Will complying with UNHCR settle our woes?
Human rights groups in Latin America have filed lawsuits against a former Sri Lankan general who was the ambassador to Brazil and accredited to Peru, Chile, Argentina and Suriname.
Carlos Castresana Fernández, the lawyer coordinating the effort has said “This is one genocide that has been forgotten, but this will force democratic countries to do something. The lawyer coordinating the lawsuit against Jayasuriya, has worked on international cases against war criminals in Gutemala, Argentina and Chile.
In the case of Chilean General Augusto Pinochet he ended up being arrested and held for a time in England because of international lawsuits filed against him.
The previous government of Sri Lanka which ended the almost thirty year old war against separatist in 2009 was re-elected by the vast majority of people as gratitude in liberating the country. However the post war government commenced violating civil rights of the people by abductions of opponents, human rights activists, journalists and others with impunity. Thus the human rights lobbies specially in Europe including LTTE diaspora campaigned to enforce sanctions against Sri Lanka. The government’s efforts such as assigning US lobby firms to counter the allegations by spending more than five billion US dollars could have been done by the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington DC at no extra cost. Thus sanctions were being imposed according to the UNHCR resolution passed; spear headed by the US.
In 2015 the new SirisenaWickremesinghe government cosponsored a resolution (30/1) with US and other member countries to address the human rights violations in the country during the internal war and thereafter. It contains 25 key undertakings by the Sri Lankan Government across a range of human rights issues. Now the UNHCR has expressed its concern about the actual willingness of the government to fully implement all aspects of the resolution 30/1. A key element of the resolution consists of transitional justice promises: a special court including international judges and prosecutors to try all parties to the conflict, an office on missing and disappeared persons, a truth seeking and reconciliation mechanism and a reparations mechanism. The government has made only halting progress in fulfilling these commitments. The office on missing and disappeared persons is yet to be established. The ongoing resistance to any foreign involvement in the four mechanisms is coming not only from officials but also from the president and the prime minister. The will to implement any of the proposals is dwindling.
In an evaluation of the diagnosis for a negotiated settlement of the Sri Lankan conflict one needs to recognise certain other obstacles such as the increasing political unrest engendered by political volatility and economic sluggishness to a resumption of the related efforts. The upsurge of organised crime in its branched connections could be considered as representing the most pronounced elements in the prevailing trend of increasing social unrest. The devaluation of life and the deterioration of moral values resulting from more than three decades of almost ceaseless civil war, the heartlessly competitive culture created by the orientation of economy towards unhindered market forces, and the social isolation of youth caused by poverty and unemployment could all be considered as providing the general context of this phenomenon. Its specific causes include large scale desertions from the armed forces, estimated in excess of 40,000, alongside the accompanying infiltration of small arms to the civilian population, and the advent of Sri Lanka as an transit point in the international trade in narcotics. It has thus been possible for groups of persons, dehumanised by their military experiences and trained in the use of modern weaponry, to engage in highly profitable crime such as trafficking of people, drugs and arms, money laundering and organised vice, and thus obtain ample wealth and prominence to wield considerable influence in political affairs of the country through inter-symbiotic networks of contact with politicians, trade union leaders, media personnel and the police. Again army deserters who have found a safe haven in the underworld, have been observed to work as bodyguards of politicians. The underworld links which politicians so forge have contributed to a phenomenon which many observers have referred to as ‘criminalisation of politics’.
The other prominent elements of social unrest in the country are the high rates of suicide, the high incidence of drug addiction, the endemicity of trade union unrest, especially government controlled services such as those of the health sector and public transport, the repeated disruption of state sector higher education institutions through clashes among student groups, and frequent hartals and fasts staged by alienated segments of society such as unemployed youth. These problems coexist with rampant violations of civil rights. The effectiveness of legal safeguards against such violations varies widely both with temporal changes in political scene as well as with status variations of individuals in society. Even in times of political stability violations of rights occur particularly in the course of law enforcement. Inoffensively called “excesses of the security forces” these take the form of coercion, use of excessive force, extrac- tion of information and confessions through torture and the administration of summary punishment on those deemed to have committed a crime. Typically it is the poor who are more vulnerable to such violations, and also fail to obtain legal redress when rights are denied. When political upheavals occur, there is invariably an extension of civil rights violations towards the higher social strata, even the elite do not remain entirely immune.
Thus one can categorically say that the panacea that is being prescribed by the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) and the west is not a solution for all our ills.
As the Sinhala idiom goes “Vatath Niyarath Goyam ka nam, kata kiyamida me amaruwa?” (To whom should I tell this woe, if the fence and ridge of the paddy field meant for the safety of the field: is eating the paddy?)
In 2015 the new Sirisena -Wickremesinghe government cosponsored a resolution (30/1) with US and other member countries to address the human rights violations in the country during the internal war and thereafter.