High Time for USA and UK to live up to their commitments

sri lanka tamil genocide

The recent meeting of Tamil National Alliance {TNA] with the United States “{US] State Departments second rank officials provides a welcome relief and hopes kindling opening and as a light at the end of the tunnels of accountability, justice and reconciliation for the Tamil people. US, as a sponsor of the all important UNHRC Resolution of 30/1 and other Resolutions  particularly its own Resolution 413 initiated by the US Senate on May 18, 2021 and now referred to the Foreign Relations Subcommittee is expected to be passed as a Congress Resolution sooner or later. In this respect, US shoulders the major responsibility and obligation to infuse life and soul to those Resolutions and uphold accountability and justice to the Tamil people who are victims of alleged genocide committed by the Sri Lankan Governments through its Sinhala majority security forces since 1956.

Denial of accountability and justice with an entrenched culture of impunity in Sri Lanka corrodes and strikes at the roots of the principle of  rule of law making mockery of the judicial system. When accountability is ignored and discarded, the consequences inevitably result in the loss of faith and confidence in the judicial procedure and State’s law enforcement machinery while leading to encouraging the criminals to pursue their criminal career leaving the victims of crimes to live with lingering feelings of anger, desperation, frustration and thirst for revenge against the perpetrators of those crimes.

Sad to state for Sri Lanka, human rights accountability and justice are matters of anathema scorned, despised and ignored by the Government machinery. Past history would confirm the sickening truth of impunity when only a handful of security personnel have been convicted for the alleged genocidal crimes committed against the Tamils. Adding insult to injury, Sri Lanka which has rejected all the UNHRC Resolutions passed since 2012 Resolutions sponsored by the US is also threatening to withdraw its membership in the UNHRC. As rubbing salt to the wound, the fickling Professor of Law and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. G. L. Pieris who was earlier campaigning for human rights and propagating extensive devolution to the North and East provinces along with the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike has now somersaulted with a 360 degrees U-turn by rejecting any third party or foreign involvement in dealing with Sri Lanka’s human rights violations. Thus, the Government has frankly admitted and confirmed its full reversal and withdrawal from upholding accountability and justice through international or internal judicial mechanisms. The US State Department after the meeting with the Tamil delegation tweeted that “US joins Sri Lankan Tamil people in search for lasting peace and full voice in deciding their country’s future”. The Assistant Secretary of State Ms. Lu underscored “Human rights being central to the US foreign policy”.

In the meantime, United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Department Office in their updated Assessment  Report on Sri Lanka from January to June 30th 2020 raised “Continued deterioration of human rights in Sri Lanka which they make as one of their priority countries” [Released on January 25, 2021] The Office condemned the following among others:-

[1] Proscription of Tamil and Muslim community groups.

[2]  Restriction s on memorialization events, even arresting those who attended the recent memorial functions.

[3] Increased surveillance and intimidation of human rights activists by security forces.

[4] Use of PTA for number of arbitrary arrests.

[5] Obstructing accountability in a number of emblematic human rights cases. [Pardoning of a convicted murderer of death row. Duminda de Silva]

[6], Appointing convicted individuals to lead independent institutions.

[7] Extra-judicial killings.

Incensed and outraged by the statement of the United States and the United Kingdom, the bending Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Professor G. L. Pieris has burst out with his usual parrot statements by declaring that “No outsider will be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka”. but without initiating any internal investigative mechanism for the human rights violations. Earlier President Gotabaya Rajapakshe also stubbornly declared “That his Government will not allow anyone to interfere in the internal affairs of this country”.

This Sri Lanka’s defiant and adamant stand including its outright and contemptuous rejection of International Community’s involvement   including UNHRC & UN Resolutions along with the US Senate Resolution 413 which was proposed on May 18, 2021 allows for the time  to come for the world community of nations who believe in accountability, justice and rule of law to consider taking initiatives and appropriate individual actions to vindicate their faith and resolve for the sustainment of accountability and justice in Sri Lanka.

Undoubtedly, the US State Department’s statement has forthrightly given priority and empathetically stressed the importance of human rights and accountability being the central of United States foreign policy.  United State’s Resolution 413 against Sri Lanka places an unshakable and a firm indispensable commitment on it to pursue this matter without any hiccups and initiate appropriate steps to enforce and implement its commitments in those Resolutions without giving any room for possible cajoling and hoodwinking promises and deceptive undertakings of Sri Lanka which is carrying a tarnished record in these matters. As  such US cannot simply throw overboard its dominant role in the world stage as a Super Power wielding the powers, wherewithal and resources to protect and preserve human rights in the world.

The Tamils, victims of repression and genocidal killings amounting to genocide since 1948 have waited far too long for accountability and justice with their wounds festering and still remain unhealed. Sri Lanka having closed the doors for any foreign involvement, US and UK shoulder the prime and foremost responsibility and obligation to assert their roles to uphold accountability and justice wherever and whenever they are threatened. Any failure to do so will undoubtedly open the possibilities of rise and growth of militancy and recurrence of internal strife encouraging human rights violations while making the recommendation of recurrence in the Human Rights Resolutions meaningless, irrelevant and frivolous.

United Kingdom which was the colonial ruler of Sri Lanka [Ceylon] owes a much more heavier burden and obligation to redress and remedy the long standing and growing grievances of Tamil people which have been multiplying since independence in 1948. In this respect, the Report of Foreign and Commonwealth Office is applauded  and breathes fresh air and hopes by its frank and forthright assessment of Sri Lanka for the first half of 2020.

President Gotabaya Rajapakshe’s statement on November 24, 2021 to the public is alarming and is an ominous sign of entrenchment of the Rajapakshe family dictatorial rule. In his statement, he “Threatened to abolish all rights of those who are shouting, if that is what you ask for I will give it to you”/ By this daring and open threat, he has only revealed his ulterior motive and intention to hold on to power come what may and even undemocratically without any popular backing.

In this respect, United State’s non-invitation of Sri Lanka to attend the Democratic Summit on 8th and 10th of November 2021 convened by US President Joe Biden is a timely fitting action heralding the beginning of United State’s serious commitment and assertion to uphold accountability and Justice in Sri Lanka. The recent cancellation by the Scotland Yard to provide training for the Sri Lankan Police Force is another proper step to remind Sri Lanka of its duty to uphold accountability and justice.  It is a beacon of hope for the traumatized Tamil people who have been clamouring for accountability and justice for the genocide committed against them by Sri Lankas’ Sinhalese security forces since independence from  the British in 1948. Besides, the USA has recognized Tamils as people who are a distinct race and as a Nation with their own language, traditions and culture possessing 3000 years of history. It is also high time for USA and UK to recognize the war crimes, crimes against humanity committed against the Tamil people as genocide in view of the mountain of evidences collected and recorded by the UN Special Rapporteurs, Human Rights High Commissioners and Human Rights Organizations including Special Tribunals.

Eighty Millions Tamils living all over the world hope that USA and UK as champions of democracy and human rights will not waver and shrink from their solemn duties, responsibilities and undertakings to implement their commitments and Recommendations made in the UNHRC and UN Resolutions. It need not be stated that accountability takes precedence over reconciliation to make it meaningful, realistic and genuine.

Thambu Kanagasabai, Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka –   President of Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Org

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