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DateLine Sunday, 25 May 2008

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UN Human Rights Council election: The real truth

The United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) consists of 47 member nations elected periodically by ballot. It was established in 2006 to replace the discredited Lois Arbour, the High Commissioner and the High Commission establishment of the United Nations.


A delegate in the General Assembly casts his ballot during the election of 15 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 21 in New York. Picture courtesy: UN Multimedia Library

USA Ambassador Mr. Bolton, many organisations and experts at the UN were critical on Louis Arbour, the High Commissioner and the Commission on Human Rights being ineffective and inefficient. Only few regular sessions were held during the deliberations of the Council since its existence from 2006. There were many criticisms on the Council too of partiality and inefficiency. Abuses in Israel and several hundreds of incidents and cases were discussed.

Most of the important matters were not taken up at deliberations and many member nations were critical of the conduct of the Council. The US chose not to take part in elections of the Human Rights Council to give credibility to an inefficient and ineffectual organisation.

This indicates the position of the Council in the eyes of the senior and powerful members of the organisation. The resolution that created the Human Rights Council established no hard criteria for membership other than quota for regional groups.

The ageing UN

The United Nations is an organisation of nations, established 60 years ago replacing the “League Nations” which the members lost faith on. The ageing and weak UN is funded by member states based on the income and the main contributor is the United Sates of America, which has direct and indirect control over the affairs of the organisation.

Five world powers are at the apex body consisting of the USA, UK, France, Russia and China. Like any other organisation there are external and internal politics at the election of office bearers. It is always the favourite of the USA that will be elected as the Chief Executive - the Secretary General. Today the UN is an outdated and ineffectual organisation of states. It is a toothless union of nations dominated by few rich states with different agendas.

The mandate of the Human Rights Council is generally to protect, preserve, promote and maintain human rights situation in the globe. Though they speak of international standards, the definition is vague and unclear on “international standards on human rights”. It has not been able to live up to the mandate and expectations due to inherent defects and the working arrangements.

Members are elected by quota and not based on merits. The General Assembly has resolved under resolution 60/251, as follows:

“The member states seeks election shall uphold the highest standards in the protection and promotion of human rights and fully cooperate with the Council in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

However, the states elected are not necessarily states with a good tract record on human rights. The states elected over Sri Lanka maintain a poor record and “institutionally” in violation of individual and collective human rights based on so called international standards.

Pakistan always had a military rule and a bad human rights record. True she is our close friend and helps each other but the state of human rights today in Pakistan is lower than that of Sri Lank and India.

Model democracies

Those against Sri Lanka has forgotten that India and Sri Lanka are the two model democracies in the entire

Asia enjoying 60 years of individual and collective human rights by the people. We are grateful for India for having supported us at the election against the vociferous anti-Sri Lankan lobby by our own opposition and international and certain local “Fat Cat” NGOs.

It is Sri Lanka and our foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama who was mainly instrumental in bringing Pakistan back to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Organisation expelled Pakistan mainly for sacking Supreme Court Judges and Musharaff’s forcible taking over the elected government by a coup denying people of basic human rights.

However, the Muslim lobby with a large vote-base is rich and powerful. The situation has still not changed. Bahrain is predominately a rich Muslim state ruled by Muslim law. They have different definitions on human rights based on Muslim law, which is different from UN concepts based on the Christian human rights concepts.

Japan is one of the richest countries helping other nations financially and otherwise including Sri Lanka. Obviously other states, especially the developing nations are under obligation to Japan. The Secretary-General of the United Nations is from Korea, which is today a rich and a powerful country in every respect with a poor human rights record according to the United Nations documents itself.

Britain though boasts of and claming the benchmark on human rights has a poor record as a result of recent anti terror and anti immigrant legislation. The Prevention of Terrorist Act is on and Gorden Brown has introduced anti- terror legislation at the expense of accepted human rights laws and jurisprudence.

It is a world power and a founder member of the United Nations Organisation. She took only 120 votes, which are only 19 votes over Sri Lanka.

We are not finding excuses of our non election, but pointing out the international realities in international politics also governed by the law of the jungle - the survival of the fittest in the world family of Nations.

Uphill task

Sri Lanka had an uphill task during the campaign for re-election to the Council due to adverse publicity and vigorous opposition by LTTE front organisations and their influence worldwide. There were many misrepresentations and adverse propaganda mainly by local politicians and NGOs led by two powerful “Fat Cats” sitting on a mountain of Dollars, Pounds and Euros.

Paul Tighe said during the campaign, “Sri Lanka lost a bid for second term on the United Nations Human Rights Council after charges it is failing to prevent abuses in its conflict with Tamils fighting for a separate homeland in the South Asian Island”.

This indicates to what extent the powerful LTTE front organisations and supporters misled the international community despite the fact that USA itself has declared the LTTE as the most powerful and brutal terrorist organisation in the globe. Minister Samarasinge has correctly pointed that the “Nobel” trio has not studied the brief properly and spoken based on misleading propaganda.

They should have the common curtsey to make inquires either from the Minister concerned or the foreign mission before leveling any accusations to an innocent nation. This indicates the sorry state of affairs.

Bribery, corruption, undue influence and all forms of illegal and unfair methods are used in this campaign as in any other election campaign.

NGOs are accepted in the UN system as the United Nations Organisation itself is a non-Governmental organisation consisting of member states. The funds allocated to NGOs by the UN are colossal which is being shared by few international and local NGOs. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Adelfo Perez Esquivel are heads of main NGOs heavily funded by the UN system.

Preys of INGOs

The Jimmy Carter Foundation is one of the richest NGOs with enormous sums of money to spend and it have further resources and international disputes to attract more and more funds. Sri Lanka and affected nations are preys of these “International NGO Hyenas” looking for suitable preys for funds.

Dishonest NGOs are jubilant and overjoyed on the Sri Lankan issue and other major disasters in the world which are money-spinners as 80 to 90 percent of the funds allocated to most NGOs are utilised for administrative and other expenses.

Out of trillions of funds allocated for Tsunami victims how much really went to the hands of actual victims who are still suffering. The real victims received only a fraction of the funds allocated. Sri Lankan NGOs are the most powerful, privileged and richest leading luxury lives drawing billions of funds by way of salaries and other perks.

Jimmy Carter said in his campaign against Sri Lanka that the “Council should be led by countries with a greater commitment of human rights” though Sri Lanka maintains the highest standards in every respect. Sri Lanka opposition should be ashamed of their conduct tarnishing our own image abroad.

Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe has performed an excellent job during the campaign with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to meet the adverse and incorrect propaganda against the nation by interested groups. It was an uphill task to fight them single-handed as President Rajapaksa said at the celebrated speech at Oxford that Sri Lanka is successfully fighting the most powerful and brutal terrorists in the world single handedly.

His speech was fantastic, to the point, clear and natural and won the hearts and minds of the world community. This writer being a political animal and a student of politics has closely followed speeches of world leaders including Thatcher, Major, Smith, Blair, Gorbachev and many others in the United Kingdom over the past two decades.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s speech at Oxford was definitely clear and better than that of most leaders. Blair always speaks with a script and always looks down to the script often.

Mahinda’s presentation was natural, impromptu and effective. We need more and more such international exposures and speeches as an eye-opener to the international community in order to help the Sri Lankan lobby.

Little difference

Let us be honest about our inability to be elected to the Commission for the second time. Instead Japan (155), Bahrain (142), Korea (139) and Pakistan (114) were elected, while we received 101, which is sufficient to be eligible for membership. Unfortunately the constitutional allocation for Asia was only for four and we could not get a place in the Council.

Really we should and could have been elected and it would have been good if we were in the Council because for some reason we wanted to be in it, even though the membership makes a little difference to us.

USA objected to the formation and appointment of the Council and members and declined to contest or take part at deliberations saying that it is not worth taking part and give credibility to an ineffective and inefficient body.

There is major propaganda that we have lost the world - and the international goodwill. All this is a part of the propaganda for a future investment in the Human Right Industry in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is a senior member of the world community and shall continue to be so despite the ferocious Tiger lobby worldwide, which is now fading away. Our tract record and the mechanism is fine and of high international standards. We have the Human Rights Commission - an effective body, which is not even found in the United Kingdom.

We have ratified almost all the international human rights conventions. Our soldiers are one of the best and disciplined in the world. Recently an American soldier was punished in Iraq for using the Quran as a target at a shooting training session. Rape, Child abuse misuse of power of soldiers in Iraq is rampant.

Our solders are angles compared to them. The only trouble is our propaganda mechanism and foreign missions are not keeping pace with the required standards and challenges. We have no option but to work harder to win the war on terror and propaganda.

Easy prey

We should also not underestimate their financial strength and power internationally and locally. They throw money on local politicians even during and for election campaigns. Some of the Fat Cat NGO leaders in Sri Lanka have taken part in de-stabilisation and coups in other countries. They have landed in Sri Lanka as it is an easy and a productive prey.

Attractive funds will attract TV programmers and reporters worldwide for certain projects on anti-Sri Lanka or otherwise. If one spends around 100,000 pounds a good documentary will be produced for the LTTE.

If one donates around 50,000 pounds to a university, an academic will prepare a good academic presentation or a book with the help of the students for any anti-government propaganda.

This shows how money speaks. These are secrets of the LTTE’s success and there are ways for them to extract funds legally and otherwise. The President and the two energetic Ministers need support from the missions, and the expatriate community to work against a part of the misguided world community and a part of the expatriate community, funding and supporting the LTTE and its front organisations.

All the foreign missions should initiate a new and innovative program and it is time the two Ministers who are in the forefront and the international limelight to assist the campaign against terror and promote our image.

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