Denial, bravado, defiance cannot erase Rights issues – Saravanamuttu

[TamilNet, Thursday, 24 September 2009, 17:56 GMT]
Noting a number of rights violations for which Sri Lanka is under scrutiny by the international community, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, writes in a Daily Mirror column: “Human rights issues are stubborn ones. They will not go away. They cannot be dealt with by denial, bravado, defiance, conspiracy theories or neglect. Moreover they are indubitably in the national interest and to the detriment of no one other than the perpetrators of violations. At the same time, foreign policy cannot be conducted through allegation and counter allegation, shrill incoherence and what increasingly looks like incomprehension and incompetence. Most importantly governance cannot be served or sustained by conflict and conspiracy, fear, paranoia and insecurity.”

Full text of the article follows:

Missing the Enemy

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Courtesy: Sunday Leader)
Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Courtesy: Sunday Leader)
Is the Rajapaksa regime caught in the grips of the ME Syndrome? - Missing the Enemy, that is. Over the last two weeks, the leading lights of the regime have warned of conspiracies to destabilize the regime and even to replace it and have used the state controlled media as well as the defence ministry website to launch propaganda attacks against alleged conspirators, this columnist included.

It is the dirty nasty imperialist West and their local hirelings who are at the bottom of this. They tried to save the LTTE and failed. Now, they are determined to ensure regime destabilization and change. The extension of the GSP Plus concession, the report on war crimes to the US Senate, the Pascoe visit and continuing international concern about the plight of the IDPs are all elements of this dastardly plan. It is only the love of country of the mass of patriots, in the south in particular, their political savvy and courage that can stop this insidious plan in its tracks, whether it be through a resounding mandate for the regime in the provincial elections or through entirely suitable and grisly punishment of those identified as traitors.

The regime clearly misses an enemy. It seems to be dangerously unsure of itself in the absence of one. The emperor of yore was unaware of his nakedness. What would have happened if he were aware?

What is especially worrying is that these accounts of conspiracies to stabilize the regime and change it emanating from the heart of the regime are destabilizing in themselves. They suggest that the war in effect is not over and that Sri Lanka has no choice but to embark on a collision course with an influential section of the international community, which has traditionally been an ally of this country. What is the hard evidence for this?

It would seem to be the case that the report of the EU investigators in the context of the extension of the GSP Plus concession, has served as a catalyst for conspiracy theories. The GSP Plus trade concession was based on the ratification and effective implementation of some twenty-seven international human rights instruments and labour standards. In the Sri Lankan case, as per the terms of the concession, the EU decided to instigate into the ratification and effective implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The findings of the investigation will feed into the decision on whether to extend the concession to Sri Lanka. The concession was granted in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Media reportage of the report of the investigation and a public statement to this effect by a ministry secretary, indicate that it is negative and that the crux of the issue is human rights. Human rights, underpins the US Senate request for a report on war crimes from the State Department. Accountability in respect of human rights violations was flagged by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on a number of occasions and as far back as March of this year. It was also mentioned in the communiqué issued after the visit of the UN Secretary General at the end of May in which the point was made that this was best dealt with nationally. The issue also featured in the visit to Sri Lanka by the UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Lyn Pascoe. It further features in the controversy over the Channel 4 video and the comments on the investigation into it conducted by the regime, which concluded that the video was a fake. Philip Alston, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Extra Judicial Killings has called for an independent investigation into the authenticity of the video.

This week, Walter Kaelin, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the Human Rights of IDPs will visit Sri Lanka and yet again human rights issues will be highlighted. Indeed, the fate of the IDPs encompasses many of the dimensions of the human rights issue and constitutes the litmus test for peace, reconciliation and national unity. The central concern here is that of the freedom of movement of IDPs – Sri Lankan citizens who are being detained in camps without any legal basis and in violation of international human rights and humanitarian norms.

The onset of monsoonal rains has alerted the regime to an impending humanitarian catastrophe, a foretaste of which was produced by rains in August. Consequently, there were announcements of action on the assurance given that 80 per cent of the IDPs would be returned in 180 days. IDPs, it was announced could go and live with relatives once the latter were screened and it clearly established that they were not LTTE supporters or sympathizers. However, there are reports that the IDPs are being relocated from one camp to another – from the Menik Farm camp complex to “transit” camps elsewhere in the north and east. Clearly the “decongestion” of the Menik Farm complex, which houses double the number of human beings it was built to accommodate, is being prioritized on account of the onset of the monsoon at the expense of the freedom of movement of our fellow citizens. A case in the Supreme Court taken by the Centre for Policy Alternatives and this columnist in the public interest on the rights of the IDPs is still to be concluded, on way or another.

Other aspects of the situation of the IDPs relate to the legal status and fate of those who have been identified as LTTE cadres, supporters and sympathizers, access and basic facilities. Other human rights issues that are the focus of international concern are the Tissainayagam verdict, the expulsion of the UNICEF spokesperson James Elder and the fate of UN workers held by the regime.

Human rights issues are stubborn ones. They will not go away. They cannot be dealt with by denial, bravado, defiance, conspiracy theories or neglect. Moreover they are indubitably in the national interest and to the detriment of no one other than the perpetrators of violations. At the same time, foreign policy cannot be conducted through allegation and counter allegation, shrill incoherence and what increasingly looks like incomprehension and incompetence. Most importantly governance cannot be served or sustained by conflict and conspiracy, fear, paranoia and insecurity. We are part of an international community. Human rights and the international community have to be dealt with maturely, responsibly, constructively. Surely this is not beyond a regime, which enjoys such unprecedented popularity?

This is surely not the time for enmity, but for peace, reconciliation and unity to realize the full potential of this country and capitalize on the military defeat of the LTTE.

 

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