The Geneva II debacle

Photo courtesy Vikalpa, from protest against US resolution in Colombo, 27 February 2012

The US-sponsored resolution at the UNHRC had to be defeated. It was not. 24 in favour, 15 against, 8 abstained. Hearts are broken, glasses are shattered, the ‘gods’ have ignored our prayers, there is madness surrounding us; 2012, we are now sure, is when the world comes to an end.

But that was yesterday. Today, the morning after, is once again cold; we need to pick up the pieces, mend our hearts, move on. And there are questions too: what is this resolution? How did we perform? Is it all India’s fault? Where did we go wrong? Are we to be blamed? What now?

Resolution L.2: From US, with love

The resolution titled ‘Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka’ has, during the process of the UNHRC session, undergone considerable change. From being an intrusive and arrogant one sponsored by the US, it now appears rather soft, innocent and caring. The US troops will not be in Sri Lanka tomorrow, no travel or trade embargoes are imposed. The object and purpose is to get the recommendations of the LLRC implemented.

But resolutions, like many other documents, can be interpreted differently. The manner in which it is interpreted depends on the interpreter’s own political predilections. There are numerous objects and purposes; some which are mentioned, some which are not. Interpretations change over time. And that is why all or most interpretations offered today have the potential of appearing to be accurate, or will prove to be accurate, in the future.

For instance, to make the resolution appear soft, the US and other promoters of the resolution can highlight the point that it is only about the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. They can stress in this regard, that they welcome the constructive recommendations of the LLRC, that technical assistance is to be provided “in consultation with, and with the concurrence of” the Sri Lankan Government; that its all about requests and encouragement, etc; that there is nothing intrusive, sovereignty is therefore not violated. There is love.

But others would dispute this. There’s another interpretation which states; that there is no mention of the LTTE which is astounding; that some recommendations are being termed ‘constructive’ because the sponsors have also included their own ‘constructive’ recommendations in place of the not-so-constructive recommendations of the LLRC; that it further internationalizes internal affairs of the State by reference to, for example, provincial-level devolution; that the phrase “requests the Office of the High Commissioner to present a report on the provision of such assistance to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-second session” implies in practice, assistance will need to be obtained; that it is not only about implementing the recommendations but also about taking “additional steps to address alleged violations of international law.”  This kind of interpretation, certain elements within the liberal camp would say, is pure nonsense.

But why is it not? Why do both interpretations seem accurate? Why and how can the former interpretation slide towards the latter, and the latter, in turn, appear to be the accurate one?

It is simply because the latter is, firstly, what the promoters of the resolution do not stress in their interpretations. It is the other half of the ‘truth’. Secondly, it is because the latter interpretation is that which will be adopted if the Government does not implement the LLRC recommendations. Promoters of the resolution will find it difficult to stick to the former interpretation if no action is taken; and with that the entire appearance of the resolution, its object and purpose, will begin to change. And with that change will come the following reminder: that the resolution did note “with concern that the [LLRC] report does not adequately address serious allegations of violations of international law.” The gentle touch and caress now feels like a punch; love turns into agony.

All this is not difficult to understand, of course. It is just that admitting the above makes the promotion of the resolution difficult. But also, this is where the politics of human rights, and the politics of the US, come into play. My point here is not an endorsement of the entirety of the observation made by the SL Representative in Geneva, that: the resolution “reflects a blatant case of politicization that takes the Council hostage to the hidden agendas of the mighty.” The UNHRC, being an inter-State body, is obviously political, and as Professor Makau Mutua once questioned at the American Society of International Law: “How can you politicize that which is political?” It is obvious.

Rather, my argument is that it is necessary to understand that there are “hidden agendas” (and of course, all actors have hidden agendas) of the “mighty” the US. States such as the US have better things to do, than to run around the UNHRC to obtain votes from this or that country to get a resolution passed. And when a super-power such as the US and its allies introduce such a resolution and canvass support, they sure know what they are up to (and up against), diplomatically, politically and even legally.

So there needs to be a more holistic appreciation of the politics underlying the adoption of the resolution. It is said to be a first step towards reconciliation; it is also a first step towards other things unmentioned and unmentionable. In other words: there is love, but it’s not unconditional love.

And yet, to conclude: the challenge is to move on, and that second type of interpretation mentioned above need not worry a Government too much if there is a genuine willingness to implement the LLRC-recommendations.

Performing at the UNHRC

We all know that the UNHRC is about human rights (also, human rights formalism), about international law, about bureaucracy, rules, regulations, procedures and technicalities. But it is far more interesting too. The UNHRC is also about politics, about feelings, about anger and frustration, about the ‘West’, the ‘Third World’, about drama and performance. Like all UN bodies, the UNHRC is a grand stage. It is where the language of international law and human rights is craftily used by actors to articulate their myriad grievances; where the beautiful hypocrisy of actors is played out; where we imagine that human rights problems get resolved; where performance does matter. But unlike in 2009 (Geneva-I), ‘performance’ was not Sri Lanka’s strong point in 2012.

At times, grand theoretical expositions are unnecessary to detect and understand the underlying problems of a country, its diplomatic approach or its foreign policy. What Sri Lanka’s diplomatic approach is, what its image is, where Sri Lanka wants to go and where it is going – are questions for which answers were provided in those few minutes during which Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe spoke. Where, for instance, was the Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva? Instead, why so many local politicians and Parliamentarians? A Minister leading the way, a not-so-comfortable looking Foreign Minister behind him, an accused Minister close by, a former Attorney General to the left, and a couple of more politicians in front: a sight which does absolutely nothing in terms of changing the attitude and foreign policies of other countries (at least in a positive or pro-Sri Lankan way, and that too, just minutes before the vote was taken); a sight which doesn’t inspire confidence.

And of course, this told us what we had known already: about the lack of autonomy, and perhaps influence, wielded by those who are meant to conduct matters of foreign policy in the diplomatic arena; the utter waste of resources given the futile presence of so many politicians in Geneva, not to forget the sheer waste of their time; also, the irresponsibility and the disregard shown for accountability in including certain individuals accused of crimes and with that, the inability and unwillingness to understand how strategically and diplomatically counter-productive it is to include them in delegations to the UNHRC, especially when matters of human rights and the implementation of the LLRC-recommendations are being discussed.

What of the message? Of course, given that the UNHRC is a stage, ‘mega-phone’ diplomacy is not essentially bad if the big and powerful have difficulty in listening to and respecting the concerns of the small and the weak. But much depends not on ‘sound’ alone, but substance too. And in this regard, what Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had to say did sound unfortunate at times: it almost implied that there will be no reconciliation in Sri Lanka if the resolution is adopted. As he said: “This resolution if adopted will not add value to the implementation process in Sri Lanka; on the contrary, it may well be counter-productive and, as such, those who have been using extreme pressure tactics in garnering support for this ill-timed and unwarranted initiative should be mindful of the responsibility that accompanies it.”

It was also said: “If this proposed intrusion is accepted by this Council, no domestic process would be free to deliver on its mandate unimpeded. Instead, a superimposition of an external mechanism would become the order of the day.” While external mechanisms should not become the order of the day, the problem here is that Sri Lanka has institutions which have not freely delivered for quite sometime. More importantly, that ability to deliver freely has been retarded by certain legal and constitutional developments that took place after May 2009.

Tackling ‘Incredible India’: SL foreign/domestic policy

Geneva-II was also about votes, numbers and mathematical calculations. The way the members voted, their reasons for voting for, against or abstaining, are known. In all this, India did have a major role to play. And in ‘post-Geneva II’, Sri Lanka confronts some significant questions which reaffirm the importance of understanding that inextricable relationship between domestic and foreign policy.

One such question is the ‘Indian factor'; strengthening ties with India. Much depends on how we perceive India now, its role in the region and the wider world, its past and present, and our willingness to understand that not all actors are either black or white.

To begin with, the capitulation was significant. Pressured by Tamil Nadu, India went from being a country which was against country-specific resolutions to supporting a country-specific resolution. The structure of political argument, between India and Sri Lanka, now becomes fascinating. Sri Lanka thinks that India voted against her; India states that it was in fact a vote in support of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka, before the vote, stated that India is a responsible member and will vote accordingly given their understanding of the ancient and historical ties; India has now voted (the way responsible members do!) and having done so informs in turn, that Sri Lanka understands why India did so given their long and traditional relationship. Coalition partners of the Sri Lankan Government state that India’s support for the resolution contradicts its (India’s) own foreign policy; but India can reply that it is India’s business to decide what her foreign policy is after all.

How then do we proceed?

There is a lot of anti-Indian sentiment generated everywhere. That cannot be prevented easily. Already, demands have been made by local politicians to re-think the nature of Sri Lanka’s economic ties with India. India, people will not forget, is well capable of making life ‘difficult’ for Sri Lanka, as history will teach you. There is of course the language of diplomacy: Sri Lanka and India are the best of friends; we are like brothers; ours is a historic relationship; it is a special understanding, a very unique relationship, etc, etc. And yet, India is no innocent bystander.

But playing the ‘China-card’ will not always ensure success. India is a geopolitical reality. A balance needs to be struck. As the late Lakshman Kadirgamar once stated: “… ideally the Tamil question within our polity should be so managed as to preclude the need for Indian concern, far less involvement. However, it would be wholly unrealistic for anyone to claim that under no circumstances could India have a legitimate concern with the management of certain aspects of our internal affairs” (Speech delivered at the Hindustan Leadership Seminar, Dec., 2003).

If then, there is a need to understand not only the complexity of SL-India ties, but the very complexity that is ‘India’; its own secessionist problems; the ‘Tamil Nadu factor’; India’s own strategic objectives, such as gaining membership in a restructured and reformed UN Security Council; about how such geopolitical goals bring India and US closer; and how that partnership, in turn, affects SL-India, and SL-US ties, etc.

Along with that, what also needs to be appreciated is the fact that India is not only capable of making life ‘difficult’ for the Sri Lankan Government, but also, making it ‘comfortable'; as it did in numerous ways during the last stages of the war, and especially diplomatically, especially in Geneva, 2009. That relationship which was strengthened during the last stages of the war, well harnessed and further developed in Geneva-2009 (we remember the support of the Indian Representative in Geneva even after the Special Session concluded) should not have been undermined.

And this latter kind of external relationship can only be maintained if internal policies within Sri Lanka are geared towards addressing the questions of power-sharing and the protection of the rights of Tamil people, especially in the North and the East, in a more sincere and serious manner. Sri Lanka either has to ensure that the political promises made to India are kept [especially regarding the implementation of the 13th Amendment – see, for instance, the ANI report, ‘India feels Lanka has done very little on devolution of power’, 24 March, 2012], or that it is able to move forward peacefully, with sincerity and determination, especially with the Tamil political parties and the TNA, in terms of devising a mechanism of power-sharing which is autochthonous. There are decisions here which Sri Lanka is unwilling to make.

India, then, is neither our best friend nor our worst enemy. Thinking of India in such extreme ways obfuscates the complexities surrounding inter-State relationships, and unnecessarily simplifies the challenge of foreign policy making too. Today, ‘nonalignment’ does not mean that India will always be with Sri Lanka (and against the West) on every conceivable diplomatic and political problem Sri Lanka confronts. That was the old way of thinking. Even the very term ‘nonalignment’, as the former Indian diplomat and politician Mani Shankar Aiyar (MSA) has stated, “was appropriate to a world characterized chiefly by the wooing of the rival superpowers to align with one or the other of their blocs” (MSA, A Time of Transition, p. 257). But after the Cold-War, relationships became much more fluid, much more complex; with such changes, ‘nonalignment’ ceases to become a simple question of voting for or against a State.

Political maturity

In addition, the current situation also demands more maturity in terms of assessing Sri Lanka’s diplomatic debacles.

It is, today, a popular argument (made by the SL Foreign Minister, for example) that Sri Lanka had the support of 23 members (i.e. including the 8 abstentions) of the UNHRC. Spin is fine, and is to be expected from all Governments. But where does this kind of spin take us?

Minister GL Peiris argues, for instance, that an abstention amounts to a vote against the resolution. But of course, the same argument can be raised by the opposing party. The US too has the right to claim that an abstention amounts to a vote for the resolution.

But this argument gets more dangerous, and ignores history. If Sri Lanka is pleased with the current performance, how much more pleased should we be with the result in 2009? To put it differently, how much more worrying should the current performance be, when compared with the solid and overwhelming majority Sri Lanka gained in 2009?

And, in proclaiming that Sri Lanka fought with the US (but didn’t it do the same in 2009?) and got the support of 23 members, the SL Foreign Minister ignores (or forgets) that there has been a serious nosedive from 35 (29 + 6 in 2009, following the logic of Minister Peiris) to 23; forgetfulness or ignorance which is quite dangerous, as it fails to appreciate the kind of degeneration that Sri Lanka’s vote-base at the UNHRC has undergone over the relatively short span of three years. And if this degeneration is not taken seriously, not much effort will be made to mend our own policies and re-build relations with other States.

Security 

Closer to home, there are more problems. There is the continuous labeling of the critic, journalist or human rights activist as ‘LTTE-agent’, ‘Tiger’, ‘terrorist’, ‘separatist’ or ‘traitor’. It is not a novel development, but it takes a far more dangerous twist now with the adoption of the resolution. Also, the time has come when we are exposed to the sight of mad politicians who make public utterances which amount to direct and indirect threats to the lives of journalists and human rights activists. It is highly questionable whether the Government is concerned about such developments. Given the dangerous nature of these threats and the manner in which they seem to be receiving the approval of the public (did we not hear people applauding Minister Mervyn Silva?), the mere condemnation of these utterances and open threats is wholly inadequate.

Debate, argument, and political rivalry are essential and are to be celebrated. But in this case, all this turns dangerous and deadly when critics of a Government who call for accountability, human rights protection and devolution are conveniently labeled and transformed into ‘traitors’ and ‘separatists’. Every criticism becomes a criticism of the State, every critic an enemy of the State; no amount of statements made by such a critic in favour of the need to build a plural, democratic and united Sri Lanka seems convincing to the regime if such an advocate also demands accountability and/or devolution. In such a context, even the rejection of all forms of violence (as Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran has commendably done, in critiquing the armed forces and the LTTE: ‘TNA faults both govt. and LTTE’, Daily Mirror, 21 March, 2012) might not be enough to satisfy the regime. Geneva or no Geneva, the challenge of securing a more tolerant democracy seems to be a gargantuan task.

Moving on

The UNHRC in Geneva may be a place for the great matters of law, human rights, and justice. But it is also a place that makes us feel human; a place for politics, passions, love and joy, agony and tears. It is a place which gives those of us far away (and would you not agree?) that moment to switch on our computers, to watch the live webcast, to have that drink, to shout whatever we liked at those we saw on our screens. And we do this, not because we are less concerned about peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Rather, it is because we know that peace will not come with the beginning or the end of some UNHRC-session, far away in Geneva.

If then, reality should set in. The morning after is as cold as the day before. And after yet another UNHRC-session, we are back to where we were. But then, perhaps before leaving, we might need to answer one more question: we talk about victories and defeat, but who really won or lost in Geneva? It is here then that all those who are less-forgiving would need to engage in the politics of re-imagination. The task is to re-imagine, or better still, to recognize that Geneva is where we all win and lose, and that in every victory there is something to be lost, and that in every defeat, there is something to be won, too. Because after all, we need to be there for each other if progress is to be made. At the moment, we are against ourselves. And that has to be changed.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    A superbly reflective essay, excellently executed. Bravo!

    • Sanaka Samarasinha

      Brilliantly captured.

    • Against Fraud

      Talk about a thoughtful and intelligent analysis being given the kiss of death by a sycophantic and unprincipled opportunist’s praises! That’s what Dayan Jayatilleke’s response to Kalana Senaratne’s intelligent expose amounts to, in case nobody has noticed!

      Dayan, why don’t you go away and lick the wounds that you’ve obviously sustained (self-inflicted?)as a result of being ignored by your Master insofar as the Geneva expedition was concerned this time around? Or was your friend Douglas Devananda standing in for you in Geneva?

      It’s a long way from Christmas, but “Bah, humbug!” comes to mind.

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        Against Fraud,

        Which wounds, I wonder :))

        You obviously haven’t read Kalana’s article closely, with its repeated contrasts between 2009 and 2012 including in the domain of the optics and political theatre :))

        On my watch we got more votes for SL than the US got against it this time, so our 2009 ‘ground record’ stand in sharper than ever relief.

        It is also a fact which has not gone unremarked upon, that I was removed from Geneva shortly after that achievement, with no improvement in votes, to put it mildly. Thus it is also feasible to evaluate the role of the individual as a variable, though obviously it is not the most important one.

        Furthermore, who ever failed to take my advice, that advice is a matter of public record, including on GV, and has certainly stood the test of time.

        So, once again: which wounds? :))

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        Hey Hettiarachchi, you obviously haven’t read the article closely either, with reference to the contrasts between 2009 and 2012.

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        Dear Kalana, it is hardly surprising that the admirable Mr Sumanthiran is much misunderstood when he is given to statements such as the latest one in the Hindu; a statement of the sort, I might add, one never saw from Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam:

        “[Mr. Sumanthiran] said…the TNA MPs were invited by the U.S. State department in October last year to discuss the issue and in January this year he went again to hold talks. “The resolution was the result of those efforts. The U.S. redefined its policy towards Sri Lanka in this period…” he said.

    • Ward

      You’ve changed so much all of a sudden, Ambassador.

      You seem to have read:
      Bassie Head said that she was building a stairway to the stars because she had the authority (=lovable audacity) to take the whole of mankind up to the stars with her – mentioned by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her Commonwealth Lecture, London, 15 March 2012.

      I’ve just read it !

  • PROF. KOPAN MAHADEVA

    I agree whole-heartdly with Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka. This is indeed a balanced and well written report. The key words are Political Maturity and Moving On, with a self-searching and honest outlook, towards a new,
    united and harmonious future. My prayers will always be with ALL IN SL.

  • Piranha

    An excellent analysis of Sri Lanka’s debacle in Geneva.

    It beggars belief that the Sri lankan delegation included a man accused by the LLRC and others of terrible crimes against the tamil people. For this alone Sri lanka deserved to lose.

    India’s decision to support the resolution is twofold – pressure from Tamil Nadu politicians and the Rajapaksa regime going back on the promise given to India regarding implementing 13 plus.The latter was a slap in the face for India and it must have felt that Indian support is being taken for granted again and again by Rajapaksa.

  • Velu Balendran

    Simply superb. Yet to read anything better on Geneva.

  • Mohan

    Since the arrival of Aryanism and Buddhism; our Eelam History is like this. No body likes our Native and Indigenous Skin colour. Aryans and Buddhists portray our Skin Colour as deamon or monster and deserve to be killed. Most of us become Buddhist to escape from killings; but became as low caste Buddhists and have a separate rank. Even European born Politicians don’t come to our Monastry to get ‘blessings’. Our people are urged and forced to join in the Army or Rebels to fight in the front line. All the European and Aryan/Arabian born people are on the top rank in the army or monkhood or politicians.

  • N. Ethirveerasingam

    Excellent observations and analysis. Thank you.

  • Aj

    An absolute gem of an essay. Very rarely you see so much balance in a sri lankan article unlike the so called ones written by dr, professors and liberators. Fantastic piece of work. Well done.

  • Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Well thought, well written,well intended and scrupously objective-journalsm at its best. I repeat here two verses from the Panchatantra, to summarize Kalana essay:

    Panchatantra on the loss of friends:
    1.“The fool who does not know
    His own resource, his foe,
    His duty, time and place,
    Who sets a reckless pace,
    Will by the wayside fall,
    Will reap no fruit at all.”

    2.“What is my place? My time? My friends?
    Expenditure or dividends?
    And what am I? And what my power?
    So must one ponder hour by hour.”

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

    • Lanka Liar

      Dr.Rotnenasingam.
      Don’t you know this is exactly what Mahinda Chindanaya is saying. Not in poetry though. I thought you were reading it before when you were on call to him.

  • Hettiararachi N

    I enjoyed the article very much but was dissappointed to see our maverick sychophant Dayan Jeyatilake approve of it?

    Has the world turned upside down as after the Russian Revolution or is it simply one more instance of crass opportunism by our resident sychophant Dayan!

  • luxmy

    After reading postings by the author I expected something like this would come NOW from him.
    Thank you, Kalana. I like your smooth and strong argument.
    This is what most academics inside Sri Lanka should be firmly telling the people. Failing to do so is watching the government poison the people.

  • luxmy

    All these demonstrations are to hide the unwillingness to implement the LLRC recommendations. So is: “If this proposed intrusion is accepted by this Council, no domestic process would be free to deliver on its mandate unimpeded. Instead, a superimposition of an external mechanism would become the order of the day.”

  • Dayani

    Excellent Kalana! May god protect you so that we can continue reading brilliant works of yours!

  • Nithyananthan

    Wonderful! As finished reading, I sensed a strange feeling as if I was watching a documentary and gliding in the vastness of void and found at last the mystery of ‘Black-Hole’ is revealed. Most is beyond for an average person’s grasp – unbelievable. Mr. Kalana has connected the dots very neatly to unravel the puzzle and exposed the false-teachers and preachers still practicing around. It is a masterpiece of its kind of contemporary Lankan political exposition – a perfect Illustration of the facts set out in series with indisputable high degree of authenticity. Well done, Sir! Let’s walk in Faith to be Hopeful & fruitful! Nithy!

  • Buddhika

    True Buddhist philosophy should and could have avoided all the ugly demonstrations of the last six weeks and the ugly oppression of the last six decades.

    Instead, we have
    i.ministers to lie to our people and
    ii.ambassadors, representatives and delegations (and Presidential addresses to the international audience) lying to the international community: telling them what the international community like to hear while doing the opposite inside the country. What have we been doing from the time we have been having the freedom to run the country in 1948?

    The only way to reverse the trend is for the acdemics to do something about it – instead of burying their heads in sand:

    a. Address by Christine Robichon,Ambassador of France, at the Peradeniya University Research Sessions (PURSE) -2010, 16th December 2010 :After almost 30 years of conflict, it also has to rebuild a Nation, a Sri LankanNation united in its diversity, where communities and individuals feel at ease.For this, there is not much foreign friends can do. This is the responsibilityof Sri Lankan people, their political leadership, in the government and in theopposition, and also their civil society, and this is where academics andresearchers have an important role to play, particularly those who are workingin the fields of history, law, economy, sociology and political sciences.

    b. WhySirimavo 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. A deseeya chintanaya cannot be legislated, nor can it be secured through structural changes. Unlike a jathikacintanaya, whether Sinhala or Dhamila, which have roots reaching back over twothousand years, the seeds of a deseeya cintanaya have yet to be planted.
    It is pre-eminently an educational task, to be initiated at the level of our schools. It requires a new way of looking at history, and helping young mindsclimb out of the constraints placed on their understanding by the sectarianmyths, legends, and memories that are embedded in their ancient chronicles,whether they relate to their Aryan origins or to their Dravidian origins. This does not mean that children should be ignorant of, much less that they should reject, their rich historical inheritance, but that they should acquire a more global view of history and be equipped with a critical sense that will enable them to stand back and look at their respective narratives more objectively…..
    Unless and until Sri Lanka can produce leaders who can realize that truth, and are willing to act on it, it will continue to be dismembered by conflict, long after the LTTE and Pirabhikaran have passed into history.”

    c. John R. Bowen, “The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict,” Journal of Democracy 7.4 (1996) 3-14:
    ”It is fear and hate generated from the top, and not ethnic differences, that finally push people to commit acts of violence” – John R. Bowen, “The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict,” Journal of Democracy 7.4 (1996) 3-14

    d.Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka: Seeking a Transformative Way Out by Ashok K Behuria, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 30, No. 1, Jan-Mar 2006: ‘’…The long drawn out ethno-political conflict in Sri Lanka has been accepted as a serious challenge for scholars, activists, peace-makers and the expanding international community of professionals engaged in conflict-resolution/ management/ transformation …. It is time now, therefore, for scholars and analysts to isolate the issues that contribute to the conflict, to dwell upon the socio-economic and political context that precipitates lasting ethno-political division and to seek a transformative way out of the crisis.’’

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    And more such from Mr Sumanthiran:

    “In an interview to Express, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member,
    Sumanthiran said… On the amendments brought in by India to the resolution, he said they were “redundant and superfluous” as the rules of engagement anyway required the country to accept technical assistance.

    “Also, if Sri Lanka had accepted the resolution in the first place, it would have been a different issue. Now that they haven’t, the amendments make very little difference,” he observed.

    (Express News Service reports).

  • rita

    Debacles are inherent in the government policy of obfuscation:

    ”…there is a crying need for professional diplomacy in a vibrant Ministry of External Affairs. Aggressive and belligerent behaviour by some members of the Sri Lanka delegation, … A close study of how the two different Sri Lanka delegations conducted business, …it will also help the government learn where colossal blunders were made. One such blunder is the assumption that decisions at the UNHRC were taken by diplomats who were on the spot in Geneva without recourse to their foreign ministries in their capitals. ….”- http://www.sundaytimes.lk/120325/Columns/political.html

  • Silva

    ”it almost implied that there will be no reconciliation in Sri Lanka if the resolution is adopted”:

    The Permanent Representative should have been allowed to play the main role:

    ”I consider Ms Kunanayakam to be not only the best available choice for that post from among our serving diplomats, but also the best imaginable choice, if one were to think of all those who could have been invited to take up that post at this time” – http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2011/08/dr-dayan-jayatilleka-on-ambassador.html

  • SG

    Good analysis. It is very important that this type of writings get translated into Sinhala and Tamil and published for the non English speaking in Sri Lanka to read. Only good analysis and logic can save the people from the erosion of minds caused by the politicians in the country.

  • christe

    well analyzed article

  • RajasH

    it’s not a game of 2009 vs 2012 or numbers game or watering down of the resolution or India back stabbing and China card etc in Geneva. The real issue is the ground reality in Sri Lanka.

    I am so sad that intellectuals like Dayan, Rajiv etc have now become the tired mouth piece of the Sri Lankan regime.

    They are afraid to bite the hands the feed their mouth.

  • yapa

    I think reading the following article that contains an interview with Prof. G.L. Peiris on the issue along with Kalana’s article I think will help to have a balanced view.

    “The Council was set up by the General Assembly because its predecessor the Human Rights Commission had become excessively politicized. Therefore the Council was expected to be a mechanism that would consider every case on its merits—that is the opposite of what is happening today.

    Today what is happening is that the voting pattern in the UNHRC is determined by a series of strategic political alliances, rather than an evaluation of the issues relating to a particular matter. There are 11 countries from Western Europe in the Council, out of 47; we had the strange and interesting experience in Geneva that some of these members told me and the delegation that they do not agree with what is being done—they believed that it is important that Sri Lanka be given the time and space to implement the recommendations of the LLRC report.

    However they stated that despite their personal disagreement, they would nevertheless vote for the resolution because each individual country does not have a say in how they vote, that decision is taken by Brussels. These countries told us that “we don’t break ranks, except on Palestine, we vote as a bloc”. Therefore all 11 votes go together conscience has no role to play, whatever their feelings may be they have to vote in a particular manner—this contravenes the very purpose of the Council.

    We find that to be deeply disturbing; it is like playing a cricket match with one side starting at a 100 runs and the other starting at zero. Out of 47 people 11 have already made up their minds; you can talk to them and convince them of your position but it will make no difference to the manner in which they vote. Then there are eight countries from Latin America and besides Ecuador and Cuba the others vote with the US. This is a serious problem because the Council is now voting in blocs.”

    http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/5060

    Thanks!

    • Silva

      UNHRC membership is on regional basis to begin with, not on the basis of how the members practise human rights.

      Most intergovernmental activities are political – governments support each other for their gains – trade, votes for positions, etc.

      If only their choices are made on the equal application of human rights and justice for all …… ……….

      Countries in Southern hemisphere / NAM countries vote together. Most of them are human rights violators and have to support each other.

      Thailand wants Sri Lanka’s vote for next UNHRC election:
      http://www.mfa.go.th/web/2642.php?id=42264

  • Jai

    An excellent report about what should be the solution for the Srilankan problem… Happy to see so many good minded people appreciating this article.. Srilanka would become a prosperous country if people like the writer of this article come into politics… But that seems to be a sitant dream under Rajapaksa regime who seems to be a dictator… Good luck Lanka…

  • Ananthi Selvasivam

    Rajapaksa Government will not abide by Geneva’s United Nation Resolution

    The Ruling Regime even don’t want to implement recommendations by its own LLRC commission.

    It seems to me that LLRC was there to hoodwink the gullible World again. But, fortunately, World communities smartened up and they now know who the real devil is..

    Rajapaksa is now loosing the support worldwide because of his wicked politics, crooked behavior,dishonesty, lack of principles, lack of vision, lack of good faith, double face, twisted tongue and every bad behavior one can attribute to a rogue government

  • Alex Fernando

    We are not against ourselves … we are against the rajapakses and their ilk. They day after Geneva the rhetoric about patriots and non-patriots resumes … almost as if it never happened.

    They are an impediment to liberal democracy and there is a credible argument that their actions undermine, sri lankan progress, international law and further everyday they remain free, progress on international standards of human rights is stifled.

  • Lankan Thinker

    I agree with other commentators that Kalana has presented a very good analysis of the Geneva-II experience. However, in all the analysis on this recent UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka, I find it peculiar that there is no mention of the detail contained in the resolution that Sri Lanka’s representatives *did* get passed at the 2009 Special Session (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/specialsession/11/index.htm).

    In that resolution there were 12 points made, which included “[The human rights council] Urges the Government of Sri Lanka to continue strengthening its activities to ensure that there is no discrimination against ethnic minorities in the enjoyment of the full range of human rights” and “[The human rights council] Further welcomes the visit to Sri Lanka of the Secretary-General at the invitation of the President of Sri Lanka, and endorses the joint communiqué issued at the conclusion of the visit and the understandings contained therein”. This latter point refers to the statement issued by the UN SG Ban Ki Moon and President Rajapakshe in May 2009 (http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sg2151.doc.htm), which ends with:

    “The Secretary-General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The Government will take measures to address those grievances.”

    The government has used the argument that there has been insufficient time to implement the LLRC recommendations since the report was only produced for the end of 2011. But the government *has* had 3 years to follow up on its commitments made in May 2009. However, by not being proactive and taking ownership of the agenda on accountability and reconciliation the government is stuck with using bluster, denial and arguments about procedure. As an aside, one of the points of order made by the Sri Lankan delegation in 2012 was that country-specific resolutions set a dangerous precedent. But wasn’t the 2009 resolution adopted by the council also a country specific resolution?

    Finally, could someone offer an opinion on why Sri Lanka didn’t adopt the 2009 “winning” strategy and offer a draft resolution of their own, or work with the USA to take joint-ownership of the proposed resolution? This would have prevented the pro-LTTE groups from claiming victory and allowed the government to have more control over the country’s destiny.

  • Candidly

    Readers may like to read this thoughtful article entitled “The UN is making lasting peace in Sri Lanka less likely”. It is written by Ian Paisley Jnr an MP from Northern Ireland. Mr Paisley’s father, also Ian, was a former hard-line defender of Protestant intransigence in Northern Ireland before undergoing a profound change of heart and becoming a leader of the reconciliation and power-sharing process with the Catholic minority. His son, now an MP in the UK Parliament and a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly is continuing his father’s conciliatory perspective.

    Unlike many of the critics of Sri Lanka’s allegedly slow progress on the reconciliation path, Mr Paisley has hands-own experience of the real difficulties of leading his own community successfully down that path. For that reason alone his words should be studied with great care:

    http://www.thecommentator.com/article/1066/the_un_is_making_lasting_peace_in_sri_lanka_less_likely

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