Feature Article

Indian Secretary General leads Commonwealth away from human rights

[TamilNet, Thursday, 14 October 2010, 00:13 GMT]
Another instance of key persons in international organisations sabotaging international norms of humanity came to light when The Guardian leaked last Friday a document of the Commonwealth Secretariat. This time it was the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma, an Indian national heading the organisation telling his staff that it was not their job to speak out against the human rights abuses of the 54 member states. The Secretary General ignored calls from secretariat staff urging him to express concern at least, when abuses were committed in member states in recent years, The Guardian said, citing specific cases including the course of war in the island of Sri Lanka. "All those cases were all about the values the Commonwealth is supposed to stand for and we failed," according to a staff member.

“The most threatening internal rupture is over human rights. Staff at the secretariat were furious when the secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, remained silent over a series of abuses by member states in recent years,” The guardian said.

Kamalesh Sharma
Kamalesh Sharma [Photo courtesy: guardian.co.uk / Akira Suemori/AP]
In response to complaints from employees, the secretary general's office told his staff that the institution had no obligation to pronounce on the issue.

"The secretariat … has no explicitly defined mandate to speak publicly on human rights," Sharma's office told senior staff.

Citing human rights activists The Guardian said “the comments represented a reversal of the Commonwealth's tradition of speaking out over gross abuses, such as apartheid.”

The secretary general was contradicting a key policy document adopted by Commonwealth heads of state in 1995 that calls for the "immediate public expression by the secretary general of the Commonwealth's collective disapproval of any such infringement" of democratic values and fundamental human rights, the activists cited by The Guardian pointed out.

“Coming soon after the well-publicised shortcomings in India's preparations for the Commonwealth Games, the latest revelations about dysfunction within the secretariat and foundation are likely to add to questions over what the Commonwealth is for,” The Guardian further said.

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, accused of serious war crimes last year by several international organisations, and accused of continued genocide by the affected Eezham Tamils, will be an honorary guest at the closing day of the Commonwealth games held in New Delhi Thursday.

India was in the forefront in thwarting any action by the UN human rights council immediately after the Vanni war in the island of Sri Lanka.

The Inner City Press (ICP) has already come out with significant news features on the family links of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon with a former officer of the ‘Indian Peace Keeping Force’ (IPKF) in the island of Sri Lanka, the war crimes of which against Eezham Tamils in the late 1980s are yet to be investigated.

The ICP has also come out with the family links of Vijay Nambiar, Chief of Staff of the UN Secretary General, with Colombo’s military establishment. Vijay Nambiar was the person chosen by the UN to deal with the last minute happenings in the island during the war.

Even though there are open evidences by own mouth gone on press record against members of the Indian Establishment, such as Pranab Mukerjee, Sonia Gandhi and Chidambaram related to war crimes in the island, no international organisation ‘searching for evidences’ is able to indict them so far.

There is a strong opinion in the human rights circles that India is the major impediment in unveiling war crimes in the island, fearing exposure.

Obviously the Indian Establishment, extra sensitive to criticism and freedom of opinion, enacted a law to continue proscribing the LTTE, citing the following as one of its reasons: The diaspora spreading anti-India feeling through articles in the internet portals, by holding the top Indian Political leaders and bureaucrats as responsible for the defeat of the LTTE, is likely to impact VVIP security adversely in India.

In the meantime, people who have to be the first to acknowledge failure and the first to bow down out of office according to ‘democratic traditions of the West’, are the first to come out with appeasement with Rajapaksa for the ‘reconciliation’ of their positions, and strangely enough they are allowed to do so by their Establishments.

Robert Blake, who was the US ambassador in New Delhi and in Colombo, and who was envisaging ‘strategic partnership’ with India at the height of the Vanni war, became the US Asst Secretary of State, the State Department of whom was the first to speak about ‘reconciliation’ at the cost of the victims.

Erik Solheim, who bears a major responsibility in acknowledging failure of the peace methods of the West, not only passes the blame on the LTTE but also ushers his government to become the first in the West to appease with Rajapaksa.

In such a scenario of the failure of the international system, human rights activists are not optimistic of seeing any justice to the human rights questions in the island for many years to come. While the eyewash of war crimes investigations may drag for many years, Rajapaksa regime’s systematic genocide will continue unabated and unhindered, they point out.

Nor the serious-minded Eezham Tamil circles, both in the island and in the diaspora, are much optimistic about pinning their hopes with politics from the above, pre-fabricated for the 'defeated' in the backyards of the failing Establishments of Washington and New Delhi.


External Links:
Guardian: Commonwealth has abandoned human rights commitment – leaked memo


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