Feature Article

Tamils witness false dilemma in Geneva as geopolitical formations pit against each other

[TamilNet, Friday, 26 February 2021, 11:53 GMT]
SL President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ‘balancing act’ has tightly pitted the US-UK-India axis of bandwagoning strategic partners against the China-Russia-Pakistan formation at Geneva. US Ambassador Ms Alaina Teplitz in Colombo was making a North trip as Pakistan’s prime minister visited Colombo. Simultaneously, the politics of human rights was unfolding in Geneva at the Interactive Dialogue on Thursday after Ms Michelle Bachelet, the UN Human Rights High Commissioner and the former president of Chile, presented her report on Wednesday. As usual, the UN High Commissioner’s Report was strongly worded than what one could expect from a resolution being tabled by parties with a vested interest. Eelam Tamils, who demand specific referral to the main crime of genocide from the UN High Commissioner and the UNHRC Resolution, have to confront a false dichotomy once again.

Back in Jaffna, US Ambassador was confronted by Tamil journalists who questioned her visit's timing, interpreting it as a clear sign of US interest-based politics at a meeting on Wednesday. When the journalists asked her about the US failure to recognise the root crime of genocide, she was dodging response twice.

Teplitz said the US “as a democratic nation ourselves, we look to Sri Lanka as another democratic nation and the values we should be holding in common,” including equality and respect for “minority communities”.

The editors of mainstream media in Jaffna also confronted her with indirect questions on US accountability as a “double responsibility” over Tamils. One journalist posed a direct question stating that the US abetted and aided the SL State that waged state terrorism against Tamils. Simultaneously, the US “eliminated the bargaining power of Tamils” by branding the Tamil armed struggle as terrorism, the journalist said, referring to the “double responsibility” as something the US owed to the Tamils in delivering international justice. Teplitz responded by saying: “Let me be clear. The United States’ Government continues to designate the LTTE as a terrorist organisation”.

“Being clear on that point, as I said earlier, there are political issues that underlie that conflict that has been going on for some time. Those issues need to be addressed,” she said, stressing the term “Sri Lankans” and referring to Tamils as a minority.

However, the Tamil journalists in Jaffna reiterated: “Our feeling is that you have been turning a blind eye to state terrorism.”

“So, what question are you asking me,” Teplitz responded as if she was not supposed to expect a comment to an already answered question. “It was a meeting and not a press conference,” one of the journalists told TamilNet after the meeting.

“Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans” and the term “minority” was being repeated in her responses to the questions.

* * *

In Geneva, the UN Rights Chief observed the following: “By repeatedly failing to advance accountability for past human rights violations committed, and by withdrawing its support for the Council's resolution 30/1 and related measures, the Government has largely closed the door on the possibility of genuine progress to end impunity through a national process.”

“For these reasons, I call on the Council to explore new ways to advance various types of accountability at the international level, for all parties, and seek redress for victims, including by supporting a dedicated capacity to collect and preserve evidence and information for future accountability processes, as well as to support relevant judicial proceedings in Member States.”

Ten UNHRC member states, including China and Russia and eight other countries, Cameroon, Cuba, Eritrea, Gabon, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Venezuela, were openly backing the genocidal state of Sri Lanka, censoring the report of the UN rights chief.

The worst articulations came from Pakistan and from two states that are not members of the current Council: Belarus and Nicaragua.

Eleven countries of the US-India-UK axis were almost begging the SL State to comply with the now-withdrawn 2015 US-Sri Lanka consensus resolution commitments.

No one was demanding independent international investigations on genocide which was the united primary demand to UN by Eelam Tamils in the island.

Indian statement mentioned “legitimate aspirations of Tamil community”, but it was limiting it under the rotten 13th Amendment-based meaningless devolution within the existing unitary state system.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Marshall Islands, Netherlands and Malawi were the bandwagoning member states behind the US-UK-India alliance. Malawi, a member of the Core Group on Sri Lanka, had registered to comment at the Interactive Dialogue but could not make its address despite being called twice to present itself.

The US that had withdrawn its Council membership during the Trump Administration and now negotiating to become a member, also took part in the Interactive Dialogue.

The pro-US states were only reiterating the 2015 30/1 resolution-based outlook. They expected the Sri Lankan state to uphold the so-called Office on Missing Persons, which the victims have rejected as an eyewash and the similar Office on Reparations. They also urged Colombo to act on the so-called Truth and Reconciliation mechanism and a judicial criminal accountability mechanism, which it didn’t deliver even according to the six-year-old co-sponsorship commitment. It is unreasonable to expect something that the SL State didn’t fulfil during the term of co-sponsorship, to then anticipate for it to happen after it has officially withdrawn from the co-sponsorship by saying its ultra vires SL State constitution to co sponsor such a resolution and its obligations.

“Forced cremations of Muslims, and restrictions on Tamil memorials will further fuel divisions on the island,” said Rob Oliphant, the parliamentary secretary to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, in his address. Stating that Canada believed the UNHRC had a “responsibility to keep Sri Lanka on its agenda and continue its efforts to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights,” he asked how the member states could “most effectively support OHCHR to continue to gather and preserve evidence”.

While Canada echoed some Tamil concerns on the aspect of gathering evidence, Germany posed a question on how OHCHR could assist its national chief persecutor, who has filed a case against a former LTTE member residing in its country. Based on its record of national court prosecutions, it would appear that Germany was not concerned to prosecute cases about atrocities committed against Tamils by SL state agents who are based in that country. The question posed by Germany further strengthens this bias.

“The High Commissioner in her report mentioned that investigations can also be pursued under universal jurisdiction. This is happening in Germany already where the Office of the Federal Prosecutor has filed a case against a former LTTE member. Madame High Commissioner, how can your office support relevant judicial proceedings,” asked Mr Hans-Peter Jugel on behalf of Germany.

Germany and Canada are currently members of the Core Group on Sri Lanka, which the UK has led after the USA had pulled out of the UNHRC.

The UK was projecting itself as the negotiating game player on behalf of the US-bandwagon.

The Council “must continue to consider the situation in Sri Lanka and press for progress on justice, reconciliation and accountability, and improved respect for human rights,” said Mr Tariq Ahmad, the UK minister of state for South Asia and the Commonwealth in his address. “Enhanced monitoring by the Office of the High Commissioner is critical to support this. Together with our Core Group partners, we will present a new resolution to continue the Council’s engagement on these important issues, and have indicated our desire to work with the Government of Sri Lanka in support of accountability and lasting reconciliation for all communities,” he said.

The Netherlands was posing a question as if it was more friendly towards Colombo among the Western countries. “Could you refer to examples of countries with a successful homegrown reconciliation process that could be of assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka to strengthen its domestic reconciliation mechanisms,” asked Ms Monique T.G. Van Daalen. Van Daalen is the permanent representative of the ambassador and permanent representative of The Netherlands to the United Nations.

Of the 47 UNHRC member states, the following twenty-six states did not register for participation at the Interactive Dialogue to comment on the OHCHR Report: Argentina, Armenia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Czechia, Fiji, Indonesia, Libya, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, South Korea, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay and Uzbekistan.

The initial deadline for draft proposals are set to Thursday, 11 March 2021, at 1 p.m., with final written revisions of the draft on Tuesday, 16 March 2021, at 11 a.m., with the possibility for written amendments on Tuesday, 16 March 2021, at 1 p.m.



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