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Self-appointed role of preachers

2014 Mar 10

The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) seems to be hell-bent on concentrating on Sri Lanka at each and every session.

While acting as a toothless tiger against serious and grave human rights violations in several parts of the world, especially those committed by the US-led NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the UNHRC is like a ferocious lion when it comes to the wild allegations against Sri Lanka on human rights violations.

As anticipated, the US has presented its third successive resolution against Sri Lanka. The intention of the West is crystal clear. It has a set agenda against Sri Lanka to usher in a local leadership that would sing hosannas to the West.

However, it would not be a cakewalk for the US, UK and its allies. This was evident going by the early sessions of the UNHRC with South Africa advocating that the UN human rights body should let Sri Lanka find its own mechanism.

South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Nkoana Mashabane told the 25th session of the UNHRC in Geneva on Tuesday that the international community must allow Sri Lanka to find its own solution to their own problem. "It is important that we allow Sri Lankans to find each other, and out of this find solutions that are durable for their country," she was quoted as saying. She said that the UNHRC has been seized with the issue of Sri Lanka for a while. "We, as South Africans, also had to find each other and consequently find our own solution to our own problem. This is our wish for the people of Sri Lanka," the South African minister said.

Her statement is indeed an eye-opener to all the sinister international forces which try to interfere in Sri Lanka's internal matters in the guise of human rights. UNHRC chief Navi Pillay, even at this late stage, should pay heed to the views by South Africa. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that Pillay's recent report on Sri Lanka has 'exceeded its mandate by making reference to and her recommendations on numerous issues extraneous to the resolution'.

As External Affairs Minister, Prof. G.L. Peiris had pointed out, the recommendations contained in Pillay's Report are arbitrary, intrusive and of a political nature and are not within the ambit of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee (LLRC), as demonstrated by the call to set up an international inquiry mechanism.

The references in the Council welcoming the High Commissioner's Report on Sri Lanka, even at the highest level of the UN are deplorable, considering that it is based on questionable and baseless material including those which have been processed outside the framework of the United Nations. It is imperative that the UNHRC remains a credible and independent arbiter in dealing with human rights situations across the world. All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and must be treated in a fair and equitable manner, without superseding one set of rights over another.

Sri Lanka remains deeply concerned that the lack of financial independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) leads to the erosion of independence in its overall functioning. The disproportionate attention being paid to country-specific action in the Council which selectively targets some countries, while situations, human rights violations and restrictive practices in other parts of the world that warrant more urgent and immediate attention and action remain conveniently ignored.

This is a matter of serious concern. The stark reality is that the continuation and proliferation of the practice of the selective adoption of country-specific resolutions in the UNHRC is a tool that exploits human rights for political purposes. Regrettably, a similar pattern is evident in the case of continued action against Sri Lanka in this Council.

Such politicised action is contrary to the high purposes and principles of the UNHRC and must be condemned roundly by one and all. Additional budgetary allocations from regular funding would lessen the OHCHR's dependence on voluntary contributions and earmarked funding would allow it to function in an independent manner.

There has been significant progress in Sri Lanka's reconciliation over the past year - approximately 19 months since the National Plan of Action (NPoA) to implement the domestic reconciliation mechanism, when the LLRC became operational.

An area of 1,980 sq km, which is 96 percent of the areas identified for demining have been cleared as at the end of last year. Seventy percent of the demining was carried out by the Security Forces, paving the way for the expeditious resettlement of displaced persons. Nearly 300,000 displaced persons, who were housed at the Menik Farm Welfare Village soon after the end of the humanitarian operation in May 2009, were fully resettled by September 2012.

In keeping with the LLRC recommendations, the Government allocated funds for the restitution and provision of compensatory relief for those affected due to terrorism. Nearly Rs. 400 million has been provided by way of compensation from 2010 to 2012, and a further Rs. 204 million in 2013. Budget 2014 has allocated Rs. 475 million to continue the implementation of this recommendation.

A colossal sum of money has been spent on infrastructure development in the North and the East. The preferential treatment for these two provinces over the other seven provinces enabled the North and the East to record a growth rate of over 25 percent, compared to over seven percent average national growth.

The dawn of peace has enabled all communities to live in perfect peace and harmony. Tamil civilians who had been rescued from the jaws of death have now begun a new lease of life and are making a tangible contribution to the national economy. It is baffling as to why Pillay and those in the international community who only see a negative picture about Sri Lanka fail to take into consideration these positive developments. Going by the persistent demands made on Sri Lanka and the assertion that domestic mechanisms had failed, it is evident that there is no acknowledgement on the significant progress.

Despite Sri Lanka cooperating with the OHCHR, there have been a series of actions, in particular, the introduction of country specific action on Sri Lanka in the UNHRC, that shows a lack of sensitivity in dealing with delicate situations and exposes the unfair and biased manner in which issues pertaining to Sri Lanka have been addressed.

Hence, it is as clear as daylight that Pillay's Report has exceeded its mandate by making reference to and her recommendations on numerous issues extraneous to the resolution. She has raised concern regarding a range of issues based on information of questionable veracity and conclusions arrived at in a selective and arbitrary manner.

If Pillay has concrete evidence, she must produce it so that Sri Lanka could make a credible domestic investigation. Rather than submitting proof or evidence, Pillay continues to level wild allegations, sans any substance to prove them. She has overstepped her mandate as the UNHRC chief by trying to poke her fingers in Sri Lanka's domestic issue.

Be it Pillay or any other international force for that matter, Sri Lanka will never permit sinister foreign forces to meddle in the country's domestic matters under the pretext of strengthening human rights.

Meanwhile, Lord Indarjit Singh of UK's House of Lords has said that Britain should support an open, independent inquiry into the massacre or genocide of the Sikh community at the Golden Temple in India in 1984 in the same manner they are backing the UN-led resolution against Sri Lanka.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in January that Britain's alleged involvement in the massacre of hundreds of Sikh separatists in an Indian temple would be urgently investigated. But lo and behold Cameron later refused to launch a public inquiry into Britain's role in the Amritsar massacre.

Hence, countries such as the UK must first and foremost address their own human rights violations before pontificating to countries such as Sri Lanka. While they continue to have loads of garbage in their own backyards, countries such as Britain have taken it upon themselves to play a self-appointed role of preaching to Sri Lanka on human rights violations.Pillay and those countries which unjustly level human rights violations charges against Sri Lanka and speak vociferously over the human rights of LTTE terrorists killed in action should prove their transparency before pointing an accusing finger at others.

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