MR’s Govt Trying To Whistle Past The Graveyard While US Breathes Fire
- US to hold Rajapaksa govt accountable for actions
- JVP to take to the streets on 6th with marches, rally
“It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” Mahatma Gandhi
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his newly expanded Cabinet of ministers have their work cut out for them in order to save face of the government at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva that begins this month and the Commonwealth heads of state summit scheduled later this year.
After showing gratitude to a few governing party members by offering them key Cabinet portfolios, the Rajapaksa government is now focused on facing the review of the US sponsored resolution that was adopted at the 19th UNHRC summit last March and the new resolution the US is to present next month.
The US is currently engaged in drafting the resolution in consultation with the sponsors of the resolution that was presented at the 19th session.
One thing that the Rajapaksa government is certain is that the new resolution would be tougher than the last one.
India that has adopted a silent policy is likely to remain silent during the course of the resolution procedure at the UNHRC next month and the Rajapaksa government would therefore be left to respond to the questions that would be posed to it at the Council.
The US is likely to receive more support from UNHRC member states since most of the countries that were not members of the Council during the 19th session have entered the Council this year.
Two of the Rajapaksa allies, China and Russia are no longer in the Council as their term came to an end on December 31, 2012 while some of the co-sponsors of last year’s resolution have entered the UNHRC.
Last week’s visit to Sri Lanka by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, James Moore, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence, Vikram Singh, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy and Labour, Jane Zimmerman saw the Rajapaksa government receiving a much prolonged reality check.
The US officials in no uncertain terms have indicated to the Rajapaksa government that the US government was committed to see accountability issues being addressed in the country while rights are resorted and the reconciliation is on track.
Hence, any move by the Rajapaksas to ignore the resolution would only mean the tightening of the noose that is around the government’s neck, which it has happily placed itself.
What the officials witnessed during their visit was the lack of commitment on the part of the Rajapaksa government to address the core issues like reconciliation and accountability.
The progress shown in the implementation of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) recommendations has not been satisfactory for the US officials.
Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay is trying to send a team of 10 rapparteurs to the country to ascertain the ground situation prior to the UNHRC sessions.
The three member US delegation that was in the country last week also visited areas in the North and met with members of the civil society there and the Jaffna Bishop Thomas Soundaranayagam.
The US officials witnessed that there was cause for concern over the issues continuously raised by members of the Tamil community.
The penetration of security forces personnel in the country’s economic activities was also cause for concern to the US officials who would make these observations known in Washington DC upon their return to the US.
Also, two U.S. Senators, Bob Casey and Patrick Leahy, have called for an independent, international investigation into potential war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE during the civil war in Sri Lanka.
In a letter to outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Senators have said such an investigation is needed because the government has not answered the legitimate concerns of the Sri Lankan people.
“The Sri Lankan people deserve better,” Senator Casey has said. “Sri Lankans have legitimate concerns about war crimes committed during the civil war that are not being addressed by the government, and an independent, international investigation is needed to get answers.”
“The Government of Sri Lanka has made many promises to bring to justice those responsible for atrocities during the war, but nothing has been done,” Senator Leahy has said. “The defeat of the LTTE was widely welcomed, but an opportunity to bring real peace by upholding the rule of law and promoting reconciliation is being missed.”
Sharma to visit
UK’s Foreign Office Minister for South Asia Alistair Burt who visited the country last week also noted that while there were developments in the former conflict zones, there was still much to be done.
Burt’s visit was also to assess the situation in the country prior to the Commonwealth summit scheduled during the latter part of the year.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma will arrive in the country on the 10th to discuss the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka this year.
Sharma’s visit would take place amidst continuing efforts by Canada to convince the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to formally examine recent events in Sri Lanka.
Sharma is to meet with External Affairs Minister Peiris and other senior government officials during his visit.
Canada’s effort to include Sri Lanka in the CMAG agenda is to be discussed during Sharma’s visit next week.
CMAG is to meet in April, but Canada is engaged in an effort to get the group to convene an urgent meeting before its scheduled date in April.
The Rajapaksa government is of the view that in the event the CMAG decides to include Sri Lanka in its agenda on Canada’s insistence, it would only serve to politicize the Commonwealth.
Nevertheless, the Rajapaksa government is nervous over the fact that the CHOGM could be moved out of the country in the worst-case scenario.
Pressure is also building on the UK to get the British officials to boycott the summit.
The pressure from the international community is penance for the Rajapaksa government’s hasty actions in the past few months that range from the impeachment process against the Chief Justice and actions that followed it.
The Rajapaksa government’s actions have now boomeranged on it and apart from a new resolution before the UNHRC next month, the International Bar Association (IBA) is reportedly planning on sending a three member committee headed by a former Indian Chief Justice to inquire and report on the impeachment of Chief Justice Dr Shirani Bandaranayake by the government.
The visit by the IBA delegation scheduled for the 1st had to be postponed due to the non-receipt of permission for them to visit the country.
The Rajapaksa government is thus far trying to portray a “we don’t care” attitude regarding the international pressure on its arbitrary actions have sent several of its delegates to make initial contact and build support prior to the UNHRC summit.
External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris during his visit to India tried to make initial dialogue on India’s support to Sri Lanka at the UNHRC summit.
Peiris even went to the extent of dangling the carrot of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution before Indian premier Manmohan Singh.
Singh and the rest of Indian government officials in New Delhi who are by now well seasoned to the Rajapaksa government’s tactics did not show signs of pleasure. Instead asked for a Presidential explanation on the government stance on the 13th Amendment.
Bringing up the 13th Amendment with the Indians is always a sign of desperation of the Rajapaksa government.
When Singh had questioned about the protests by some members of the government against the implementation of the 13th Amendment, Peiris had assured that there was no need for alarm since the government could address the matter.
Interestingly, the Cabinet re-shuffle that was held following Peiris’ return saw a key critic of the 13th Amendment, JHU front-liner and minister Champika Ranawaka being demoted to the portfolio of Science and Technology.
Also, supervising MP to the External Affairs Ministry, Sajin Vass Gunawardena had reportedly traveled to the UK during the period Peiris visited India.
Gunawardena had met with members of the British government and Commonwealth Secretary General Sharma to get their support for CHOGM.
The Rajapaksa government it seems has now commenced its diplomatic overtures, but has failed to engage a key factor in raising Sri Lankan issues in the international arena – the Tamil Diaspora.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Diaspora has once again become active in its campaigning with Tamil political and civil society representatives, and Diaspora groups convening a meeting in Berlin on the January 26th and 27th to discuss the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka.
The Global Tamil Forum (GTF), a Tamil Diaspora group, has said that the talks looked at how to end the Sri Lankan State’s continued agenda of destruction of Tamil people’s identity, the heightened oppressive conditions, the threat to Tamil’s claim of the North and East of the island being their area of historic habitation (homeland) and to achieve consensus on addressing the legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people through a negotiated political solution.
The GTF has stated that the meeting is a continuation of on-going discussions between Tamil groups that first began in November 2012.
Representatives from Tamil political parties, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) and Tamil Civil Society from Sri Lanka, joined representatives from Diaspora groups International Councils of Eelam Tamils (ICET), Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) and GTF in the two rounds of dialogue.
According to the GTF, discussions are to continue and progress with wider participation to bring together more Tamil and Tamil speaking people’s organizations in the months to come.
JVP back to the streets
Amidst the mounting pressure on the Rajapaksa government in the international arena, the JVP has planned after some time to hold one of its well-known protest marches and rally in Colombo on the 6th.
The JVP that has for some time been battling with internal rifts has finally managed to sort all issues and is geared to hold one of its trademark “crowd pulling” protest marches.
Two protest marches are to be held in Colombo on the 6th commencing from two different locations and the rally is scheduled to be held at Hyde Park at 4 pm.
The event is organized under the Anti Imperialists People’s Movement co-convened by JVP politburo member K.D. Lalkantha.
The party has charged that the government through its arbitrary, anti-democratic actions has paved the way for international forces to interfere in the country.
“Once the international community puts pressure on the government, the response by the Rajapaksa government is to offer economic bribes to the relevant country by way of signing agreements that would assign them parts of the country,” JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath said.
The JVP that has been mustering its strength for the past few years is to use the 6th to also show its people’s strength as part of its “revival” process.