UNHRC Vote in Geneva though a moral victory for Sri Lanka time to shun gutless (bayagulla) diplomacy

UNHRC - United Nations Human Rights Council

Sri Lanka can claim a moral victory on the basis that 2014 UNHRC Resolution was adopted against Sri Lanka with 23 votes while a majority comprising 24 nations did not support the Resolution by either voting against or abstaining with India joining the list of abstentions. This is a striking difference from the pattern of voting shown on the last two occasions at UNHRC in 2012 and 2013 when Sri Lanka’s Human Rights record was reviewed. India’s decision not to support the Resolution despite a raucous Tamilnadu threatening to break away from India is a clear indication of a significant turnaround in foreign policy making in India with the Centre asserting dominance over Regional priorities. India’s withdrawal of support reduces the Resolution adopted at Geneva to nothing more than a Pyrrhic or hollow victory. The pattern of voting also revealed another significant development – the emerging cleavage in the community of nations with the Western Christian countries (with a few exceptions) being placed on one side and driven to isolation while the populous Third World nations drawn from Asia, Africa and Latin America closing ranks. This is a foretaste of the new world order that is dawning with the Asian giants at the helm.

The 2014 UNHRC voting nations & the results:

Those who voted for the resolution:

Argentina, Austria, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Peru, Rep. of Korea, Romania, Sierra Leon, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UK, USA.

Those who voted against:

Algeria, China, Congo, Cuba, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Venezuela, Vietnam

Those who abstained:

Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines, South Africa.

The people of Sri Lankan bow their heads to the nations that bravely voted against the Resolution and backed their decision with very powerful speeches that revealed that they had a sound understanding of the ground situation including the under currents. In taking the populations of the nations voting in favor of the Resolution vis a vis the nations that voted against and abstained reveal that the total population of the 23 nations can hardly match the combined populations of the 24 nations. In other words, Sri Lanka has the support of the majority of the people of the world.

Special mention must be made of China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Maldives, Vietnam, Kenya, Congo, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and in particular the magnanimous gesture of Pakistan whose chief delegate virtually stole the show with an eloquent presentation and analysis of the diabolical motives of the sponsors of the Resolution under the cover of protecting Human Rights in Sri Lanka. He said that the whole exercise was nothing but political. He argued that there was no available funding within the UNHRC Annual Budget for this proposed investigation and added that if the lack of funds were to be overcome with funds granted by the sponsors of the Resolution then the whole process will get tainted. In the light of lack of funds the Pakistan delegate proposed a No Action motion to defer the discussion of the Resolution to a later date when the availability of funds is certain.

He also proposed an amendment to the Resolution with the removal of the clause calling for a separate investigation on alleged HR violations in Sri Lanka to be conducted by the Office of the High Commissioner of UNHRC.  Though both his proposals were defeated by a carefully cultivated block of nations that has virtually hijacked the UNHRC and converted it into an Inquisition, the gutsy performance of Pakistan’s chief delegate did not fail to win the admiration of an international audience that watched the proceedings on TV. He also provided a valuable lesson to several other delegations from various countries including Sri Lanka grappling with the task of choosing the right candidates to represent their nations in international fora and bring credit to their nations through brilliant individual performances at international conferences and sessions.

Sri Lankans are also grateful to the nations that abstained from voting for it symbolized their inclination not to vote with the US and the lies that had been built up against the country. In what was obviously a huge surprise to the entire UNHRC was India’s decision to abstain from voting. It was clearly a slap in the face to the eelam lobbyists, the LTTE diaspora and Tamilnadu while also showing that the care-taker Government of India though still nominally under the control of the Congress Party was no longer in control of India’s decision making on Foreign policy and with the likely Modi victory the South-bloc had ensured that India’s self-interest was re- established overriding parochial agendas promoted by regional entities.

Depart from ‘bayagulla’ Diplomacy

Unbeknown to the decision makers the patriotic forces both in Sri Lanka and overseas took it upon themselves to lobby support for Sri Lanka and counter the lies and false propaganda that was being built up against Sri Lanka whilst officials in charge of countering foreign diplomatic onslaughts preferred to adopt the age-old policy that has been a proven failure. That, gutless (bayagulla) diplomacy championed by Oxbridge speakers functioning as brown sahibs has not worked underlies the key message that being the nice-guy in today’s international scene was unlikely to reap dividends in the face of diabolical conduct by nations forging their geopolitical agenda. Timidity, moral cowardice, lack of spine and vision which has been the hall mark of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy and diplomacy in the last few years and particularly after the departure of Mr. Lakshman Kadrigamar from the foreign affairs scene needs to be radically overhauled.

What Sri Lanka’s delegations should have included were the real victims to counter the lies

  • representatives of the Sinhalese killed – family of children killed by LTTE, Buddhist monks killed by LTTE, the injured at various public places throughout Sri Lanka, the injured from suicide bombs and a representative of the 4198 missing soldiers about whom Navi Pillai has said nothing
  • representatives of the Muslims killed – the children killed in mosques, the villagers
  • representatives of the Tamils killed by the LTTE – nullifying the established notion that Tamils are all for the LTTE. It is evident that the Tamils now coming forward to present their cases for the missing and disappeared commission shows how Tamils are now not afraid to come out against the LTTE. To this list should have been the key protagonist in the Last Phase documentary, the former LTTEr shot at by the LTTE and now defaced. Her testimony would have nullified the lies being promoted. To this list should have also been Arun Thambimuttu whose parents were both slain by the LTTE, to this list should have been the child soldiers rehabilitated and now in employment or continuing studies.

What was clearly lacking in the country’s strategy was a plan to win the votes in Sri Lanka’s favor using arguments that would tap into the self-interests of these nations which is what forced India’s decision. That the UNHRC head was biased with an irrefutable conflict of interest was projected half-heartedly, that the discrepancies in the UNHRC’s treatment of Sri Lanka was not highlighted internationally, that Sri Lanka did not align with topics that would have inspired the nationalist and patriotic groups in nations of Africa, Latin America and Asia to bond with Sri Lanka was also sidelined – colonial crimes would have been an easy topic to have silenced nations of Europe and UK and place them on the back foot. That is how the Jews and Israel do by drawing international attention to the horrors of the Holocaust. We have suffered enough and more during the colonial era of the Portuguese, Dutch and British and much of our ethnic and religious conflicts stem from the seeds of conflict planted on Sri Lanka’s soil by European colonial Governments. This is a common story all over the Third World and a viable basis to bond with others on a shared past of colonial oppression, plunder of resources and suppression of indigenous religions.

With Britain all out to destroy the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka under the cloak of Human Rights, we find that the Ministry of External Affairs unashamedly has commended Britain for its colonial legacy in Sri Lanka on its website stating that merits of British imperial rule outweighed the demerits. It is this type of servility and subservience on the part of the decision makers in this Ministry that prevents Sri Lanka from bonding with Afro – Asian nations and even the Buddhist nations of Asia and giving leadership and moral direction as in the days of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Sirima Bandaranaike.

People who take no pride in the country’s literary and cultural heritage, and have nothing but contempt for the country’s national heroes particularly those who defended Sri Lanka from foreign conquests should have no place in the Ministry of External Affairs. By placing an excessive emphasis on English language skills to the exclusion of all other relevant factors we find a Foreign Ministry lacking an Architecture in foreign policy making, vision and floating rudderless in the international arena. There has to be a constant engagement with the patriotic segments of this country and their input must be taken into account in shaping foreign policy. The last thing that the country needs is a Ministry converted into a one man show for self serving purposes nor policies that change just because a nation abstained from voting.

Sri Lanka needs to align with true friends and strategic stakes should not be given to nations that votes according to self-interest only therefore areas like Sampoor, Trincomalee, national assets need to be leased to countries that have solidly stood by Sri Lanka and detrimental agreements that the public continues to request to be repealed should now be taken up for review. This is not a time to be playing politics with these areas in the best interest of the leaders themselves for it is they who end up being taken to international courts and not the public – let the politicians remember that.

Establish Commission of inquiry to cover period 1972 – 2009    

Even at this late stage the Government of Sri Lanka can exercise its sovereign rights and parallel to the intrusive inquiry that the UNHRC High Commissioner plans to undertake covering the period 2002 – 2009, the Government can establish a Commission of Inquiry to cover the period from 1972 – 2009. No one can challenge the rationale of such a move.

The Government must take on the LTTE Diaspora and have a strategized plan to counter the lies, ban LTTE fronts and properly market the post-conflict developments while setting the story straight. Ethno-political parties must not be allowed to dictate the decisions the Government takes on behalf of the entire country as such we will not tolerate the Government’s silence when TNA or others claim the North as Tamil Homeland. Sinhalese and Muslims have every right to live in the North and the Government must categorically place this fact before the TNA and international community without playing politics with the issue.

Instead of waiting for things to happen let us make things happen. That should be the motto of both the Government and in particular the Ministry of External Affairs. We must stop cringing before nations or foreign leaders.

In addition the Government of Sri Lanka must challenge the suitability of Ms. Navi Pillay to conduct this inquiry given her blatant bias and conflict of interest which are in gross violation of well known equitable principles and natural justice.

We must bring a motion against her at the UNHRC even if it means that Sri Lanka has to walk away from the UNHRC in protest at the biased and vindictive stand taken by her. We must be prepared to canvass the points regarding her unsuitability that are now in the public domain. They are well argued and well researched and legally sound and tenable. The failure to raise these points is tantamount to a gross dereliction of duty and an inexcusable default.

The fatal attractions of brown sahibs and unwinnable war proponents must not be allowed to marginalize alternate points of view generated by patriots in the best interests of Sri Lanka.

Shenali D. Waduge