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Mahinda Rajapaksas Cynical

Argument on the UN Report!

We are living within a global community. Both


international humanitarian law and human rights law are part of the international law to
which Sri Lanka has undeniable obligations, moral, customary and legal. The rejection
of the report is no excuse from those obligations. It is cynical and undiplomatic.
by Laksiri Fernando
( September 23, 2015, Sydney, Sri Lanka Guardian) Former defeated president, and
now a Kurunegala MP, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has issued a statement saying, I think it
would be appropriate to make known to the public my observations on the recently
released report on Sri Lanka by the OHCHR. Of course it is appropriate, but he has

not made much observations on the substance of the report going rambling on other
matters. He says that My government did not cooperate with this investigation for
many reasons, foremost of which was that it was instituted outside the established
procedure of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
If it was proposed to institute outside the procedure (Resolution 25/1), then it was up
to the members of the UNHRC to rectify it, and if his representatives failed to convince
about the correct procedure at the Council, then the new procedure has to be
accepted as a valid one and deliver his regimes responsibilities accordingly. This is
what he has failed, for many other reasons, among which might be his or his regimes
complicity of war crimes that he is silent about.
He goes on in his statement to castigate the Office of the Commissioner for Human
Rights (OHCHR). To him, The OHCHRs independence is questionable because it is
funded for the most part not through the regular budget of the UN but through
voluntary contributions from the very Western states that sponsored the resolution
against Sri Lanka. Now MRs statement is issued, as it says, to the general public in
Sri Lanka. It is not relevant for them to know the so-called connection between the
funding procedure and the lack of independence of the OHCHR unless it is proven
through the substance of the report. It goes on saying Furthermore all the important
staff positions in this body are held by Westerners who make up half the cadre of the
OHCHR. The whole argument brings the OHCHR and the Commissioner into
disrepute, and for a former head of state to do so is equal to rejecting the UN
institutions in a nihilistic manner.
If there are genuine staffing issues, as it says, in the OHCHR, these could be rectified
in a cooperative manner with the Commissioner and those have no relevance in
rejecting the UNHRC report. The Commissioner, Zeid Al Hussein, cannot be called a
Westerner. Ravina Shamdasani, the Special Spokesperson of the OHCHR who came
to Sri Lanka recently and gave a well-balanced interview on the report (Sunday
Observer, 20 September 2015) cannot be called a Westerner. It seems, her call for
all Sri Lankans to study the report in depth is more valid for our former president.
The statement goes on to quote the Ambassadors of Pakistan and India, in that order,
on what they said when the resolution 25/1 was discussed in March 2014. Those have
no much relevance today. What is revealed particularly in respect of Pakistani
statement is the cynical attitude towards human rights, which MR seems to share with
that Ambassador. What might be more relevant is to state that one of the advisors to
the present OHCHR report is none other than the former President of the Human
Rights Commission of Pakistan, Ms. Asmar Jahangir.
The main accusation of MR against the OHCHR report is political which appears in the
following paragraph.
Some speculate that this report may have been watered down because a new
government has been elected to power. If that is true, then the Pakistani Ambassador
HE Akram would have been right in telling the UNHRC on 27 March 2014, that this
resolution is All about politics and not about human rights. Be that as it may, I dont

see this report as having been watered down. The most that can be done with a report
of this nature is to recommend the setting up of a war crimes tribunal and that has
been done.
It is not a speculation to say that there is a considerable change of attitude of the
OHCHR in the report towards Sri Lanka because a new government has been elected
to power. That was part of the mandate for the investigators to report, any progress or
otherwise since the last Council. This is not hidden but clearly stated in the report.
Of course those who consider human rights cynically and consider human rights only
as political weapons would naturally consider even the UN organizations to act
completely in this manner. I myself was a witness to MRs cynical attitude towards
human rights when he came to Geneva in 1989/9 period.
Of course there can be overlaps between human rights and politics even at the UN,
particularly at its different forums. We are in a process of evolution. I myself has
criticized such occasions. These are matters to be balanced diplomatically and try to
get the best out of such situations both for human rights and for a countrys best
interests. However, if leaders in such positions like heads of state or ambassadors
consider all [these] about politics and not about human rights, then both human
rights and a countrys interests might be in jeopardy. That is exactly was the situation
under MR.
MRs worry perhaps is understandable when he says, Be that as it may, I dont see
this report as having been watered down. It is he who wanted a watered down report
at the expense of truth and justice. More so at the expense of the country and the
people. However his extended fear is not correct when he says, The most that can be
done with a report of this nature is to recommend the setting up of a war crimes
tribunal and that has been done. Then he contradicts his assertion with the following
statement, Neither the OHCHR nor the UNHRC has the authority to set up an
international war crimes tribunal.
There are so much of misconceptions or wilful misrepresentations in the statement. It
is said, Sri Lanka cannot be taken before the International Criminal Court (ICC),
because we are not a signatory to the Rome Statute under which the ICC functions.
Of course Sri Lanka cannot be taken before the ICC as a country, even if Sri Lanka
is a signatory to the ICC. It is the perpetrators of crime who would be taken before the
ICC if at all. The ICC has provisions, to take perpetrators before it, under the
Prosecutors powers, even if the persons country has not ratified the statutes. The
approval of the UN Security Council is not necessary for this purpose. It is clear since
2009 that no one has that intention or basis to take anyone from Sri Lanka to the ICC.
But the possibility is still there.
The whole purpose of investigations for Sri Lanka is truth, justice and reconciliation. I
might only add reform. It is primarily as part of justice that war crimes would and
should be investigated. That is very clear from the present OHCHR report, whatever
its weaknesses or disagreeable observations and recommendations. As part of justice,
it is obvious that the international community and the right thinking Sri Lankans want

the perpetrators to be punished. In my personal view, some punishments could be


commuted, depending on the mandate of the court, if the perpetrators genuinely admit
the guilt, repent, apologise and agree to compensate. It was MR who was boasting
that he is ready to go to the electric chair although it is well known that even for war
crimes, capital punishment is not given. His knowledge of international matters seems
to be quite pathetic.
The statement has made a big fuss about the claim that there are no names
mentioned in the report. This is particularly aimed at the present President Maithripala
Sirisena. To refute the claim, it says, But a prominent journalist D.B.S. Jeyaraj has
pointed out that the names of important military personnel and units have in fact been
mentioned in the report in a manner designed to incriminate and direct investigations
even though those names have not been linked to specific incidents. Why based on
DBS Jeyaraj, if MR has or his statement writer has read the report and understood it
correctly? It must be for habitual name dropping.
The whole exercise of the statement is aimed at two objectives. (1) To refute the
positions taken and/or claims made by the members of the present government in
respect of the report, and (2) to create a climate that a major calamity is going to
happen to the country as a result of the report. It is on that basis that MR urges the
government to reject the report. The pertinent question here is whether Sri Lanka is
going to benefit by rejecting the report. On the contrary, constructive or critical
engagement is the best and correct policy that Sri Lanka should follow.
MR has taken some pains, in four long paragraphs, to defend his policies during his
tenure, that tantamount to near breakdown of relations with the West (US and EU),
even referring to the Rubber-Rice Pact with China in 1952. There is some semblance
of balance in his utterances here, perhaps as afterthought. However, what he has
terribly failed to understand is that during that period that he refers to, there was no
internal war in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, and there were no major human rights
violations or war crimes!
He has even dropped names (i.e. John Kerry) to say that his relations with the US was
good. It is completely erroneous for him or his statement writers to consider, however,
that foreign policies of democratic countries are governed by purchases made,
contracts awarded and opportunities provided for investors. That understanding about
international relations is quite archaic. This also must be the reason that his
administration paid millions and millions of dollars to a US lobbying company to
improve relations between the US and Sri Lanka without success. Money, Money and
Money seem to be his political thinking. No principles. What he has terribly failed to
realize or state is that the resolution 25/1 which gave rise to the present OHCHR
report was mooted by the US last year, in March 2014.
The most habitual for him even in this statement is to consider Sri Lanka as his
fiefdom. It is clear from the following sentence.
In ruling a country, there are occasions when one has to go against the wishes of
powerful nations in order to serve the interests of the people. (My emphasis).

It is the thinking of Muammar Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein. If he were ruling the


country, then he is responsible to the people as well as to the international community
for what happened during that period in terms of human rights violations and war
crimes. If he were to clear his name then he has to come forward and take up the
responsibility.
We are living within a global community. Both international humanitarian law and
human rights law are part of the international law to which Sri Lanka has undeniable
obligations, moral, customary and legal. The rejection of the report is no excuse from
those obligations. It is cynical and undiplomatic. The most positive aspect about the
present OHCHR report is that it recommends to investigate the war crimes within the
context of human rights violations. That would be the best learning process for Sri
Lanka; its political leaders, advisors, the defence forces, the police, the bureaucracy
and the people.
Posted by Thavam