Dissatisfied with Sri Lanka's governing style, United States renews its rhetoric in Geneva
Two of the three deputy assistant secretaries of State and Defense currently visiting Sri Lanka on a 'fact finding mission' about Sri Lanka's governing style associated with accountability and openness that goes back to the final months of Colombo's successful end to Tamil Tiger-created anarchy are no strangers to this South Asian nation.
Nor they are strangers to the developments since the government military 'seriously' commenced its onslaught against separatist/terrorist Tamil Tigers in June 2006 at Mavil Aru that ended in May 2009.
Mr. James Moore was the deputy ambassador in the U.S. Embassy in Colombo most of that period working, observing and writing cables to Washington, some of which were disclosed by the WikiLeaks, under Ambassador Robert Blake now the assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in Washington. Mr. Moore continues to be his assistant in Washington. And, he very well knew the principal players in the Rajapaaksa administration, their mind-set, and all.
The other, Mr. Vikram Singh was in Colombo during that time sending media reports to US Government-controlled Voice of America.
Both knew the terrain very well and continued to get diplomatic cables from the Colombo diplomatic mission comprehending the text and their comments using the background knowledge they already had working in Colombo.
The third lady, Jane Zimmerman, handling human rights works very closely with Blake-Moore office at the State Department.
Therefore, these mid-level State Department officials need not have come to Colombo for their 'fact finding' mission as they are very much in the know-how of what was going on in Colombo and are very knowledgeable about the working and thinking of the Rajapaksa government.
They are well fed by the U.S. diplomatic mission in Colombo.
Then why did they arrive in Colombo?
Having worked in that diplomatic mission for more than two decades, this writer is well aware that they came to give a very serious message to Colombo before the Geneva Session this March.
This was very clear when Mr. Moore said in his opening statement in Colombo at the media briefing "In all of our meetings we are discussing Sri Lanka’s efforts to implement its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations and National Action Plan, and the importance of accelerated progress to achieve lasting reconciliation and a durable peace. Key to this will be transparent governance, as well as following through with a process of accountability for events at the end of the war, including civilian casualties and credible allegations of human rights violations. We’ve also discussed the importance of a vibrant civil society, an independent judiciary, a free and independent media, and full respect for human rights".
It is in the above statement what the United States gave the clear message to Sri Lanka. And that at her door step.
The media has already told : "The United States will deliver a sharp public rebuke to Sri Lanka at the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March for failing to pursue those responsible for abuses as government forces were crushing Tamil rebels in 2009, officials said on Monday".
"The United States will sponsor a procedural resolution against Sri Lanka at the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Sessions in Geneva in March, according to a visiting high level United States State Department delegation".
The three officials, two of whom had worked in Colombo, who are well knowledgeable about all critical issues between the 'West' and Sri Lanka arrived at President Rajapaksa's door step to 'tell it all".
And they did.
"The U.S. has decided to sponsor a procedural resolution (against Sri Lanka) at the March 2013 sessions of the UNHRC," Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore told reporters in Colombo.
"The U.S. and the other 23 members of the UNHRC who voted for that resolution in 2012 believe that the government of Sri Lanka needs to fulfil its commitments made to its own people" he further said.
"It is safe to say that the impeachment of the chief justice also contributed to the decision to ensure that the record (against Sri Lanka) stays fresh in Geneva," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Vikram Singh told reporters.
“The US has decided to sponsor a procedural resolution with its international partners. It is a pretty straightforward resolution that will build on the resolution brought in March 2012. The resolution will be to promote reconciliation and implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report,” Deputy Assistant Secretary James R. Moore said.
The delegation, noted that the resolution was also a means of updating the record and taking note of the impeachment process that took place in Sri Lanka. “We have noted with concern the impeachment that was carried out in defiance of a Supreme Court order and we believe that it calls into concern the separation of powers in Sri Lanka,” Mr. Moore said.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Jane Zimmerman stated that although there was progress on the implementation of the LLRC report there was more that needed to be done in terms of accountability. “Certainly we have seen progress in infrastructure development, demining, rehabilitation and the release of former combatants. However there are still families who feel that their loved ones are being held somewhere. There is a desire for accountability with regards to extra judicial killings. Therefore there is a need for accelerated implementation. There needs to be healing and there cannot be reconciliation without accountability,” Ms. Zimmerman said.
They further called on the strengthening of Civil Society; “we can’t help but be worried about the future when we see the decline of the rule of law. We also hear from our contacts in civil society of harassment and violence towards them,” Ms.Zimmerman said.
The United States Ambassador to Human Rights Council in Geneva Eileen C. Donahoe in a statement at its 14th Session on November 1 last year made the following recommendations which were foremost in the minds of the US Government three-member delegation to Colombo this week.
The recommendations were:
Bearing in mind these concerns, the United States makes the following recommendations:
1. Implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC, including the removal of the military from civilian functions; creation of mechanisms to address cases of the missing and detained; issuance of death certificates; land reform; devolution of power; and disarming paramilitaries.
2. Transfer NGO oversight to a civilian institution and protect freedom of expression and space for civil society to operate, by inter alia investigating and prosecuting attacks on media personnel and human rights defenders.
3. End impunity for human rights violations and fulfill legal obligations regarding accountability by initiating independent and transparent investigations, which meet international best practices, into alleged violations of international law and hold those found culpable to account.
4. Especially in light of today’s news of the efforts to impeach the Chief Justice, strengthen judicial independence by ending government interference with the judicial process, protecting members of the judiciary from attacks, and restoring a fair, independent, and transparent mechanism to oversee judicial appointments.
This was in fact not a 'fact finding' mission but to notify Sri Lanka in a 'diplomatic nuance' what's in stock for them in Geneva, "and thereafter".
What Ms. Donahoe said last November in Geneva "Serious human rights violations continue, including disappearances, torture, extra-judicial killings, and threats to freedom of expression. Opposition figures have been harassed, detained, and prosecuted. There have been no credible investigations or prosecutions for attacks on journalists and media outlets. In the past 30 days, a judge who questioned executive interference in the judiciary was severely beaten in broad daylight by multiple assailants and derogatory posters appeared in Colombo threatening the director of an NGO challenging a government bill that would weaken provincial councils. No arrests have been made" is being reminded by the 'threesome' in Colombo.
The 'icing' laid by the 'threesome' was "The United States has a long friendship with Sri Lanka dating back to its independence. We value this multifaceted relationship and our visit has been undertaken in this spirit".
Nevertheless, the State Department, from the time since the conclusion of the 'war' in May 2009, has been reiterating 'rule of law', 'good governance', 'right to dissent', 'accountability', transparency', and now - 'executive power' connected to the impeachment and removal of the of the chief justice.
- Asian Tribune -