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Exclusive India may vote against Sri Lanka yet again!

2014 Feb 17

India is most likely to vote against Sri Lanka when its human rights record comes up for evaluation before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva in March.

This was hinted at by a senior government official who asked not to be identified.

Sri Lanka had an opportunity to highlight elections to the Tamil-majority Northern Province as one concrete attempt at political reconciliation. But Colombo seems to have "squandered it by locking horns" with the newly elected provincial government by making it difficult for the first democratically elected government to function effectively, the official pointed out.

The provincial elections apart, Sri Lanka does not appear to have done enough to make countries like India that voted against it last year and the year before to change their minds.

In 2012 and 2013, India had voted for a United States-sponsored resolution in the UNHRC seeking an impartial international investigation into the human rights violations reportedly committed by Sri Lankan security forces during last phase of the so-called Eelam War IV in early 2009.

But the Mahinda Rajapaksa government has done precious little on the ground. It is dragging feet on implementing recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) set up by itself.

By the time the civil war came to a brutal end with the killing of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran at Mullivaikkal on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on 19 May 2009, as many as 40,000 Tamils were reportedly killed, according to UN and independent sources.Enquiries in Geneva by this correspondent revealed that the UNHRC meeting is scheduled during 3-28 March. The last date for introducing any resolution is March 21. Voting takes place on the last two/three days.

US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs went to London after her recent visit to Sri Lanka for talks with British officials on the resolution the US plans to introduce in the 47-member UNHRC next month. The US and the UK are the core group working on the resolution on Sri Lanka.

She then went to Geneva and met Dilip Sinha, India’s Permanent Representative to UN bodies in that Swiss city. "She talked, and I gave her a patient hearing," Sinha told me on telephone.

Every year, a third of the UNHRC membership changes. The new entrants this year include: Russia, China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, Macedonia, Cuba, Mexico and France.

On previous occasions, countries from Western and Eastern Europe voted for the resolution. They include the US, UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, France and Australia.Barring India and South Korea, Asian countries did not support the resolution. While most of the Latin American countries and French-speaking African states voted for the resolution, others abstained.

In 2012, the US resolution got the backing of 24 out of 47. While 15 member-states voted against, eight abstained. Last year, 25 countries backed the resolution, while 13 opposed it and eight abstained. The representative of Gabon found the deliberations on the resolution so heated that he left his chair midway and kept away!

The success or failure of the resolution against Sri Lanka next month will depend on the kind of resolution the US will come up with.

Sri Lanka has been projecting the US-sponsored and Western-backed resolutions against its human rights record as an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a third world country. This indeed was the burden of the briefing President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunge gave to the permanent representatives in Geneva.

Russia and China have already lambasted the attempts to censure Sri Lanka for the "war crimes" as Western interference in the island nation’s internal affairs. How many countries will accept this line of argument when the US introduces the resolution remains to be seen.

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