While university dons were taking the place of blue collar workers on the streets, another drama was being enacted in parliament on the same day. On Tuesday the 21st, TNA leader R. Sampanthan opened what the present columnist believes to be a planned TNA campaign to embarrass Sri Lanka before the international community in the run up to the CHOGM in November this year.
He initiated the campaign with a speech extolling the virtues of the recent UN Human Rights Commission resolution against Sri Lanka and calling upon the government to implement it.
After the Resolution was passed in the UNHRC last March, the Americans were very keen to legitimise their resolution by conveying the impression that the member states of the UNHRC had voted against Sri Lanka of their own free will and not due to American arm twisting.
Sampanthan echoed the same views in his speech even giving figures relating to the quantum of American aid received by the countries that voted against Sri Lanka in contrast to that received by those who supported SL. External Affairs minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, knowing fully well that Sampanthan’s speech was not aimed at a local audience, made use of the opportunity get his own thinking across.
GLP pointed out that that this resolution in the UNHRC that Sampanthan spoke of had been originally brought by Canada in September, 2011 but it had ended in dismal failure. The Foreign Minister of Canada John Baird, met GLP in New York and said that Canada was not proceeding with their resolution because they did not have support within the UNHRC. Then the United States took over the burden.
GLP stated that he had visited many African countries in 2012 and had heard at first hand from the leaders of those nations the pressure that was exerted by the USA on those governments. He said that US influence could not be gauged only through direct aid as Sampanthan was trying to imply and that influence took a variety of forms.
So, many countries did have difficulty in saying ‘No’ to the United States and that they had said so specifically to SL. GLP said that the Human Rights Council today was the most politicized among all the organs of the United Nations system and that has consequences for all developing nations.
Speaking of the role of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, GLP said that while Sampanthan might sing her praises, Sri Lanka was not happy with her role and that her report to the Human Rights Council seeks to incorporate into the formal documentation of the Human Rights Council, the Darusman Report and the Petrie Report.
GLP pointed out that while the Darusman Report itself says that they did not have the power to investigate and that it was not a fact finding body and that they did not carry out any investigation, yet, they come to conclusions which have significant repercussions on the rights of a sovereign state.
The Darusman report describes in the most horrendous terms, events which are supposed to have occurred and then, they say that what is stated in their report should not be accepted as facts.
The Petrie Report was not intended to be a critique of the Sri Lankan Government policy at all and was supposed to be merely an examination of the manner in which the United Nations system had operated in this country. But the Petrie report has also been prepared in a very unacceptable manner.
They have blacked out portions of documents they used which did not support the conclusions that they wished to arrive at.
What they say with regard to certain matters, for example, the quantities of food that were sent to the Northern Province are flatly contradicted by the evidence of the United Nations officials who were present in the country at the relevant time, like Neil Buhne, who was heading the operations here and also Western Ambassadors who were members of the CCHA ‐ the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance. The then US Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Robert Blake, was also a Member of that body. The CCHA was well aware of the quantities of food that were sent to the North.
GLP pointed out that the numbers of civilian casualties that are referred to in the Petrie Report ‐ 40,000 – had been plucked out of the thin air.
Sir John Holmes when asked about it, at that time said, “No. This is not based on any factual information”. Speaking further on the Darusman report, GLP pointed out that Yasmin Sooka, a member of the Darusman Panel had taken it upon herself to market the Report, holding seminars and trying to persuade people to accept it.
That was not her function at all. Another Member of the Panel was Steven Ratner, an American professor, who in published work, had come to conclusions on the matters that he was called upon to decide before he was appointed to the Panel. How could he possibly bring an open mind to bear on the matters which he is required to report on?
GLP pointed out that Hanny Megally, an officer of the OHCHR, who came to SL at the invitation of the government, had gone back to Geneva and made a bee line to the residence of the United States Permanent Representative to deliver a briefing and therefore her objectivity as a UN official was in doubt. Explaining why John Baird, Foreign Minister of Canada had gone overboard and recently described SL as ‘evil’, GLP pointed out that when Peter Kent a Cabinet minister in the Stephen Harper government criticised a television programme hosted by one Paranchothy which honoured Tamil Tigers, as ‘heroes’ and ‘freedom fighters’, the Prime Minister forced him to eat his own words publicly.
Not stopping at that, at the meeting of Foreign Ministers in October 2011 Canada objected to CHOGM 2013 being held in Sri Lanka. But 15 countries took the floor one by one to declare their emphatic support for SL.
Not discouraged even by such a rebuff, Canada did not give up. They made two more futile attempts on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, and again, at the meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers.
The final attempt was made at the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the 26th of April which again was rejected and now SL is making preparations to host CHOGM. “This is not simply a matter of a physical event that will take place within the shores of the Island.” Said GL, “It has far greater significance because this country will lead the Commonwealth for two years commencing from November, 2013 and President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be heading that organization during that period. So, this is what some people cannot stomach ….”
Lakshman Kiriella had posed the question why the UNHRC resolution was being rejected by the government when the LLRC recommendations that it refers to were accepted by the government.
To this GLP had replied that the recommendations that will benefit the country will be implemented not because of external duress but because they are beneficial to the country. GLP pointed out that the UNHRC passed a resolution in March 2012, and another one in March 2013, and that six months later in September there would be an oral update and by March 2014 a full report would have to be submitted and no self respecting country will submit to such duress. “So, I categorically say that we reject the UNHRC resolution,” said GLP. Reacting to Kiriella’s warning ‘not to think that this pressure coming from overseas will cease’, he responded: “We are not worried about that. The protection from that is the will of the people of this country.” In concluding his speech GLP said:
“Let us shake ourselves free of this notion that the international community is going to frighten us, intimidate us and impose a solution on us. I tell the Hon. R. Sampanthan on the floor of this House that that will never happen.
The international community is neither disposed nor able to impose a substantive solution on the Government and the people of Sri Lanka. That is a futile illusion. Let us resolve these problems within our shores. There is no other way…