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R2P - a bogey or real threat?

The country's 'thinkers' have been in a state of agitation for some time now. The executive director of a 'think tank' described as being one of the foremost of them all, has been sacked, reinstated and finally sent out of the country.

Rama Mani was a lissom woman said to be carrying a terrific intellectual punch. Whatever happened within the confines of the think tank to Rama Mani we do not know but serious allegations have been made. It does not concern us because the hullabaloo appears to be a Home Vs Home match.

What is of interest is that many of the country's so called intellectuals, 54 of them, galloped to the rescue of the damsel in distress albeit without much success. President Mahinda Percival Rajapakse and his Defence Secretary, brother Gotabaya, apparently do not think much of 'thinkers.' They with one stroke of a pen cancelled the visa of Rama Mani, a French national of Indian origin, and sent her packing home.

Godfather too victimised

What intrigues us is the concern shown to her as compared with one who could be described as the Godfather of Lanka's NGOs, Norbert Ropers of the Berghoff Foundation during the last few years. He too had to leave the country after his visa was not extended.

Ropers was the bread and butter, rice and curry and thosai and saambhar of the NGO activists with free tickets for junkets thrown in. However, Ropers went out silently without much fuss being made unlike to Rama Mani.

No explanation has been given for the non extension of her visa other than 'security reasons' based on reports from the intelligence services. The sin committed by her appears to have been being associated with the new fangled concept called R2P - the Right to Protect.

Mani and R2P

Briefly it means that if a state cannot protect its own citizens from crimes being committed against them such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and other forms of human rights violations, the international community through the United Nations Security Council has a right to intervene, the last resort being even military intervention. R2P was adopted by the UN 60th Summit of 2005 by 160 heads of state.

Mani has been associated with R2P and one of its ardent advocates, former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. She had moved that the ICES be associated with the Global Centre of the R2P in New York and function as its southern organisation.

This quite obviously was a claymore mine placed in the way of the Rajapakse government's 'forward march.' There were blatant human rights violations such as innumerable abductions taking place in many parts of the country particularly in Colombo. The Vice-Chancellor of the Eastern University disappeared in broad daylight after he stepped on to the road after attending a seminar in a Colombo 7 precinct.

The UN is accusing the government of collaborating with the breakaway group of the LTTE, the Karuna faction which was alleged to be using child soldiers. Countries like the US have imposed restrictions on export of armaments to Sri Lanka; the EU is planning trade sanctions; and the UN wants a team of human rights monitors to be based in Sri Lanka.

Military offensive

More important is the concern of Western nations that the government is now waging war in the Wanni region held by Pirapaharan and that the Ceasefire Agreement has been scrapped. They contend that civilian casualties will increase by leaps and bounds.

Naturally the Rajapakse brothers see this threat of the R2P as an effort to stall their military offensive which now has the Tigers on the run. Gareth Evans in his Neelan Tiruchelvam oration, with Rama Mani presiding, hinted at the possibility of the R2P being applied to Sri Lanka, if a military solution is attempted.

The R2P if resorted to frequently in international affairs would make a mockery of the basis of international relations that has governed nations for about 300 years - recognition of the sovereignty of nations. It would enable the big brothers to walk over smaller nations if they can reach consensus but not do so with bigger and more powerful nations.

It may be tried out in Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and among smaller states of the fragmented Yugoslav republic but to apply it to situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya or even Burma or when states like the US and UK are guilty of blatant violations of international laws, is unthinkable. It is a rule when only the meek and weak may be brought to justice.

R2P not new to Lanka

But R2P has been tried out and has failed even among poor nations. And the best example of it is Sri Lanka. India with the fourth biggest army in the world, in 1987 warned President Jayewardene not to move troops into Jaffna. India would not tolerate such a move said the finger wagging Ambassador Mani Dixit to Jayewardene.

Circumstances led to Indian troops landing in Sri Lanka and waging war to impose their will on this country, the remnants of which are the 20 year old 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Intervention by such a mighty force but failing in its task is a good example that R2P is not an infallible formula.

Before military intervention other measures such as sanctions could be attempted. But sanctions have rarely been successful. Despite all possible Western sanctions being applied on Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, Mugabe still survives. It has only made the poor Zimbabwean people undergo immense suffering. Thus, is R2P only a bogey created by Gareth Evans, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Sri Lankan Under Secretary in the UN and her pal Rama Mani and the like or is it a real threat?

Kosovo example

On the other hand there is Kosovo which is expected to make a unilateral declaration of independence this weekend. Kosovo is a part of Serbia with a Serbian minority and a 90 per cent Azerbaijani majority. The break up of Yugoslavia led to intervention by the UN with the US Air Force and Serbian forces being driven out for gross violation of human rights. It has been under UN control but now Kosovo has made its intentions known.

All Western nations led by the US are backing the independence of Kosovo. Only Russia, Serbia's ally can prevent UN recognition with its veto power in the Security Council.

The message Kosovo has to President Rajapakse is that he should not to take on the big brothers of the West. He may be pushing his luck too far.

 


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