Listening to sermons without doing what has to be done
Though his visit is only to the UN in New York, President Sirisena’s visit also coincides with the US Administration slashing financial assistance (aid) to Sri Lanka as part of its worldwide cuts and Congress (which passes the money) slamming various conditions before it gives whatever money is on offer.
The Trump Administration has made it clear it is not interested in exporting so-called ‘American values’ of democracy, human rights, rule of law etc., and one of the spin-offs of this lukewarm approach as far as Sri Lanka is concerned is Washington’s seeming disinterest in vigorously prosecuting UN Resolution 30/1 at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. This, as everyone now knows, is the joint resolution co-sponsored by the US and Sri Lanka in 2015 to have a genuine war crimes probe on allegations of violations of International Human Rights Law surrounding the military defeat of the LTTE eight years ago. However, what Trump isn’t pushing Congress is still interested.
The UN Human Rights Council head Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, at the receiving end of US barbs for opposing President Trump’s surprise election, continues to wax eloquent on the need for Sri Lanka to have universal jurisdiction to probe these allegations due to the absence of “credible action” so far.
When the UNHRC’s 36th sessions opened in Geneva this week, Prince Zeid had special words of advice for Sri Lankan leaders asking them not to merely tick-off the boxes to placate the council, but to do some real work for the benefit of all Sri Lankans. There is some truth in what the UNHRC chief said. It was only on the eve of the Geneva sessions that President Sirisena rushed to gazette the Office of Missing Persons, one of the requirements of the UN human rights agency as part of ‘transitional justice’ in post-war Sri Lanka.
This week, a European Union delegation was also in Colombo offering counsel and preaching the gospel of good governance. They, while their own countries are reeling with terrorism and a huge migration problem not seen since World War II and the partitioning of India, have asked Sri Lanka to replace the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) with new laws adhering to ‘best international practices’ and for the Sri Lanka Army to give up lands it occupies in the North – a request from the Chief Minister of the Northern Province as well.
What pleasure Government leaders derive from listening to these homilies is not clear. Why Governments cannot act – and act fast in doing the right thing for their own citizens -- remains a mystery. A tribunal to inquire into allegations of ‘war crimes’ might just as well be set up with credible Sri Lankan judges, and justice dispensed. This festering wound must not linger till March 2018 when the UNHRC deadline approaches. That must not be the criteria or time-table for the Government to act. No. 08, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 02. P.O. Box 1136, Colombo email@example.com - 2331276 firstname.lastname@example.org - 2479332, 2328889, 2331276 email@example.com - 2479312, 2328889,2331276 firstname.lastname@example.org - 2479323, 2479315 email@example.com - 2479311 firstname.lastname@example.org - 2479319 email@example.com - 2479337, 2331276 2479540, 2479579, 2479725 2479629, 2477628, 2459725