For some time now, we have been waiting with bated breath, so to speak, to see what would happen at the biennial sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which began in Geneva this week.
To the surprise of the Government, but not of many others, the UN Secretary General slipped into his diplomatic pouch a copy of the report submitted to him earlier this year by a three- member panel of so-called experts he had appointed (no doubt on the recommendations of those who have his ear). The report on the final stages of the Sri Lankan Government's push to defeat the LTTE, branded a terrorist organisation in the United States, India and Europe, was then circulated to the delegations from the 47 member-states that comprise the UNHRC.
It is now public knowledge that the report recommends an independent inquiry into what International Humanitarian Laws (IHLs) have been allegedly violated by the Sri Lankan Government and its Armed Forces
The Government and its spokesmen went about arguing that the report cannot be made public at the time. The UN Secretary General had no qualms in making it public. They then went about arguing that the report cannot be produced before the UNHRC. The UN Secretary General has had no qualms in doing exactly that. Simply put, all the huffing and puffing and learned arguments on procedural points have been deftly ignored and the damning report against Sri Lanka is now on the table at an inter-governmental body of the United Nations. The danger of course, is that if the report gets adopted it can lead to an international inquiry on war crimes against individuals in Sri Lanka. So, the question to be asked is; "Now what?"
The answer to "Now what" is the need to lobby UNHRC's 47 member-states to ensure that the document is not put to the vote, and even if it is, that we are not defeated. It is a terrible indictment on the Government and its diplomatic intelligence to have been caught napping on this. The fact that the Government was not aware that the UN Secretary General was going to do what he did, while we were still arguing away on what he can and cannot do, is a poor reflection on the Government's diplomatic machinery.
Soon after the 2009 defeat of the LTTE, the same Western lobby, smarting at being ignored by the Sri Lanka Government in their efforts to prevent the liquidation of the LTTE tried to bring a resolution against Sri Lanka only to be thwarted largely due to India's backing at the time. But things have changed now. Given Sri Lanka's heavy leaning towards China, India has done a re-assessment of its Sri Lanka position, and is more than willing, or so it seems, to put Sri Lanka back on the rack of international public opinion.
The be-all and end-all of lobbying the 47 member states is not merely to give lunches and lectures. The comments made by the US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake in Colombo are indicative that they have set in motion a process to haul Sri Lanka over the coals through the UN report, however flawed it may be. This is the country that invaded Iraq after all with a lopsided report on the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Our Political Editor says that Mr. Blake gave an assurance to President Mahinda Rajapaksa that the US will not raise the Sri Lanka bogey this time in Geneva. He, however, gave no assurances about the future. In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer on the eve of the start of the UN General Assembly sessions next week emphasised how the US intends to work through the UNHRC to improve human rights around the world and the US's "prioritized engagement" with all parts of the UN system.
It is time, that those in charge of Sri Lankan Government took a long and hard worldview of its foreign policy, and those directly in charge of it played less to the local gallery and did more to convert the unconvinced and convince the converts that what happened in Sri Lanka was a justifiable defence of its sovereignty and the defeat of terrorism. The Canadian Prime Minister's missive this week questioning the acceptability of holding of the Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka are signals that attempts to isolate this country are far from over.
Customary butchery must stop
The gruesome animal sacrifices that take place annually at the Sri Bhadrakali Amman Kovil in Chilaw took an unexpected twist this time. Notwithstanding a magisterial order to "postpone" the event fearing a 'breach of the peace' due to clashes between the temple authorities and public-spirited animal rights activists, a Government minister known for his theatrics stormed the premises and took the terrified beasts to safety.
The episode in itself could be classified a 'theft', but the minister, it seems, can do no wrong. Others will argue that the 'end justifies the means', a dangerous trend that seems to be gaining more and more currency nowadays. It was only the other day that the same minister was lampooned for tying a Samurdhi officer to a tree for absenting himself from work. The officer was later to say that he got himself tied. The animals might well say they escaped on their own.
The annual event, termed a custom, has now attracted mounting public opinion to stop the age-old barbaric ritual. Pressure has been brought on the temple authorities while parties have sought legal recourse to stop the slaughtering of animals that contravenes the Butchers Ordinance of 1983 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, as well as local council laws that regulate the slaughter of animals.
These laws stipulate that a licence is required for the slaughter of animals, and the methodology that needs to be adopted; one of them being that the area be enclosed and another that it be washed after each killing. Even when home slaughter is permitted, for special festivals of some religions, a special licence has to be issued. What happens here is mass murder. Our photographers have captured animals being tormented before they are put to the sword. Their flesh is sold in the name of 'appeasing the Gods', and all this is to "invoke the wrath of Goddess Kaliamma" on their enemies i.e. this blood bath of animals is meant to invoke harm on other humans.
This is not a religious event; all reputed religious organisations disown the horrific ritual. The minister has added a new dimension to this whole campaign, but that should not detract from the fundamental objections to the crude happenings in Chilaw this time of year, every year.