UN Shouldn’t Rock The Boat
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report on Sri Lanka, as expected, has created controversies on predictable lines. Opposition flame throwers have rushed in to lambaste the new government on the report that has provided quite a lot of ammunition for them.
It has created a situation like in the trite Sinhala saying: Poking a finger into the eye of a depressed grandfather waiting for an opportunity to cry (andanna inna mutthage ahey angillak anna wage).
While Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera is attempting to steer through treacherous waters and avoid international opprobrium descending on the country, the raucous opposition sees this report as a solar plexus to direct punches and knock-out the opponent.
Tamil political parties are not attempting to rock the boat against the government but are welcoming the recommendations in the report for the reason that it has made recommendations they have been calling for.
The section of the SLFP not opposed to President Maithripala Sirisena has been quiescent but left the stone throwing and mudslinging to their minor partner, the National Freedom Front of Wimal Weerawansa. The crux of the report is the recommendation for the establishment of a hybrid court comprising international judges, lawyers, investigators and Sri Lankan judges.
The consensus among Sri Lankan parties and society at large excluding Tamil parties has been support for a domestic inquiry and strong objections against an international court or inclusion of foreign elements in the probe.
The report states that ‘while accountability through a domestic process is commendable in particular in the context of some political parties, sections of the military and society remain deeply opposed, the Sri Lankan criminal justice system is not ready or equipped to conduct independent, credible investigations into allegations made or to hold accountable those responsible as requested’ by the Human Rights Council.
It is also claimed that Sri Lankan laws are also inadequate in dealing with international crimes, enforced disappearances, most serious violations of human rights and in many other areas.
The many recommendations made such as the hybrid court, acceding to the Rome Statute and the International Criminal Court, a permanent presence of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations, it is anticipated, will put matters right. We are advised to take as examples of some unnamed countries where hybrid courts are functioning and many recommendations made for us that are in force.
While those who laboured to prepare this report may be correct in the existing inadequacies of the law and their implementation that resulted during the period of the civil conflict when the system collapsed under the terrorist onslaught, they have not been appraised that this country before that had perhaps the finest legal system in Asia with its final court of appeal being the Privy Council in Britain.
The deep rooted legal traditions going back to 150 years are there for the judicial system to recover and bloom once again soon. If there are deficiencies in the existing law and judicial system they can be corrected. A hybrid court is uncalled for.
Today, when we Sri Lankans are hectored about the deep complexities of international law, the legal and judicial systems prevalent in the Middle East and Europe are a comedy of errors about which Ban Ki-moon and his UN can only mumble incoherencies on international TV and watch helplessly.
We are told about the need to refine our laws with regard to enforced disappearances and serious violations of human rights but the UN can do nothing about the Greatest Democracy on Earth, which has invented new crimes such as rendition of foreign suspects – terrorist suspects – being abducted from their own country and flown into other countries where crimes such as torture can be committed with impunity.
True, this is no excuse to repeat such crimes in this country where dignity and sanctity of life is attached to all living beings, including animals. We can abide by standards of accepted human behaviour as we have done through history without all the UN legal mumbo- jumbo.
Sri Lanka is a democracy and is bound to abide by it despite its deficiencies till amendments are made. Foreign Minister Samaraweera is on record saying that whatever agreement has been reached, it has to be within the framework of the constitution. The establishment of a hybrid court – as envisaged in the UNHRC – will require a constitutional amendment, most probably requiring support of a two-thirds majority, which will be elusive. The ultimate solution for Sri Lanka has to be made by Sri Lankans for Sri Lankans not any other. Some Sri Lankans are skeptical about a domestic inquiry producing results. But that is due to hangovers from the past. A new beginning has been made.
The UNHCR and Western powers are appreciative of the efforts made by this new government towards reconciliation.
Much has been gained by the appreciation and understanding shown by the UN and Western powers of this government. A breakthrough in reconciliation has been made. The UN should not rock the boat it helped to float.