A mountain and a mole-hill made their presence in the UNHRC this month with the mountain bringing humanism and human milk pouring on the tables of the UN members and the mole hill threw its unearthed mud at the audience.
The two important personalities in the UN, one the newly elected UNHRC head Prince Zeid Al Hussein and the other Mr Ravinath Ariyasinghe made an important speech on 8 September 2014 in the in the UNHRC 27 session in Geneva re Sri-Lanka’s human rights violations.
For the UNHRC head it was his first speech and cited many countries that violated human rights including Sri-Lanka that need investigation by an international body to avoid undue criticism. The Sri-Lankan UN permanent representative also spoke in defence of his country not allowing access to the UN sponsored human rights inquiry team to carry out the important investigation in Sri-Lanka. We all remember the last war in Mullivaikal, Sri-Lanka that ended tragically in May 2009 in the genocide of nearly 150000 minority civilians- the Tamils.
I like to invite the attention of the readers to what the bible which is a sacred book to the Westerners in particular and the world in general said on critical listening.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!
Let us keep this in mind when we judge the speeches by the Prince and the Sei-Lankan Lilliputian diplomat R Aryasinghe, on Sri-Lanka.
To judge the veracity of the speeches we also should take into account the political and intellectual background of the speakers.
All of us know that the UNHRC, Prince Zeid Al Hussein is an educated man as well as a Prince by birth. He has an impressive CV particularly in international politics and international peace keeping activities. He is an Everest among educated men. He inherited all the useful achievements of the UN on human rights from his predecessor in post Madame Navaneetham Pillai (Ms Navi Pillai). These are his compliments to Ms Navi Pillai during his address to the 27th session of the UNHRC. “It humbles me to know I am to follow the course that Navi Pillay and her predecessors have mapped out for the Office, working together with the previous Human Rights Commission and now the Council.
“Navi Pillay was one of the greatest senior officials the UN has ever had, and one of the most able, formidable High Commissioners for Human Rights. That she could annoy many Governments – and she did – was clear; but she believed deeply and movingly in the centrality of victims, and of those who are discriminated against. They needed her vocal chords, her lungs and her pen, and she made everyone listen. I pledge to continue along the same path: to be as firm, yet always fair; critical of states when necessary, and full of praise when they deserve it”.
Ms Navi Pillai: Greatest UN Senior Officer
High Commissioner Zeid, in his opening statement on 8 September 2014 said
“Mr. President, I thank you for your warm welcome for which I am truly grateful. Twenty years ago, I was exposed to a cruel, pointless, war. I was serving with the UN Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia, and learnt then a number of simple lessons. Violence at the extreme is so callous, so sickening and beyond the absurd, the human mind can barely edit into comprehensible thoughts what it sees. No war is worse than another in this regard; all wars, big and small, reveal factories spewing the same wickedness. And yet, astonishingly, the authors of the crimes themselves, and their supporting communities, will always believe their actions were somehow necessary, even if they knew they were also wrong. Indeed, every individual, political party, association, ethnic, sectarian, or national group, or government discriminating and inflicting violence on others, believes that when doing so they are excused, or absolved, by circumstance or history.
Our tragedy, our curse, as human beings, is therefore hauntingly simple: every evil can be rationalised to the point where some logic – resting on a narrow argument usually devoid of context and filled with fear – is expanded deliberately in the mind of the killer, the torturer, the bigot and chauvinist, and becomes for them the entire truth. It is a perverted truth, of course; so twisted, that up has become down, and the liars believe fanatically in the lie they have created.
Another lesson for me, twenty years ago, was equally clear: there is no justification ever, for the degrading, the debasing or the exploitation of other human beings – on whatever basis: nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste”.
Zeid also addressed the on-going conflicts that deserved the continued attention of the Council He noted that during the current session of the Council, the UN Human Rights Office will present reports on the situation in Sri Lanka (along with some other countries where the sad story of HR violation continues). The Prince was speaking the gospel truth. His 20 years’ experience in the Human Rights Protection arena is extensive and varied.
We will discuss only one country here and that would be Sri-Lanka.
Ms Navi Pillai has put in place a limited international probe on HR violations in Sri-Lanka from 2002 to the end of the last war in Sri-Lanka in May 2009. The UN probe team had started its investigation but the Sinhala Sri-Lankan government is refusing to admit the probing team to enter Sri-Lanka to collect evidence from the victims of HR violations majority of whom are the ethnic Tamils of Vanni.
The prelude to the inquiry has a long history of tussle with Sri-Lanka that refused the accusations. Sri Lanka has been subject to three UNHRC resolutions in 2012, 2013 and 2014 over alleged rights abuses by government troops during the last phase of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Sri Lanka, however, dismissed the findings of the panel headed by Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia. The Darusman report revealed “a very different version of the final stages of the war than that maintained to this day by the Government of Sri Lanka”. This UN report estimated, more than 40,000 civilians were killed in Lanka during the final phase of the conflict in May 2009. The last and the present one prescribed is an international probe into the alleged rights violations from 2003 to 2009.
Responding to Prince Zeid’s address to the UNHRC, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha said that Sri Lanka is willing to continue its engagement with the international community. Nevertheless, he said Sri Lanka rejected the international investigation into alleged war crimes. He insisted on Sri Lanka’s non-recognition of the “politically motivated” resolution. Very recently the Sri-Lankan government refused the request of the UN to allow the inquiry team access to nSri-Lanka to collect evidence from victims and the public.
This adamant position is in spite of the learned Human Rights High Commissioner (HRHC) Hussein declaration in his opening speech: “I attach great importance to the investigation on Sri Lanka mandated by this Council, on which OHCHR will report later in the session. I encourage the Sri Lankan authorities to cooperate with this process in the interests of justice and reconciliation. I am alarmed at threats currently being levelled against the human rights community in Sri Lanka, as well as prospective victims and witnesses. I also deplore recent incitement and violence against the country’s Muslim and Christian minorities.”
Mr Aryasinghe said the Government will continue with the domestic process to address the concerns on the war and will also be submitting a Witness Protection bill to Parliament tomorrow, based on the fundamental principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, non‑selectivity, constructive international dialogue and cooperation.
Mr Aryasinghe is merely parroting what the foreign minister of Sri-Lanka says. He does not directly answer the suggestion posed by the HCHR Mr Zeid Hussein. He is evading the issued paused at the council and instead distracting the audience by saying what the government intends to do without listening to a world body formed to respect and protect human rights of all world citizens and not only that of the majority community but also of the minorities as well. Ariyasinghe lacks political experience/acumen to think of his own. We all know that he began his career as a news reader in Sri-Lanka TV and came to humble positions in politics. No Sri-Lankan intellectuals will come to UN to counter truth and defend falsehood. Aryasinghe logic is mediocre as can be seen from rebuttal of arguments. He sounds a devil’s advocate.
Several NGO’s report at the UN complained that the situation in SriLanka is deteriorating and that the main steams Tamils and Muslims are left out in governing the country. It is a ethno centric government that is ruling Sri-Lanka now. UN reports also are in the same vein. Omar Bradley a US general in the Normandy invasion said “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war that we know about peace, more about killing that we know about living”. Sri-Lanka knows only killing the Tamil minorities and boosting the rise of Sinhala population. Ethnic cleansing in open daylight.
The tragic history of Tamils in Sri-Lanka is a tale of woe, discrimination, forced several pogroms and loss of property and wealth. Now the once wealthy and educated society of Tamils are made paupers wilfully by succeeding governments of Sinhala presidents and Prime ministers. There are ample reports and foreigners comments to this effect.
Prince Zeid Hussein comes out a giant from his speech at the UN and Aryasinge a pigmy. It is akin to a mountain and mole hill fighting for supremacy.
The former British home secretary, David Blunkett described what took place during the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009 as a “genocide” and called for it to be “properly investigated”, while meeting with members of the Tamil community at an Advice Surgery on Saturday 13 September 2014. Words are dwarfs, deeds are giants-Swiss proverb. Men who make suggestions must put their precept into practice.