliance with IHL requirements relating to the preservation of the sanctity of No Fire Zones. The development of appropriate standards and procedures to deal with such situations becomes an imperative need in addressing contemporary challenges to the existing IHL regime in internal conflict situations.

    9.31
    The careful construction of a legal framework governing conflicts between States and non state armed groups as in the case of general principles of international law governing inter- state conflicts taking into account all the complexities and challenges posed by internal conflicts as described in Chapter 4 could provide the answer in ensuring greater compliance with IHL principles by the non state armed groups. These complex issues of contemporary relevance to the application of IHL must engage the immediate attention of the international community of States and relevant international organizations such as the UN and the ICRC, so that appropriate legal instruments are put in place to fill the existing lacunae in IHL in its application to internal conflicts.

    9.32
    This is a clear lesson that could be learnt from the Sri Lanka conflict spanning 30 years causing the tragic loss of innocent human lives. Formulating an effective legal framework drawing from these experiences is a clear obligation that the International Community owes to all victims of conflict.

    • Panabokke

      What has been going on after the war is worse than what has been going on in the previous 61 years. If people are oppressed for a long time they are bound to commit all sorts of atrocities. The government has the duty to serve all citizens justice and thereafter there won’t be any whimper from the UN or anybody. If there is no will to be just to our fellow citizens, we will go on forever like this:

      http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/139
      National integration is still where it was when Prabhakaran’s body was found at Nandhikkadal, Somapala Gunadheera(retired top civil servant), 2 May 2011 ‘’If we are wise, we should first put our own house in order before we challenge the UN…. It is not yet too late to begin. The mission needs a powerful Presidential Task Force for National Reconciliation. Such a Force can cut the ground from under the feet of the ongoing controversy and many more to be expected.’’

      http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/213
      Osama and Prabhakaran: The killing of two terrorist leaders, Harim Pieris(retired top civil servant), 5 May 2011: ‘’However the West’s war on terror and specifically its war on Al Queda have been complimented by a dialogue and outreach to the Muslim world. Similarly Sri Lanka’s own war on terror, concluded now almost two years ago, must also be complemented and succeeded by dialogue and an outreach through friendship to the Tamil community”.

      • Dan Herath

        64-yr humiliation of our fellow beings continues unabated.

      • Dan Herath

        ”we will go on forever like this”:

        Sri Lanka is not at all tired of damage control for decades at the UN.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Dear Sarath, I did: you, for sure. :)

    • Sirisena

      School kids around here.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Dear Burning Issue,

    What on earth has ethnicity got to do with it?

    If you pass 1 and 5, you definitely qualify as Diaspora, be it domestic or external :))

    Though that would indeed correspond mostly with and to the Tamil Tea Party movement mindset, a few Sinhalese would be in there as well, so as I said, ethnicity has nothing to do with it while psychology, politics and ideology do. If in Moscow, they would be with Navalny, not Putin or Zyuganov.

    • Burning_Issue

      Dear Dr DJ,

      So I am a domestic/external Diaspora! Certainly I am; whether I am a pro Sri Lankan state in a true sense of the word or am I a wounded separatist is the question.

      If I am a wounded Separatist, I would say that MR is worse than Prabha. In reality, I think that Prabha was a single minded fanatic who spared no one whoever stood in his way. He possessed cold blooded rigidity that allowed him to send young vulnerable people on suicide missions. Whereas, MR sends white van squads to eliminate those pose threat to him. He cares two hoots about the welfares of the Sri Lankans regardless of ethnicity, but solely concerned about his political longevity and dynasty building. I would let you judge who is better. Of course, MR would not last thirty years that is for sure!

      I never contributed to separatism in any shape or form; I loathed killings. Naturally, I would want to know why so many killings took place; in retrospective, would there have been any other ways that the killings could have been minimised. What did the LTTE do; did they fire at the civilians; were there acts of rape etc. There is nothing wrong whatsoever for one to ask these questions regardless of one is a Tamil, Sinhala, or Muslim.

      If I were to honestly believe that RW is a better leader and much suitable post war in terms of managing the economy and forging reconciliation, I would incline to support him.

      If I were to draw to your attention that the Great Churchill (not in my eyes) won the Second World War, the Battle of Britain, and yet, the British people elected a Labour government post war! Churchill was a great war time leader and not suited for social justice! Clearly, 3 years on, MR has proved that he has miserably failed in building a nation; all pointers tell me that he has no intention but creating a monolithic Sinhala Buddhist State. So, if one does not support his vision, one will fall foul to your test!

      • yapa

        99% agree with you.

        Thanks!

    • Tony

      Sinhalese Party mindset:

      K.Godage to LLRC, 15 September 2010: ”Now I must tell you of a very, very sad, bad and dangerous situation. We have in our prisons over 2000 young Tamil men. Some of them have been taken on suspicion. Just picked up and taken. In detention without charges for years, Sir, for years ….’’

      Elmore Perera to LLRC, 10 November 2010: Tamils were treated as being sub-human. Many of those who could leave the country by lawful or even unlawful means did so. Those who remained were subjected to arbitrary, humiliating treatment. Rounding up of 30 to 40 Tamil youth on Friday evenings, producing them before Magistrates to be remanded, and later releasing them on bail, after they had paid lawyers Rs1,000/- each for this purpose, was a regular occurrence in many parts of the city. Tamils, who could readily be identified as such from their National Identity Cards, were at the mercy of the law-enforcement agencies which arbitrarily enforced even laws of their own making.”

      Allergy to analysis and historical amnesia in Sri Lanka, Dayan Jayatilleka, 17 October 2010:
      ”… The Bandaranaike administration(1956-9) sowed the dragon’s teeth and it took Mahinda Rajapakse(2005-) to slay the marauding dragon, with all the corollaries and consequences that entailed. … Dozens of Tamil youth were imprisoned under Emergency for years, for the crime of hoisting black flags against the promulgation of the ’72 Constitution. …” – http://www.groundviews.org/2010/10/17/an-allergy-to-analysis-and-historical-amnesia-in-sri-lanka/#comments

      • Neville Perera

        ”The Bandaranaike administration(1956-9) sowed the dragon’s teeth and it took Mahinda Rajapakse(2005-) to slay the marauding dragon”:

        So, the atrocities of the last three years sowed Tamil Tea Party movement mindset ??

      • yapa

        Don’t be naive to quote selected opinions from here and there. Form your own opinions back them with facts and evidence and argue.

        That is what is known as fair play.

        Thanks!

  • Dan Herath

    What action is being taken by UNESCO now with respect to

    1.The Two Faces of Education in Ethnic Conflict: Towards a Peacebuilding Education for Children – Kenneth D Bush and Diana Saltarelli(2000) – published by Innocenti Research Centre, UNICEF:
    ”Ethnic intolerance makes it appearance in the classroom in many ways…… Textbooks have often been shown to contain negative ethnic stereotypes…..
    UNESCO has recently concluded that the tendency of history textbooks to exalt nationalism and address territorial disputes correlates with the xenophobia and violence found in many countries today. What is taught in history class and how it is taught is highly political and can foster either animosity or peace. A review of the textbooks used in the segregated schools of Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 1980s, for example, found Sinhalese textbooks scattered with images of Tamils as the historical enemies of the Sinhalese, while celebrating ethnic heroes who had vanquished Tamils in ethnic wars. Ignoring historical fact, these textbooks tended to portray Sinhalese Buddhists as the only true Sri Lankans, with Tamils, Muslims and Christians as non- indigenous and extraneous to Sri Lankan history. This version of national history according to one commentator, has been deeply divisive in the context of the wider state.”

    2.Why education matters for global security, Irina Bokova(Director General, UNESCO), 1 March 2011: ‘’ Education must rise on the agenda of peace building. We know the wrong type of education can fuel conflict. The use of education systems to foster hatred has contributed to the underlying causes of conflicts, from Rwanda to Sri Lanka, but also in Guatemala and Sudan.’’

    3.UNESCO Director General says enormous scientific potential in Sri Lanka, 10 May 2011:
    ”Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Sri Lanka to UNESCO, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka stated that at this ‘plastic moment’ in the country’s history, UNESCO was the right organization, with its mandate to build peace in the minds of men and women, to step forward and support Sri Lanka in her efforts of national reconciliation.”

  • Dan Herath

    Educators, please note:

    1.The Two Faces of Education in Ethnic Conflict: Towards a Peacebuilding Education for Children – Kenneth D Bush and Diana Saltarelli(2000) – published by Innocenti Research Centre, UNICEF: ”Under conditions of inter-ethnic tension, national elites often force teachers to follow curricula or use textbooks that either homogenize diversity and difference or worse, present it as a threat to be feared and eliminated. … But educators and political actors have an obligation to recognize and address such issues in a more concerted and systematic manner than has been the case in the past.”

    2.http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/01/why_sirimavo_refused_to_visit.html
    Why Sirimavo refused to visit Jaffna after 1964 cyclone By Neville Jayaweera, 18 January 2009:
    ”…. Building a consciousness of nationhood is not a responsibility that can be left to politicians and constitutional lawyers. …. It is pre-eminently an educational task, to be initiated at the level of our schools. ….”

    3. http://www.llrc.lk/images/stories/Justice__C_G_Weeramantry_-_29.11.2010.pdf
    Justice C. G. Weeramantry tells LLRC, 29 November 2010:
    ” Peace education is an imperative at this stage of our national history ….”

  • Pandukabaya de Silva

    Excellent analysis kalana

  • Sirisena

    Dear Sri Lankan Ambassadors and Cabinet Ministers,

    Please read the statement by Justice Minister of Mazambique to UNHRC on 27 February 2012:
    https://extranet.ohchr.org/sites/hrc/HRCSessions/RegularSessions/19thSession/OralStatements/6.Minister%20of%20justice,%20Mozambique,%20H.E.%20Ms.%20Maria%20Benvinda%20Levi.pdf

  • Neville Perera

    ”Geneva Problem” = ANY ”state” has a place at the UN = NO oppressed people have a place at the UN:
    Leo Kuper in Prevention of Genocide( 1985 ) commented on the failure of the United Nations Sub Commission on Human Rights to condemn the genocide of July 1983 on the Tamil People: “….there were also political currents observable in the alignment of members, though I could not altogether fathom the geo political considerations involved. In the end a very mild resolution was passed calling for information from the Sri Lanka government and recommending that the commission examine the situation at the next meeting in the light of the information available. There was, however, only a bare majority for the resolution (10 for, 8 against and 4 abstaining). It is unfortunate that the United Nations did not take a firm stand at this stage…” That even this mild resolution adopted on 5 September 1983, calling upon Sri Lanka to provide information was opposed by 8 states with another 4 abstaining is not without significance ….”

    • yapa

      Why are you referring an old event? Any intention of misguiding it as the present one to make a confusion? Otherwise what is the relevance? The present one has not yet been debated and don’t think a result should be same as ever.

      Thanks!

      • Neville Perera

        Yapa

        It’s to show that the trend has been consistently damage-controlling, with no political will to be fair to ALL the citizens.

        The call for war crimes investigation would not have arisen at all if the world could see that there is a change in the way the ethnic minorities are treated by the government.

        It looks as though only a miracle will change the mindset of the South.

      • Buddhika

        ”Any intention of misguiding it as the present one to make a confusion?”??
        Who is confusing whom?
        There has been increase in oppression of ethnic minorities in the last 64 yrs and in parallel there has been damage control at the UN in the form of ”appointing commissions” for decades. How many commissions has this President appointed in the last 6+ yrs?
        APRC, CoI,APcDR, LLRC, PSC, …. without any shame.

      • yapa

        Dear Buddhika;

        “There has been increase in oppression of ethnic minorities in the last 64 yrs and………..”

        This just a one party opinion. Why not listen to the opinion of the other party? They allege that the “terrorist or terrorist like activities of one of the minorities had been rising even before that period.

        On the other hand, if oppression has been increasing, did you make any effort to find why it is so, rather than just forming arbitrary one party opinions? You think that particular minority has been a innocent pussy cat in the past 64 years you referred to?

        I would be grateful if you can be a bit realistic.

        Thanks!

      • yapa

        Dear Neville Perera;

        “It looks as though only a miracle will change the mindset of the South.”

        It will never change with the present hostile attitude you all are having, and with the endeavour you all are having with that particular mind set. Indirectly, you don’t want to change what you all are crying for.

        Unless your attitudes are changed, the attitude you are hoping to change also will not change.

        You cannot change everything according to your will alone by threatening or manipulating along with foreign elements hostile towards the country. You cannot expect to run races with rabbits while hunting with hounds.

        Thanks!

  • Barr Ratwatte

    If the LTTE had to be slayed, what should be done to those who keep sowing the seeds of dragons?

    http://www.channel4.com/info/press/programme-information/sri-lankas-killing-fields-war-crimes-unpunished
    Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished
    Wednesday 14th March, 10:55pm, Channel 4

  • Buddhika

    Yapa
    ”Unless your attitudes are changed, the attitude you are hoping to change also will not change” reminds of the tale of the Wolf and the Lamb: A Wolf and a Lamb are drinking water from a rivulet flowing down with the Wolf on the upper region and the Lamb on the lower region and the Wolf accuses the Lamb of stirring the mud in the water.

    • yapa

      Wasn’t it Tiger and Lamb, Buddhika?

      Ha! Ha!!

      Thanks!

  • Buddhika

    Yapa
    ”fair play” is good governance by the numerically greater ethnicity that controls the reins and rudder:

    Each and every Government which held office from 1948 till the present bear culpability for the failure to achieve good governance, national unity and a framework of peace, stability and economic development in which all ethnic, religious and other groups could live in security and equality. We need to rectify this bad governance. We have already missed several opportunities in the past. We need to have State reform; we need to have rule of law established; we need to ensure non-discrimination amongst our citizens; we need to have devolution of power and a tolerance of dissent and a strengthening of democratic institutions.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Of possible interest to the reader:

    Sajith defies Ranil, attacks US resolution
    March 12, 2012, 10:21 pm

    By Shamindra Ferdinando

    In the wake of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to remain noncommittal on the current United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva, where the government is battling a US-led resolution, UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa says that there is absolutely no basis for Western efforts to confront Sri Lanka over alleged accountability issues.

    Responding to a query by The Island, MP Premadasa yesterday said that those pursuing Sri Lanka on the human rights front had conveniently forgotten that they could intervene in affairs of a member state only when international peace and security were threatened. In fact Sri Lanka had eradicated a terrorist group, which posed a grave danger to global security, particularly international shipping routes, the Hambantota District MP said. Had the situation in Sri Lanka got out of hand, the international community would have faced a situation similar to the crisis in Somali waters, where several powerful navies were struggling to contain pirates, he said. The global community should appreciate Sri Lanka’s efforts against terrorism, particularly in the wake of 9/11, he said.

    The UNP reformist group would take a strong pro-Sri Lanka position in the face of what he called unsubstantiated allegations made by interested parties.

    Political sources said that the UNP was sharply divided over the Geneva issue, with the Reformists wanting to oppose Western interference.

    Premadasa said: “We are a sovereign country. Our territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence cannot be undermined on the pretext of protecting human rights.”

    Asked whether he was speaking on behalf of the party, MP Premadasa said that he couldn’t keep quiet when an obvious attempt was being made to destabilise the country and cause chaos. Due to negligence, waste and corruption, those struggling to make ends meet hadn’t received any tangible assistance, though the war had ended almost three years back, he said.

    MP Premadasa said that the Rajapaksa administration had failed to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.

    Referring to the US-resolution, the UNP Deputy Leader said that there couldn’t be any moral or legal justification for any country or a group of countries to intervene in Sri Lanka.

    The MP said that Sri Lanka’s war against terrorism shouldn’t be a political issue, whatever the differences they had with the government. The country had no option but to defeat the LTTE through military means as it rejected efforts made by successive governments to settle the national issue, he said. “Don’t forget the LTTE quit the negotiating table in April 2003 after six rounds of talks at various overseas venues. Only the LTTE could have avoided war. The majority of those upset about Sri Lanka’s success did nothing to avert war. None of them at least bothered to issue press statements condemning the LTTE for withdrawing from the Norwegian-led peace process in April 2003 or opposed the use of children as cannon fodder.”