Geneva process in progress | Sunday Observer

Geneva process in progress

14 March, 2021

Are we in trouble? Absolutely not. We can easily get out of the threat if we play our cards well. We are somewhat lost ourselves and the correct way to get over is to follow the famous village adage that ‘’If you know the way and if there is a correct way in the process, why do you mingle about as a person lost the way’’ – walk and follow the correct way.

Let us be simple and straight on alleged human right violations and crimes against humanity –especially at the last stage of 2009, while protecting the human shield of 300,000 persons created by the LTTE. Killings by the LTTE were brutal and human right violations by this most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world has been rampant.

According to USA reports, the LTTE had been the cruellest and most powerful terrorist organisation, with facilities of naval and airpower aiming to establish a separate state in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. Despite the corona pandemic, the people are living peacefully with no fear of terrorism due to the sacrifices by the security forces.

The battle against terrorism in Sri Lanka was won by the most disciplined Security Forces over undisciplined LTTE guerrillas with child soldiers. We were the victims of gross human rights violations by the British in 1817/1818 when they massacred hundreds of thousands youth over 18 (the male population while destroying 100,000 acres of paddy fields by burning with cattle and other belongings of villagers, with the destruction of great irrigation systems of the Sinhala kings, as narrated by ‘’Herbert White’’ on the Journal of ‘Uva’ by British Agent Baker.

Internal issues

The Great Liberation war of Uva in 1817/1818 – is not too far away historically. Not too late for ‘’Madam Michelle’’ to take up at the Human Rights Council. What rights have the UN and the Human Rights Commission got to inquire into our internal issues within the domestic jurisdiction when Article 2(1) of the Charter said that “the Organisation is based on principles of sovereign equality of all its members”.

We are bound by the United Nations Charter and connected conventions as we are a signatory and bound by legal and other considerations demarcated by international law conventions and practices. The periodic review of the Human Rights Committee consisting of 47 supposed to be friendly nations is a part of the process going through the human right records of selected member nations with the High Commissioner of Human Rights for appropriate steps as requested by the UN guidelines. Decisions are taken on friendships, political affiliations, economic consideration, person rivalries and not necessary on merits of the country in question.

What is the effect and impact of the countries concerned on the findings and information? Israel with various issues live with strong support of powerful friends and power of themselves in the world community when we are too small to withstand the pressure of certain interested groups. Israel is a world nuclear power and self-sufficient though small in size. Being a country not dependent on others economically, the USA is in the forefront as the main ally of Israel.

Double standard

What moral right has the USA in bringing resolutions against Sri Lanka when they are accused of killing over 200,000 in the infamous word war when the people were wiped out by the barbaric atomic bomb of the USA, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for which Obama apologised during his regime? Is this sufficient? What about the population still suffering with cancer and permanent disabilities? What about the invasion of Iraq looking for arms of mass destruction which they never found with killings people.

What wrong have they done to be killed in mass graves? These are only fractions which are well documented on the Internet. There is lot more in Afghanistan, Africa, Asia and many parts of the Globe due to greed for wealth and power. What right do they have to be the world policeman and superior watchdog on human rights and supervise and punish us (Sri Lankans) for liberating ourselves from terror?

The country promoted loving kindness, compassion to the entire living beings, including human beings and animal kingdom as based on the Buddhist way of life practising over 2500 years. It appears that Sri Lanka is accused of ending the battle against terrorism that has ruined our generations for over 30 years from the clutches of the ruthless LTTE fertilised by some interested Western groups contrary to their advice to settle for a part of the country.

We proved that terrorism could be eliminated militarily. We will be in trouble if we do not possess and practice a proper foreign policy. During the Presidency of J R Jayewardene, the foreign policy was fully aligned towards the west and USA whereby India with the mentality of regional power with an international agreement with the USSR was not considered a close friend.

JR made certain remarks on Indira Gandhi, the then emerging leader implicating her good friend Sirimavo Bandaranaike and carve stories which pierced through Indira Gandhi. The results were obvious with 1987 indirect invasion and enforcement of the 13th Amendment. India still wants to implement 13A tied down as a condition to support in the UN decelerations when the USA says her support is tied down on human rights.

These are realities in international politics as much as domestic politics proving the notion that foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy. Indira gave indirect support to emerging LTTE to rise which ruined us for three decades showing that even in international politics, personalities and personal issues matter and are as important as international matters between nations. Madam Bandaranaike won a lot for Sri Lanka with her charm and friendship with the Gandhi family which is a lesson for us for future. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa managed ‘’War Diplomacy’’ well until the battle against terrorism was won.

Foreign policy

The Foreign policy of a nation in most simple words as how she behaves in the international forum in dealing with all matters within the domestic jurisdiction and the international arena, which is monitored and scrutinised by the other member states, organisations worldwide. The Foreign policy is the forerunner of a nation and is said to be an extension of the domestic policies which are monitored by the world.

The events in Geneva is in the public eye and read, monitored and argued by many. Today, top priority is given by member nations to economic diplomacy. Friendly nations have grouped together finding violations of other countries based on the information received from the NGO’s, media, diaspora and other means in monitoring and periodic reviews of the conduct of the countries on the dock alleging human right violations. The UN is the only world body depending on the funds from richest nations for existence and maintenance. It is the richest and powerful five members of the world body that have the final decision in all matters.

Do member states receive equal treatment from the UN or the powerful countries is a difficult question to answer as accusations against the world powers appear to be not effectively considered. All these issues are parts and connected to foreign policy issues. US President Joe Biden has started air strikes with the new foreign policy and demonstrated priority on governance.

Friendly with all

The general motto in Sri Lankan foreign policy is ‘’Friendly with all and angry with none’’. ‘’Madam Bandaranaika’’ at the Senate on the Non-Alignment Foreign Policy said that although small and militarily weak, small nations have a positive role to play in the world today. We cannot wash our hands away deviating on the classical theory of neutralism. She maintained friendly relations with all groups. She was firm, steady, straight and fearless with a firm economic and political foreign policy and got a positive reaction though small.

Neutrality gives different meanings as avoiding confrontations and agreements, such as NATO and be neutral such as Switzerland that was neutral traditionally during the battle against terrorism. Today, the foreign policy fluctuates based on strong economic considerations influenced by big economic and political powers unable to frame and possess coherent form and correct foreign policy for the country.

Can we be neutral and non-aligned is the million dollar question? We need a Sri Lanka friendly foreign policy. The Yahapalana regime was accused of mismanaging foreign policy by co-sponsoring 30/1 and taking decisions on the economic front by entering into Singapore agreement, long lease of (almost sale) of ‘’Hambantota’’ New harbour and Lease (almost sale) of Trincomalee oil tank farms in the absence of the foreign policy and infighting among the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the President drifting towards three ways.

It is the Head of State that announces and updates foreign policy. It appears that there is a lacuna in Sri Lanka which benefits the enemies of the nation. If the foreign policy is an extension of the domestic policy on international economic fronts, those should be clear cut to the world at large. It appears doubtful whether it is so. The litmus test of our friendly interactions with the rest of the world is how the friends will help us when we are in need of help Geneva deliberations. The economy and the economic diplomacy play a major role in steps taken by the member states on the international stage.

Allegations and accusations

Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s allegations indicate that she was not properly briefed and misguided by the powerful lobbying of the diaspora with tentacles all over the world. Her allegations are based on a presumption that the Tamil Brethren are a persecuted group confined to the North and the East. Some 60 percent Tamils live outside the North and the East and abroad. It appears she compares Sri Lanka’s situation to the South African or Bosnian situations based on different circumstances.

She makes presentations based on the information collected over the years by groups of prejudiced mindsets groomed by the diaspora. It appears that she has not been provided with correct information on the issue.

The Tamils are an educated wealthy lot spread around the country living with the majority community in the South. A classic example is Colombo where the majority population is the Tamils.

Economic missions

The Geneva resolution is the main part of the foreign policy which is an extension of the domestic policy. It is how the economy is functioning which is the main concern of many countries in relation to trade investments and trade policies. For example, India has concern on the Eastern Jetty, Trincomalee Oil Farms and Trade Agreements for them not to assist Sri Lanka in the guise of the 13th Amendment. The USA was keen on the SOFA and the MCC agreements. The main displeasure appears to be the differences on these agreements. Japan has interests on a rail project and the Eastern Jetty which have not materialised. Most issues and differences arose from economic matters rather than real politics.

Human Rights

Human Rights in Sri Lanka are excellent with a separate chapter in the Constitution on fundamental rights which is implemented in the Supreme Court with a strong Legal Aid Commission and the independent Bar and the Judiciary. The Human Rights Commission is the main body in protecting, fostering and enhancing human rights. Aggrieved parties may lodge complaints which are subsequently transferred to the Supreme Court having gone through the Chairman.

The High Commissioner has a catalogue of concerns on Sri Lanka and governance. Being a retired judge, the High Commissioner should have considered all sides carefully before deciding on a scanty attack on a country which enjoyed democracy over 70 years uninterrupted after the country was liberated from British colonialism. Friends of Sri Lanka have spoken high and loud on the allegations by the High Commissioner and the other countries planning for a new resolution.

The Ambassadors’ Forum has compiled a book on the Geneva process with 28 articles from top professionals and academics to be submitted to the High Commissioner and all member nations for the consideration before the proposed resolution is adopted and the deliberations of the Geneva process is completed, with names and subject matters of articles on various fields relation to the Geneva process.

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Sarath Wijeisnghe is a President’s Council and former Ambassador to the UAE and Israel.