High Time To Act On Sri Lanka By United Nations And International Community

SRI LANKA missing persons

Sri Lanka has been in the limelight of UN and International Community for the last thirty years and more intensively during and after the genocidal war launched against the Tamil civilians and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from 2006 to 2009. After closing their eyes and ears during the war which witnessed torture, rapes, disappearances and killings of thousands of unarmed civilians, shutting down humanitarian aids and food supplies, the Human Rights Council passed Resolutions in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018 requesting Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations which were also ironically co-sponsored by Sri Lanka.

War crimes, crimes against humanity, breach of International Human Rights Law etc. which were committed by the Security Forces amounted to Genocide as described by various International Organizations, Human Rights Groups, UN Rapporteurs, and Peoples’ Tribunals on Sri Lanka held from December 07-10 2013 in Bremen, Germany and from 14-16 January 2010 in Trinity College, Dublin. Etc.  Hand in hand, structural genocide has also been set in motion against the Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka since 1948. This agenda which is now openly declared and pursued is to make Sri Lanka, a Buddhist-Sinhala State based on Buddhist philosophy, as recently declared by the President Gotabaya Rajapakshe.

The recent statements of Government leaders, Buddhist Clergy and other Buddhist extremists have confirmed this agenda, raising fear, uncertainty and insecurity among the minorities and those following other faiths.

Justice Minister Nimal Sripala de Silva on December 22, 2019 has contemptuously stated that that “All allegations of war crimes are false” when the alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity etc. have been painstakingly compiled, collected and reported by United Nations and UNHRC personnel and duly published. Besides, the recent statement s of President Gotabaya Rajapakshe and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakshe are defying the United Nations and UNHRC and also question their roles in Sri Lanka, thus casting aspersions on their existence and objectives while striking at their credibility.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksha at a news conference on October 15, 2019 said “I can’t recognize what the previous Government have signed. We have to move forward, we have to forget about hanging on to old allegations and all that”.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakshe at a military ceremony at Nelum Pokona on December 14, 2019 stated that “The change of government in January 2015 was almost as if a forcing force had invaded and taken over Sri Lanka”.

President Gotabaya Rajapakshe on December 12, 2019 during a BBC interview stated that “Dissent or criticism during a time of war is treason”.

Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on November 18, 2019 in a statement to “Daily Mirror’ confirmed  “The Governments review of withdrawal from United Nations Resolution 30/1 of 2015”.

President Gotabaya Rajapakshe at a news conference on December 12, 2019 stated that “There was no point wasting time on solutions that could not be implemented”. Development of North and East of Sri Lanka on employment, education and health facilities will bring peace to the Island”.

The President has also earlier questioned the 13th amendments and ruled out full implementation of its provisions like powers over land and Police.

The new Defence Secretary Major General Kamal Gunaratne has endorsed this view and said that “Military Bases would remain in North and East of Sri Lanka and would not be removed”.

President Gotabaya Rajapakshe during an interview with |The Hindu Newspaper on  November 29, 2019    said that “White vans abductions are all false allegations”.

In an interview at his Secretariat on December 19, 2019 he said “30/1 UNHRC Resolution is dangerous to our country and so can’t be accepted.” The reality is that this Resolution is dangerous to their family members accused of war crimes. In summary, Sri Lankan Government has plainly and openly declared their stand and decisions concerning the UNHRC, United Nations Resolutions and the nagging problems facing the Tamils for the last 70 years which remain unsolved and festering with no cure but for more repression.

[1] The present Government has declared its rejection of 30/1 UNHRC Resolution and consequently accountability, justice and reconciliation have been removed from its dictionary. President’s and Prime Minister’s recent statements confirm this position.

[2] The Government has also rejected any foreign Government or outside Organizations to interfere with Sri Lanka’s local affairs and issues taking shield under sovereignty and dismissing international commitments and objections.

[3] The government has rejected any political proposal to settle the minorities [Tamils’] problem declaring the non-existence of any problem for the Tamils, while taking the facile card of development, being the only panacea to solve all the Tamil’s problems. This is akin to the cover up a wound with plaster instead of healing them with proper medicine.

In addition the 13th Amendment introduced under Indo/Sri Lanka Accord in 1987 is also under threat of being diluted and finally it would face its death, as President Gotabaya said “Only what is acceptable to Sinhalese can be granted to Tamils”.

USA’s Secretary of State Pompeo called on the Government to uphold “Accountability and reconciliation, so also British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the observance of “Accountability and reconciliation”. Their statements reveal their deep concern regarding the prevailing human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan Government is also planning to repeal the 19th Amendment which restricted the powers of President viewing the statement of the President Gotabaya when he said that “19th Amendment is a mistake”. Thus ominous signs of dictatorial rule are emerging with witch hunting of  political enemies, unlawful arrests and detentions, threat to freedom of press, retired military officers being appointed as heads of Institutions with Prime Minister [President’s elder brother] in charge of 88 of them and Chaminda Rajapaksha [President’s eldest brother] 31 of them and complete exclusion of Muslims in Government. In addition independence of state institutions including Judiciary is also at stake coupled with state impunity. The recent intimidation and threats at Judges is a warning sign. There can be no doubt as to the anti-democratic and dictatorial path being pursued by the present Government and with a weak opposition; it will be difficult to put a brake to this perilous course internally. So the only choice and alternative is the intervention of United Nations, and International Community to restore good governance. The plain truth and reason behind the vehement rejection of UNHRC Resolutions by the President and Prime Minister is nothing but to free themselves from liabilities for those alleged commissions of crimes by them in case an independent UN investigation is set up. The danger is not for the country as President Gotabaya says but for those at the helm of high offices [President, Prime Minister, and Defence Secretary Army Commanders etc.] Therefore, there cannot be any excuse or delay for the United Nations, UNHRC and International Community to come to terms with their obligations and take appropriate steps to right the wrongs of Sri Lanka and initiate punitive measures against Sri Lanka which has:-

[a] Rejected and refused the implementation of UNHRC Recommendations and Resolutions 30/1 and 40/1] even recognize them.

[b] Questioned the stature and functions of UNHRC and United Nations while being a member of them.

[c] Devalued and despised the principles of accountability and justice.

[d] Spurned the roles of UNHRC and UN and shut the role of International Community and devaluing the bilateral relations or even friendly nations.

[e] Turned a blind eye to the cries of mothers who are protesting on the streets for more than 1010 days to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones, thousands of them disappeared while in custody of the Security forces during and after the war.

[f] Totally refused to admit the 70 year old ethnic problem which cost the lives of more than 200,000 during the pogroms against the Tamils in 1956, 1958, 1971, 1977, 1981, 1983 and during the genocidal war from 2006-2009.

The way out for the United Nations, UNHRC and International community is to invoke the Universal Jurisdiction clause and also take steps to refer Sri Lanka to International Criminal court, in addition to consider the filing of a case in the International Courts of Justice through proper procedure and channels. Failure to act is only a failure of United Nations, UNHRC and Security Council to observe and enforce its obligations laid down in their Charters.

Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM [Lond]. Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.




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