by Raj Gonsalkorale
The US Secretary of State seems to give an indication as to what the real agenda behind his and his country’s support for this resolution. He speaks of “lack of accountability for past atrocities”. This statement implies that atrocities were committed if there is to be accountability for them. This leads to the question, who committed such alleged atrocities? There were two players in the battle against the LTTE. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces and the LTTE. One or both may have committed atrocities. The Sri Lankan government exists to respond to any allegations on atrocities. The LTTE does not exist although the atrocities they committed were many and well documented.
It would have been useful if Mr Blinken amplified how this resolution will address the accountability issue as far as the LTTE is concerned as there is no one from the LTTE who could or would respond to lack of accountability on their part.
LTTE atrocities have been documented, and video footage shown on many world stages. While many very ordinary Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese were killed by them, they also killed two Heads of State, several cabinet ministers and leading politicians in Sri Lanka, and of course Tamil politicians as well.
Is Mr Blinken saying that since there is no one from the LTTE today who would acknowledge their atrocities or could be held responsible, the UNHRC should concern itself only with the Sri Lankan government and pursue action against them? Mr Blinken should know that Sri Lankans would not stand for this and if the US or any other ally of it thinks they could subjugate the country by stealth and overlook the vile deeds of a ruthless terrorist organisation, they could think twice about it.
Prior to looking for answers to the rhetorical question “what is the real agenda?”, it may be worthwhile to pose a counter rhetorical question and look for answers to that. This question is about the geographic location of Sri Lanka. If the country was not where it is now and thousands of kilo meters away and lost to the world in some corner of an ocean, without China having any interest in the country, would the UNHRC or the Core Group or the US have had any interest in Sri Lanka?
Would these “concerned” core group countries or the country and its allies suspected openly by many as the driving force behind these resolutions, shown any interest in human rights in Sri Lanka?
Readers are left to ponder and find an answer to this question.
It is reported and believed by some to an extent that the Tamil Eelam lobby groups in the US and in the countries who have allied with the US in targeting Sri Lanka, that these countries are raising this issue at the UNHRC and other forums because of the pressure exerted by these lobby groups. The following extract of a communication sent to the writer by a leading Tamil activist who wished to remain unnamed at this stage, stated what might be the reality in regard to the power and influence of these lobby groups.
This source stated there was much disgust amongst many Tamils, both within and outside Sri Lanka and wishing that the writer would highlight this in an article. The message is quoted in full, quote “the Tamil Eelam lobby have the misguided idea that they are a powerful lobby group. If not for China showing an interest in the country, and making the US and India angry, they would have gone down like a lead balloon. They would have then worked with the Sri Lanka government to address issues faced by Tamil people in a spirit of cooperation with all others in Sri Lanka. This lobby has been holding a candle for the most horrible terrorist organisation in the world and never once condemning their atrocities. So many Tamil people were killed by them, not only Sinhala and Muslim people.
They are funding the setting up of a separate state in Sri Lanka and providing funds to Tamils in Sri Lanka to keep separatism alive and preventing the Tamil people and Sinhala and Muslim people in the country to find solutions to outstanding issues. If the Tamil people in Sri Lanka are to find their real enemy, it is this Eelam lobby and their supporters in Sri Lanka, who are their real enemies and preventing reconciliation amongst the people in the country. Please let Sinhala people know that a majority of Tamils want to live in peace with them” unquote.
So much for these lobby groups who obviously are profiting by preventing the Tamil people living in Sri Lanka working together with all other communities to address any lingering issues that have and are affecting them. Their agents in Sri Lanka seem to be carrying out the dictates of these well-funded lobby groups. Money does talk. One is reminded on an age old saying that a beggar never wishes his or her wounds to heal for fear of not being able to beg and earn money. Keeping the Tamil Eelam issue alive seems to fall into this category of activism as these lobby groups would have to wind up and give up their privileged life style if the issue is addressed and resolved by the people of Sri Lanka and their funding sources dry up.
Leaving aside these lobby group, Sri Lanka is indeed in a vortex, with its proximity to India, its close links to China and the machinations of the US twirling it.
The conundrum that makes the vortex that Sri Lanka is in even more complex and destabilising, is India, just 20 kilo meters away, and the US, with the threat to their strategic interests by the super power in waiting, China, an ardent enemy of both.
Sri Lankans may be poor and they are not perfect like the rest of the world. It’s possible that some human rights issues may have occurred in the heat of the final battle against the LTTE. However, Sri Lankans are not fools. They can see through this mirage of human rights violations advanced continuously by the US and its allies. Sri Lankans know that they have weaknesses and they know these have to be addressed by themselves and not by others whose own record on human rights is appalling to say the least.
It would have been interesting if a resolution was moved to investigate human rights violations in the US based on the revelations documented in the latest Human Rights Watch report. Unfortunately, no country would do that as its allies, in self-preservation, will not do it.
Tamara Kunanayakam, a well-respected Sri Lankan diplomat and former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva and who has an in depth knowledge of the inner workings of the UN system in the back of her hand states that quote “the countries in the Non Aligned Movement and in the Global South have a principled position against targeting a country, or “naming and shaming”, which is a weapon in the arsenal of the US and its allies, when they want to achieve their strategic objectives elsewhere. She says further that “to fulfil the Charter responsibility to promote and encourage respect for human rights in all countries, the UNHRC has a mechanism called the universal periodic review (UPR) where all countries are duty bound to submit a report on promotion and protection of human rights in their own countries and where questions can be raised by others and a list of recommendations made by all parties. The State under review then has the opportunity to select the recommendations that it can implement and makes a voluntary commitment to do so. It is a cooperative not confrontational mechanism within which all states are treated equally, in conformity with the inalienable Charter principle of sovereign equality. It is in the interest of the NAM/Global South that that principle is respected. It is the US and its allies that sees it as THE major obstacle to its global hegemony. The UN Charter based on multilateral order is founded on the principle of sovereign equality of States, big or small, rich or poor, powerful or weak. It is the guarantor of our sovereignty. It is that order that the US wants to dismantle as an obstacle to its own ambition to a world order under its hegemony”.
Sri Lankans of all hues. Tamils, Muslims, Sinhalese and others should echo Ms Kunanayakam’ s assertion that “it is our responsibility to strengthen the United Nations not weaken it, and actively join with the Non Aligned Movement and the Global South to prevent it from being instrumentalised by the US and its allies. It is common sense that India cannot be trusted to side with Sri Lanka on this issue. If the government thinks they could be trusted, and if they do support Sri Lanka, it would be very important for all Sri Lankans to know the price that would have had to be paid to elicit India’s support.
No doubt it would be hefty price. It would be far better tactically and strategically for Sri Lanka to follow the path so well-articulated by Tamara Kunanayakam.
The US and India should know that the action of the Core Group and their supporters will only draw Sri Lanka even closer to China, and if they thought they were Sri Lanka’s friends who were only concerned in helping the country, Sri Lanka may well ask why it needs enemies when they have “friends” like the US and its allies.
The disturbing development that might be in the offing is that the Sri Lankan Government is ready to compromise with the US-UK led sponsors and accept a consensus resolution. As Ms Kunanayakam clearly explains, the compromise will be Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, because the resolution will be based on the Bachelet Report and resolution 30/1, both of which were rejected by the same Government, as threatening Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and national security. The report is based on the R2P (Right to Protect populations) doctrine that allows armed intervention, rejected by the General Assembly in 2009, as incompatible with the UN Charter and international law. If Sri Lanka goes ahead with negotiations for a compromise, they will be playing a two faced Jekyll and Hyde act and endangering alliances like NAM and Global South. Countries in these alliances will not trust Sri Lanka thereafter and we will be dictated to by a US led alliance.
A consensus resolution, once arrived at, will be a compromise agreed with the very countries who are out to break Sri Lanka’s alliances with the NAM and Global South, and it will be a precedent-setting resolution legitimising R2P. The implications for Sri Lanka will be worse than in 2015, because, unlike 2015, it will be argued there was a national consensus with no internal opposition to the resolution from a moribund Opposition, plus the 2/3 majority.
Since the US agenda is to bring SL within the ambit of QUAD (a group of countries comprising Japan, India, Australia and the United States) and away from China as well as friendly nations in NAM and the Global South, it is likely that a consensus resolution will be followed by imposition of the outstanding US defence agreements – SOFA and MCC by another name, completing the US defence triptych with ACSA.
Sri Lankans have short memories and they seem to have forgotten what consensus resolutions result in. In 1987, not even 3 months after Sri Lanka agreed to a consensus resolution in Geneva, ndian Air Force planes and fighter jets violated the country’s airspace with food drops to the Jaffna peninsula, and 2 months afterwards the Indo-Lanka accord was imposed on us, along with the 13th Amendment. Similarly, ACSA and the Disappearance Act allowing for extradition of Sri Lankan citizens for trial in foreign courts were imposed post 2015 consensus, along with intervention in key ministries and PM’s office, etc. MCC was not signed because of resistance from several quarters although the Cabinet at the time approved its signing.
As Ms Kunanayakam says Sri Lanka has to work with countries in the NAM and Global South who are in the UNHRC, in order to defeat this latest resolution and ensure that the UNHRC complies in Ms Kunanayakam’ s words, “with the principle of a cooperative, and not confrontational mechanism within which all states are treated equally, in conformity with the inalienable Charter principle of sovereign equality”. In order to defeat the resolution, and for Sri Lanka not to compromise its sovereignty, it has to ask a friendly Member of the Council to call for a vote when the resolution is tabled. Compromising with countries hostile to Sri Lanka will be like walking into a den of hungry Wolves.
Once tabled, the passage of this resolution will be a precedent to subjugate other nations who do not have the strength or the wealth to stand against duplicitous nations like the US and its allies whose own human rights violations record is worse than that of countries they support actively without any regard to violations in those countries. This resolution therefore has to be defeated by those countries in the NAM and the Global South who are vulnerable to the machinations of these mighty powers, if not to support Sri Lanka, but at least for their own sake.
Sri Lanka and other countries in the NAM and Global South need the assistance of all countries including China, to improve the lot of their people. They need investments without strings, and not handouts. These countries should extend their hand of friendship with true concern for improving life in these countries, and not extend a hand with a hidden instrument that will injure the hand extended in return.