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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 726

UNCHRC Resolution aftermath: Inconvenient truths and possible diplomatic remedies

By Raj Gonsalkorale

For committed partisans, it's always fun to denounce the ignorance of the other side's voters. Unfortunately, partisan activists tend to ignore the inconvenient truth that their own party's voters are just as bad - Ilya Somin, Associate professor of law at George Mason University and author of the bookDemocracy and Political Ignorance

Ilya Somin’s reference to democrat and republican voters in the USA is an apt reference to the reaction of many Sri Lankans to the resolution on Sri Lanka passed by the UNCHRC recently in Geneva. Out stand has been that everyone else has been and still is wrong about issues mentioned in the resolution and that only we have been and still are right about those issues.

It is true that we have had a LLRC and they have investigated what was within the terms of reference given to them. They have drawn their conclusions and issued a report with their recommendations. Some recommendations are being implemented while the status of some others is not yet known.

The Sri Lankan government is yet to develop an action plan for implementation of the recommendations and/or state which of them cannot be implemented. The Sri Lankan government does not have to implement any of the recommendations if they so chose, provided they are ready to accept the risks that arise from not implementing.

The inconvenient truth for those who are vacillating on implementing the recommendations is that they are losing a good opportunity to harness opinion amongst supporters and detractors towards the way forward for Sri Lanka on several fronts.

Firstly, the LLRC report has replaced all other reports, videos productions and multifaceted demands from various quarters to do one thing or another about possible human rights violations or war crimes. The LLRC report has become a focal point for those who are interested in moving forward, to move forward.

The report provided avenues in its recommendations to address these issues. It stated clearly that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians. It said there was no institutional responsibility for any possible human rights violations or any possible war crimes. It did say though that there may have been individual cases of Armed Forces personnel acting beyond their brief in relation to human rights and even war crimes.

It provided a way to address this, through the appointment of appropriate investigative mechanisms. The government has appointed a Military panel to investigate these possible individual violations. Politically, it would have been far better to have appointed an independent civilian body possibly led by eminent Sri Lankan jurists with an international reputation to do this job considering the spotlight on Sri Lanka. Findings of the Military panel will not result in a closure of this topic.

The LLRC has given a golden opportunity to move forward. The government so far has not capitalized on these opportunities.

It continues to promote overtly or covertly, a view that implementing LLRC recommendations is not a priority for the government and that they will continue their own reconciliation strategies. The reasoning one assumes is because some within the government have argued, and may have even won their argument, that to be seen and heard that the government is focused on the LLRC report would be to succumb to international pressure.

This is unfortunate as the LLRC report could have been harnessed to silent many snipers and even some with machine gun fire. The government could have, and still could, place the responsibility to progress the LLRC recommendations to the Parliamentary Select Committee, and place the cat amongst the Pigeons, so to speak.

The PSC is a multi party committee that is charged with addressing the political solution to the community conflict. They could have been asked to develop an action plan to implement the recommendations for approval by the Parliament as part of a reconciliation effort, and then monitor that plan. The TNA could not have declined that opportunity without risking losing whatever that is left of their credibility. Neither could the UNP have refused that opportunity.

Equally importantly, the West could not have criticized the government for laying the responsibility for the reconciliation effort squarely in the domain of the people’s representatives, with the President acting as the executive implementer of the PSC decisions considering he had already stated publicly that he will implement a consensus political solution arrived at by the PSC.

The second opportunity that the LLRC report and the UNHRC resolution has provided the government is an opportunity to mend fences with the West. The mistaken notion that Sri Lanka’s will receive India’s support in international forums come what may, was debunked at the UNHRC.

No doubt Indian domestic politics played a major role in the Indian adultery, but who is to say that the Union government either even orchestrated or just rode on the domestic wave to do what they had decided to do anyway as per an understanding with a bigger picture world order situation; the anti China allegiance with the USA?

If there is one singularly important lesson Sri Lanka should learn from the UNHRC vote, it is that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. Syria has learnt this lesson in recent times when Kofi Annan managed to weave a coalition against Syria that includes some who they thought were their friends, Russia and China.

The West, USA in particular wants to make sure Sri Lanka remains as non aligned as possible, and if there are any leanings towards alignment, it is towards them and India and not China. Sri Lanka may be dependent on China for finances, as loans, but Sri Lanka does not benefit from China for recurrent income, especially from manufactured goods.

This where it becomes advantageous to court the West, as that is where the markets are where Sri Lanka can sell their wares. There is no need to mention here that this is where China thrives for their income, selling competitively prices goods.

Despite the financial crisis faced by the West, and the near bankruptcy of some EU countries, the markets are still in the West, not in China. Whether one likes it or not, the influence in the banking sector, the industrial sector and many other sectors of the world economy is in the West, not China. This is not because China does not have influence, but because even China’s economy is closely interlinked with the West, in particular the USA, considering China’s ownership of billions if not trillions of US dollars.

Sri Lanka should mend fences with the West, not because we like or dislike the West, but because it is in our self interest to do so. We should realise some home truths that have developed in recent times. This being perhaps the unspoken and unwritten, but clearly understood informal understanding amongst western countries and India, that they need to have a common front to contain China’s ambition to be the next world’s super power, especially from a military point of view, but certainly even from an economic point of view.

The US link with India, the new pacific policy of the USA, results of which have already emerged, including the relaxation of political freedom in Myanmar, the huge presence of the US in countries like Bangladesh, the military cooperation with Australia (a US base in Darwin with 2500 Marines to be stationed there, and the strong likelihood of unmanned drones being based there), military cooperation with Japan, are all indicators of the new world order envisioned by the US, others in the West, Japan, South Korea and India.

What could Sri Lanka do to mend fences? As a start we could refocus on the LLRC report and make it the focal point for reconciliation as suggested earlier. We could appoint an independent panel of jurists to investigate possible individual cases of human rights violations or war crimes. We could also seek assistance to improve the law and order situation in the country.

In turn Sri Lanka could ask the West to assist in taking a more balanced approach to the events of the final war against the LTTE by assisting in launching legal action against LTTE supporters. As Professor Rohan Gunaratne has said in an interview with the Nation, quote, as the resolution stands currently, it is very one sided, it has a very narrow focus of scrutinizing the actions of the Sri Lankan government. There is no reference to the LTTE which was an armed actor that had military control over the territory. If the resolution is to take a balanced approach, it is imperative that the military actions of the LTTE are also investigated and those responsible for advocating, supporting and participating in LTTE activities are brought to justice. V. Rudrakumaran, a ranking member of the LTTE from the US; S.J. Emmanuel from the UK and Germany who advocated suicide attacks and Perimpanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyawan from Norway who procured weaponry and dual user technologies should be brought to trial, unquote.

Sri Lanka should learn that the West and India are using LTTE supporters for their benefit, not the other way about. This is being done as Sri Lanka has been openly hostile towards the West, albeit for good reasons. If Sri Lanka mends fences, and the West and India no longer needs Tamil activists to use as pawns to agitate against Sri Lanka, it will be possible to institute legal action against those mentioned above and others who could be identified through mutual cooperation with the West and India.

The West cannot do this for nothing. They need a quid pro quo to do this as much as Sri Lanka also needs one. This is where serious high level bilateral discussions should take place initially through third parties to make this happen.

Sri Lanka needs to understand geopolitics better. It needs to get the best to help them. It cannot run the show with mediocrities and nationalists whose horizon is limited to the shores of Sri Lanka. Neither should it allow itself to be influenced and driven by thugs, drug dealers, murderers and others who even would not know the meaning of law and order.

- Asian Tribune -

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