The dust is yet to quite settle on the anti-Sri Lanka resolution passed at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday. The reverberations have been felt, ironically enough, in neighbouring India even more than in Sri Lanka. There is much to be vicariously amused about successive Indian governments continuing to get hoist [...]


LLRC Sri Lanka’s answer to circus in UNHRC, India


The dust is yet to quite settle on the anti-Sri Lanka resolution passed at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday. The reverberations have been felt, ironically enough, in neighbouring India even more than in Sri Lanka.

There is much to be vicariously amused about successive Indian governments continuing to get hoist on their own petard. A thousand of their soldiers and a Prime Minister paid the ultimate price for their ‘Sri Lanka misadventure’ starting from the late 1970s. Over the years, governments in New Delhi too have paid the price for bending backwards to placate the racist, opportunist and thoroughly myopic political leaders of their southern state of Tamil Nadu, where some of the politicians believe the islet of Kachchativu was ceded by India to Sri Lanka, and therefore they have the right to poach in Lankan waters. Never mind if by this action they are only making the lives of Sri Lankan Tamils whom they shed crocodile tears for, miserable.

The UNHRC resolution seems to have bitten India’s own hand, like the LTTE did. It has thrown India’s domestic political equilibrium into disarray. India’s own strategic studies analysts are voicing concern at their diplomatic – and political — folly in voting against an otherwise friendly neighbour.

But the scramble for votes in Tamil Nadu throws to the wind all niceties normally associated with good neighbourly relations. With elections negotiating the bend, it only aggravates the situation. The ‘Sri Lanka Tamil’ card is a convenient cover for all their politicians’ sins, their commissions and omissions, and Sri Lanka will have to live and let live with the theatrics across the Palk Strait.

These politicians have the audacity to talk of war crimes. It is they who should be tried for crimes against humanity; for allowing their soil to be used for training, funding, providing safe haven and giving succour to a terrorist organisation that killed fellow Tamils from political leaders to rival guerrilla cadres both in Sri Lanka and on their own soil. This was an organisation that forcibly recruited children and sent them to the frontlines, and hacked to death Sinhalese children as they slept in ‘border villages’, butchered young novice Buddhist monks and young kids in prayer in mosques.

Why does not the Government of Sri Lanka call for war crimes tribunals against these drama queens and celluloid script writers? Why is the UNHRC silent?

That said, we have always asked why successive Sri Lankan governments do not reach out to Tamil Nadu. By sheer inaction, a bad situation has been aggravated to such a pitch that it is unsafe for a Sri Lankan to be there.

After a lot of hot air, the second UN resolution was passed, but only by a whisker. The Indians have been caught between a rock and a hard place. To Sri Lanka, India makes out that it was responsible for watering down the contents of the resolution. To Tamil Nadu,the Indian government says it proposed some amendments to the resolution to harden it, but was snubbed by the US, the main sponsor of the resolution and not allowed to move them. Put differently, India fell between two stools, really.

What stands out clearly in Thursday’s vote is that although the US received all the votes from the European states (13 votes) and 6 of the 8 from Latin America (totalling 19 of the 25 they received), it lost to Sri Lanka in Asia (2-8) and scraped through in Africa (4-3). With 7 refusing to support the resolution in the two continents; it meant that from Asia and Africa, only 6 supported the resolution and as many as 18 didn’t. At least in Asia and Africa, little David beat mighty Goliath.

The ultimate resolution passed in Geneva refrains, still, from internationalising Sri Lanka’s case. India in particular is wary of setting any precedent given its own precarious problem with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. Thus, the ball remains very much in Sri Lanka’s court for another year.

Whatever the UN resolution has to say, there is widespread criticism of this Government on two counts, domestically. One is its dysfunctional foreign policy that has angered the West to such a point that Sri Lanka is being unnecessarily perceived as an anti-West state. The other is its deliberate lethargy in implementing at least some of the more important recommendations of the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) through an Action Plan that is now nick-named The Inaction Plan.

To say that Sri Lanka’s foreign policy has been directionless and unprofessional is an under-statement. Burning its boats with the West, yet its major trading partner to win the war against the LTTE is one thing, but to refuse to mend it thereafter is incomprehensible. The selection of Heads of Missions to some of the more crucial capitals of the West over the recent years has been suspect. In Washington DC, from where the UN resolution emanated, the mission has concentrated on servicing the Sri Lankan community living in that country rather than reaching out and engaging the US administration.

The mission is completely lost in the ‘beltway politics’ of America. The ‘beltway’ is the circular freeway (like a ring road) that goes around the US capital, through the states of Virginia and Maryland. Over the years, it has been acknowledged that the movers and shakers of America stay inside this ‘beltway’. Thus, knowing ‘beltway politics’, has become common parlance in US politics of knowing those who run the country.

The Executive, Legislature and Judiciary stay within this ‘beltway’ and how they can be influenced is the name of the game. Lobbyists, known as ‘beltway bandits’ are past-masters at this game. They charge big fees, working on all sides, but must deliver. Where were ours?

There is a co-relationship between the LLRC recommendations and the UNHRC resolution. Broadly, there are two aspects – the call for a “credible” probe into allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law during the last stages of the war against the LTTE, and good governance issues.

The Government must not sulk, feeling it has been singled out for punishment, and viewing the resolution as something that has been shoved down its throat by the duplicitous West conducting a grudge battle through an ‘out-of-mandate’ UN resolution. Rather, it should see it as something that a vast majority of Sri Lankans themselves want implemented by virtue of the recommendations of their own domestic fact finding body – the LLRC.
That way the Government will not just avoid further embarrassment down the road and isolation on the world stage, but win the hearts and minds of its own citizens.

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