The Sunday Leader

Western Pressure Builds

The Government is continuing to face pressure from the West, the latest being from Britain by way of a discussion at the House of Lords and a threat of sanctions.

Add to that, in Geneva, the UN special rapporteur on minority issues, Ms Rita Izsák, accused the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) of igniting tensions and contributing to more than 350 violent attacks against Muslims and over 150 attacks against Christians in the past two years.

In a report to the 7th session of the Forum on Minorities Issues in Geneva which met for two days in Geneva last week, Izsák said that the BBS along with other groups, are promoting extremist views, proclaiming the racial superiority of Sinhala Buddhists and spreading fear among the population by, for example, alleging that statues of Buddha are being bulldozed by religious minorities or that evangelical Christians are forcibly converting vulnerable people.

In her report Rita Izsák noted that on July 2, 2014, she, along with other United Nations experts, called on Sri Lanka to adopt urgent measures to stop the racial and faith-based hatred and violence directed at Muslim and Christian communities by Buddhist groups with extremist views, and to bring perpetrators to justice.

She also notes in her report that in conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and the Sudan, minority women have suffered systematic sexual and other violence.

“Violence against minority women does not always take place in the context of conflict. Women affected by caste-based discrimination in several countries experience high levels of violence owing to their low caste status and gender, and face killing, rape, gang rape and custodial torture,” she said.

The UN special rapporteur also recalls that in Sri Lanka, the United Nations development and humanitarian branches were unable to fully address the United Nations political and human rights priorities.

Failures identified included a United Nations system that lacked an adequate and shared sense of responsibility for human rights violations; an incoherent internal United Nations crisis-management structure which failed to conceive and execute a coherent strategy in response to early warnings and subsequent human rights and humanitarian law violations against civilians; the ineffective dispersal of United Nations Headquarters structures to coordinate United Nations action and to address international human rights and humanitarian law violations across several different United Nations Headquarters entities in Geneva and New York; a model for United Nations action in the field that was designed for a development rather than a conflict response; and inadequate political support from Member States as a whole.

The London based Amnesty International called on the United Nations to closely monitor Sri Lanka, particularly before the Presidential elections.

Meanwhile in a briefing paper presented to the Forum on Minority Issues at the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International said that there is a long history of electoral violence in Sri Lanka, and there is a risk that the recent violence against minorities will be renewed in the context of the election.

It said that the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council, must be attentive to this risk and be prepared to assert its authority to prevent further violence and to respond robustly to violence if it occurs.

“More recently there have been fewer reported attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities in Sri Lanka. However the situation demands close attention, including by the United Nations presence in Sri Lanka,” it said.

The briefing paper noted that discrimination against ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, including members of Tamil, Muslim and Christian communities remains a serious problem in Sri Lanka adding that minorities have been singled out for restrictions on freedom of expression and association.

“Police have failed to protect minorities when they have been threatened with violence by communal forces, and have not arrested perpetrators, even when there was photographic evidence to identify them,” Amnesty International said.

It also said that some political leaders from the majority Sinhalese community have exploited or manufactured religious tensions, leading to attacks and violence against religious minorities, including their places of worship and businesses, which are typically committed with impunity. Buddhist hard-line nationalist organizations, a prominent one being the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), have emerged with alleged links to high government officials and political platforms that are often closely aligned with those of the ruling party.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) recorded 131 incidents of threats or attacks against Christians, including 32 acts of violence between January 2013 and June 2014. In 65 cases, the reported perpetrator was a state official – most often a police officer who failed to protect congregations under attack or advised them to stop religious activities.

Muslim groups documented over 200 incidents of threats, harassment and violence against Muslims, Christians and their places of worship in 2013; 51 reportedly involved violence.

Attacks against members of the Muslim minority continued and escalated in 2014 when large scale violence in a Muslim neighbourhood in Aluthgama in June killed and injured residents and destroyed homes and businesses.

Last week British Parliamentarians had proposed imposing sanctions on Sri Lanka if the Government of Sri Lanka does not allow the UN investigating team into the country.

The UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has noted that given the time that has passed since the launch of the international inquiry, and the constraints placed on the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) team, they believe that the UK Government should be ready to consider all possible options, including sanctions, to convince Sri Lanka to allow access.

“We recommend that the Government negotiates with its EU partners to remove GSP status from Sri Lanka, if the Government of Sri Lanka does not allow the OHCHR investigating team into the country and uphold the right of human right defenders to engage with the UN human rights system,” the Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report handed over yesterday.

The Foreign Affairs Committee has also recommended that the UK Government encourage the new Indian administration to give public support to the OHCHR international investigation on Sri Lanka.

External Affairs Minister, Professor G.L Peiris, however told reporters at a media briefing last Friday, that the proposal to impose sanctions does not come from the UK Government so there is nothing to be concerned of.

Discussion on Sri Lanka at House of Lords

Lord Naseby:

What action they are taking in response to the European Court of Justice verdict on 16 October and its conclusions in respect of restrictive measures currently in place since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was proscribed by the European Union in 2006 and by the United Kingdom in 2000.


Lord Naseby (Con):

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka.


Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD):

My Lords, we are studying the implications of the ECJ judgment and considering appropriate next steps. The UK is committed to maintaining an EU listing. The court’s decision was based on fundamental procedural grounds, but the court rejected the LTTE’s argument that it could not be listed as a terrorist organisation because of its involvement in an internal armed conflict. The UK condemns the Tamil Tigers as a brutal terror organisation, and it remains proscribed under UK law.


Lord Naseby:

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that his Answer will be greeted with a great sigh of relief by nearly all the Sri Lankans who live in the United Kingdom and, indeed, virtually all the citizens of Sri Lanka? However, is he also aware that this coming Thursday there is to be a rally at ExCel to celebrate the life of the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Mr Prabhakaran, and the other Tamil Tigers, and to raise money for Eelam? Will my noble friend bring this to the attention of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police? It seems to me that this is covered by the proscription. Frankly, if the terrorism Acts mean anything, this particular rally should be stopped.


Lord Wallace of Saltaire:

My Lords, I would be surprised if the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is not already aware of it. The United Kingdom Government are actively concerned to promote reconciliation and reconstruction within Sri Lanka among all of its different communities.


Lord Bach (Lab):

My Lords, President Rajapaksa has called an early presidential election for 8 January next year. Last week there were defections by senior Ministers from the Government, including Mr Sirisena, who will be the principal opposition candidate. Given the history of such elections in the past and that reports this weekend suggest that Mr Sirisena’s first broadcast has been blocked and his bodyguards removed, what do Her Majesty’s Government believe are the prospects for a free, fair and inclusive election?


Lord Wallace of Saltaire:

My Lords, the British Government and others are talking about the best way in which to make sure that there is effective monitoring of the elections. We will of course be raising such issues with the Sri Lankan Government.


Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB):

My Lords, can the Minister say what progress is being made with the United Nations Human Rights Council inquiry into the behaviour of all parties, including the Tamil Tigers, and if the Government of Sri Lanka are giving any signs of co-operation with that at all?


Lord Wallace of Saltaire:

As the noble Lord is aware, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has just reported that he is not receiving the co-operation which he needs from the Sri Lankan Government.


Lord Avebury (LD):

My Lords, will the Government condemn the refusal of the Sri Lankan authorities to grant visas to the OHCHR team which was to investigate the atrocities committed in the final stages of the civil war by both the Government and the LTTE? Will the comprehensive report of that team, headed by Martti Ahtisaari, nevertheless be published in accordance with the mandate of the team at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015?


Lord Wallace of Saltaire:

My Lords, the UK was a sponsor of the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council. We are actively concerned in this issue. We are not at all happy about the refusal of the Sri Lankan authorities to co-operate with the attempts to have an external inquiry, because of our concerns that the internal inquiry’s recommendations have not yet been implemented.


Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab):

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell the House what action the British Government will take to ensure that the Sri Lankan Government co-operate more fully with the UN report that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, just mentioned in his question?


Lord Wallace of Saltaire:

My Lords, we have actively made our position clear to the Sri Lankan Government and will continue to do so.


5 Comments for “Western Pressure Builds”

  1. gamarala

    There is no need for sanctions – the regime will self-destruct soon at the rate of political corruption, profligacy, corrupt losing state enterprises, and megalomanic projects.

  2. Roshan

    Oh my LORD! what do these lords think they are?? Nothing better to discuss?? Like UK immegration policy!

  3. Raja

    Problem with this inquiry is, that they have deliberately excluded the investigation of the entire 31 years the conflict lasted, thereby letting free those terrorists who have committed brutal crimes and have taken refuge in Western nations. It also excludes charging those politicians in India and other foreign countries who have aided and abetted in the creation of LTTE terrorists and supported their criminal actions.

  4. jayalath2

    i have no hesitation to admit that Uk demonstrates the democratic values for certain extent to their fellow country men and the region which is admirable,which has been seen vividly while some ministers resign from the positions as soon as they were charged even for minor offence, that ANDREW MICHEL,s case of plebagation is very good example, which cannot be seen in the political vaccum of our part of the world, instead not only a small offence even the murderers and rapists are freely involve with politics as long as they are related to ruling party ,therefore the freedom and democracy is just for the name sake.but when considering to a large context the notion of human rights and concern about other countries by the western countries that their principals contain much contraversal issues, like Iraq dilema and west involvements in others countries internal affairs.we know very well that ARABIC world is entirely ruined by western alliance and there are no any body in this planet to punish for the perpertrators who is responsible for such woes has been, it says that west is actively involve to distabalize others countries in order to gain a personal benefits and it is vividly seen. do they think it is a good thing ? therefore,i suggest there should have a force to monitore and punish for what westerners has done to this world in the name of peace or right.
    i too suggest to the western countries not to forget about what you have done to the colonies last few have blood in hand of vietnam war, Korean war, iraq war, algerian conflicts ,RUWANDA genocides ,asian conflicts,african conflicts.
    you cannot stay away from those crisises because you created them and provided the weapons to them , but unfortunate of humanity there arent any one to raise hand against you, so , you are the westerners are luck so far to evade from the punishment ,but i gurantee that you will very near future .

  5. jayalath2

    why didnt you public the comment that published.if you do not want to do so, please strip your commenting box.

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