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February 10, 2014 With its failure to convincingly address allegations of war crimes or im!lement a meaningful !rocess of reconciliation over the last five years Sri Lanka finds itself tra!!ed by international !ressure ahead of the "#$%C meet in &eneva' (ll along criticism of the country)s human rights record has come largely from rights grou!s or sections of the Tamil dias!ora * some still es!ouse the se!aratist cause' +ut clearly mounting international !ressure now is something that Sri Lanka will find hard not to miss' To add to this the #orthern ,rovincial Council -#,C.)s resolution * !assed at its fifth council session recently calling for an international in/uiry into alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka * came as a shocker to the government' With such a move from a democratically0elected body re!resenting northern Tamils the call for an internal !robe only gained more legitimacy and steam' The #,C resolution and the remarks by visiting "nited States envoy #isha +iswal on the international community)s frustration over the !ace of reconciliation in Sri Lanka have visibly irked Colombo' Soon enough Sri Lanka lashed out at the "'S' envoy terming her remarks as unsubstantiated and at times !atronising' $aving failed to focus on ground realities all this while Sri Lanka now a!!ears to be hurriedly channelling its energy and might towards thwarting the resolution'Senior Sri Lankan ministers and bureaucrats are busy travelling the length and breadth of the globe to make a strong case for its !ost0war !rogress and lobby against a !otentially strong resolution in &eneva' "nfailingly highlighting the country)s flagshi! accom!lishments since the end of the war * what it !roudly terms infrastructure develo!ment and economic growth * the government is working overtime to garner su!!ort ahead of the Council session less than two months from now'
,residential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and 12ternal (ffairs 3inistry 3onitoring 3, Sajin de 4ass &unawardene were in Washington recently to meet legislators !olicymakers and officials to convince them of Sri Lanka)s !rogress on the reconciliation front' 3inister 5'1'W' &unasekera who went to 4ietnam returned with a robust assurance of fullest su!!ort The Sunday Times in Sri Lanka re!orted' 6ther ministers the Sunday !a!er)s !olitical column noted had been assigned various "#$%C members including +ra7il 8uwait and the ,hili!!ines for this cam!aign' Embedded message Sri Lanka says that a third "'S'0s!onsored resolution against it is totally unwarranted' 9oreign 3inister &'L' ,eiris who on his recent visit to #ew 5elhi met envoys of :; countries urged them to reflect objectively on the situation in Sri Lanka and its achievements since the end of the war according to media re!orts' The 3inister also !rotested against the selective manner in which Sri Lanka was treated at the "#$%C sessions by certain members the state0owned The Sunday Observer re!orted' (t this !oint the "'S' seems inclined to table a resolution that would call for an international !robe' 3s +iswal did not e2!licitly say so during her visit to Colombo but re!eatedly em!hasised that the !atience of the international community was wearing thin' The "'S' she said !referred a Sri Lanka0led !rocess of reconciliation but international !ressure she re!eatedly said was mounting' Sri Lanka)s failure to fully im!lement recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and %econciliation Commission -LL%C. that even the earlier $%C resolutions commended has contributed further to the growing sce!ticism going by 3s +iswal)s remarks' The climate is tense with indications * both from 3s +iswal)s address and from other di!lomatic sources in Sri Lanka * !ointing to an increasing !ossibility of a strongly0 worded resolution in &eneva' It has been so ever since +ritish ,rime 3inister 5avid Cameron * who was in the country for the Commonwealth Summit in #ovember ;<=> * served a virtual ultimatum to Sri Lanka' 9ollowing his visit to Colombo and Jaffna he set a 3arch ;<=? deadline for Sri Lanka to com!lete a credible !robe' 9ailing that he said an international !robe would be inevitable'
India’s stand While the "'S' may a!!ear to be taking a softer line com!ared to the "'8' 3s +iswal)s em!hasis on the international community)s @frustrationA seems to !oint to more than what was said' India which voted in favour of the resolution at the last two sessions will be closely watched' With the ,alk +ay conflict already !utting India on a weak wicket it will only !resent a greater dilemma should the resolution turn out to be very strong' While a deviation from India)s earlier voting !attern seems unlikely it would be interesting to see how #ew 5elhi handles the !ressure from Tamil #adu * given its own !arliamentary elections this year * and Colombo' Sri Lanka meanwhile has been arguing that it would need more time' It !robably will' The aftermath of a war has a lifes!an of its own' (ll the same the absence of meaningful and consistent engagement by the Sri Lankan state with the war0torn #orthern ,rovince evokes concern' $ighways and an assured su!!ly of electricity * which the government has been fairly successful in !roviding * are necessary but far from sufficient' Food insecurity The realities facing the !eo!le of the north are way more com!le2' There is an acute need for jobs' With the rising cost of living households * !articularly those with women heading them * are struggling to make ends meet' 3any !ublic institutions including those that lost land to the army)s high security 7ones in the #orthern ,rovince are crying for attention and su!!ort' 9ishermen of the north are badly hit' With the failure of successive monsoons food security is emerging as a serious concern' The region is still heavily militarised' The Sri Lankan government may not acknowledge these !roblems anytime soon as the rhetoric for both the government and those o!!osing it seems to begin and end with war crimes * now an all0too0familiar game of allegations and denial' While allegations of war crimes and human rights violations kee! surfacing from time to time * justifiably so after a brutal war that allegedly claimed several thousand civilian lives * it is im!ortant that we simultaneously shine the s!otlight on some of these current challenges'
Caught between a traumatic !ast and a stifling !resent that together threaten to drain the community of any little ho!e and !romise they might see !eo!le of the north do not have it easy even five years after the war ended' (nd s!eaking the language of war crimes alone may not be ade/uate to address this' To start with it would only make it far too easy for the Sinhala hardliners in the south to instantly dismiss charges with well0thought0out cons!iracy theories readily lending themselves to the cause' 3oreover it is likely to breed more hostility distancing Colombo even further away from the north' The rhetoric therefore has to be broadened to ca!ture some of the nuances of the everyday struggle of an ordinary !erson in the north' "ndoubtedly while it is im!ortant to fi2 accountability for the atrocities committed during the war it is e/ually crucial to see if the end of the war has actually translated to !eace' When the Sri Lankan government ended the war in 3ay ;<<B it had a golden o!!ortunity * a chance to tell its own citi7ens that it cared' 9ive years as the Sri Lankan government often says may be inade/uate to com!lete its reconciliation !rocess but it is certainly enough time to make a meaningful beginning' Was that beginning madeC 3aybe Sri Lanka does not have to wait for 3arch every year to answer this /uestion' firstname.lastname@example.org
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