West and Tamil diaspora groups not satisfied with the steps taken by Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has decided to hold its ground at the latest United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva, expressing strong opposition to a newer and tougher resolution to be taken up for a vote on Thursday October 06.

Noting that the odds are stacked heavily against the island nation what with powerful Western nations lobbying hard for votes, Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said on Wednesday that his government is particularly opposed to operative paragraph number 8, which he claimed is directly in confrontation with Sri Lanka’s constitution.

The paragraph reads: “Recognises the importance of preserving and analysing evidence relating to violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes in Sri Lanka with a view to advancing accountability, and decides to extend and reinforce the capacity of the Office of the High Commissioner to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence and to develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights or serious violations of international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, to advocate for victims and survivors, and to support relevant judicial and other proceedings, including in Member States, with competent jurisdiction.”

Speaking to journalists in the run-up to the Thursday’s vote, Minister Sabry said over a Zoom call from Geneva that countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, who lead the UNHRC core group on Sri Lanka, are greatly influenced by domestic-level lobbying by pressure groups from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

“This is not a fair reflection of the people’s will. This is heavy lobbying. This is geopolitics,” he said.

The composition of the UNHRC has changed and many countries that previously voted in support of Sri Lanka are no longer members of the council, said Sabry, indicating that the country will fare poorly at Thursday’s vote.

The minister complained that neither the West nor the diaspora groups are ever satisfied with the steps taken by Sri Lanka under successive governments to promote reconciliation through its own homegrown mechanisms and are determined to perpetually keep the “small country” trapped.

“Whatever you deliver, they will continue with a new theme and this will remain,” he said, falling back on Sri Lanka’s usual defence that human rights are being used as a tool of control.

With the exception of the Yahapalana government period from 2015 to 2019, Sri Lanka has, since 2009, taken a defensive if not confrontational approach to handling the UNHRC’s attempts to hold the state accountable for human rights violations alleged to have taken place in the final phase of a brutal 26-year with the separatist Tamil Tigers.

Minister Sabry said in September that Sri Lanka’s government under new president Ranil Wickremesinghe – who, incidentally, was prime minister in the Yahapalana government – does not want any confrontation with any international partner at the 51st UNHRC sessions but will oppose any anti-constitutional move forced upon the country.

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