Tamil civil society cautions UNHRC to safeguard reputation

[TamilNet, Saturday, 08 September 2012, 14:58 GMT]
Civil society activists of Eezham Tamils are worried about possibilities of Sri Lanka manipulating the visit of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) team to the island next week. In a letter addressed to HE Navanetham Pillai, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the civil society has cautioned the team against Sri Lanka buying more time to continue and complete its agenda of Sinhalicisation of the North and East. The civil society expressed its fear based on past instances where the GOSL had been able to manipulate visits by members of the International and UN community so as to benefit its agenda. The letter requested the team to have its own agenda for assessment of the situation, to get guarantees from GOSL for that freedom and to let the public know on the terms of reference as well as restrictions.

As there are no indications of any real change in the situation since the Geneva resolution, the visit of the OHCHR team is likely to be used only as a procedure to endorse Sri Lanka’s LLRC implementation with further time, which in real terms means continuation and completion of Sinhalicisation of the North and East, the letter pointed out.

“As people on the ground we are afraid that nothing concrete has materialised in terms of real change for the war affected Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka since the passing of the March 2012 Resolution,” the letter signed by prominent members of the civil society said.

“We fear that your mission’s visit may be used by the Government of Sri Lanka as part of their campaign in November 2012 and March 2013 before the UN Human Rights Council to impress upon the International Community.”

“We are afraid that the November 2012 Universal Periodic Review on Sri Lanka and the March 2013 review of the Resolution will result in the endorsement of the GOSL’s National Action plan on implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, thus giving more time to the GOSL to continue and complete its agenda of Sinhalisation of the North and East,” the letter came out with the main concern of the civil society on the possible course of affairs.

Allowing such a course would “put at stake the reputation of the UN Human Rights Council,” the Tamil civil society cautioned.

Full text of the letter follows:

H.E. Navanethem Pillay
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland.

Your Excellency,

UN OHCHR Mission to Sri Lanka

We write to you as concerned Tamils from Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka, regarding Your Excellency’s decision to send a team of three officials led by Mr. Hanny Megally, Chief of the Asia, Pacific, Middle East and North Africa Branch to visit Sri Lanka next week (September 14th onwards) and assess the situation in Sri Lanka particularly following the passing of Resolution A/HRC/19/2 at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012.

While we welcome the visit of the team, we are concerned that the team might not be given the access that would enable an independent assessment of the Government of Sri Lanka’s performance of its obligations under Resolution A/HRC/19/2. Our concern is rooted in past experiences where the GOSL had been able to manipulate visits by members of the International and UN community so as to benefit their agenda. We fear that your mission’s visit may be used by the Government of Sri Lanka as part of their campaign in November 2012 and March 2013 before the UN Human Rights Council to impress upon the International Community that they have seriously given heed to their obligations under the Geneva Resolution.

To avoid giving the GOSL the opportunity of appropriating the UN OHCHR team’s visit for their propoganda purposes we consider it important that your office seeks guarantees from the GOSL that the mission will have sufficient freedom in being able to devise their own agenda in assessing the situation in Sri Lanka, particularly during their visits to the North and East parts of the country. We also believe that your office should make public the exact purpose and terms of reference of the mission and further make public any restrictions that the GOSL may have imposed on the UN OHCHR mission.

As people on the ground we are afraid that nothing concrete has materialised in terms of real change for the war affected Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka since the passing of the March 2012 Resolution. The purpose and objective of the resolution still remains a distant dream and the trajectory of the GOSL does not indicate by any means that the situation will improve. We believe that this experience will put at stake the reputation of the UN Human Rights Council. We are afraid that the November 2012 Universal Periodic Review on Sri Lanka and the March 2013 review of the Resolution will result in the endorsement of the GOSL’s National Action plan on implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, thus giving more time to the GOSL to continue and complete its agenda of Sinhalisation of the North and East. We consider it very important that your mission has the opportunity and time to understand this dire situation on the ground in the North and East. If the mission is given adequate access to assess for themselves the situation in the North and East we have no doubt that they will arrive at the same conclusion that we have described above.

We are aware that Your Excellency closely and keenly monitors the development in Sri Lanka with regard to post-war reconicliation and accountability and are also confident that you sufficiently understand the manipualtive tactics of the GOSL that it employs in its engagement with the UN and International Community. We trust that you will take necessary action to make your mission’s visit to Sri Lanka a success in terms of its contribution to bettering the lives of the war affected Tamil people in this country.

[signed by civil society representatives]


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