Lis­ten­ing to ser­mons with­out do­ing what has to be done

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

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 ed­i­tor@sun­day­ - 2331276 news@sun­day­ - 2479332, 2328889, 2331276 fea­tures@sun­day­ - 2479312, 2328889,2331276 pic­tures@sun­day­ - 2479323, 2479315 sports@sun­day­ - 2479311 bt@sun­day­ - 2479319 fun­times@sun­day­ - 2479337, 2331276 2479540, 2479579, 2479725 2479629, 2477628, 2459725

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