Will Ranil’s tokenism work with the 51st session of the UN HRC? – S. V. Kirubaharan, France

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Last July, soon after the 50th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council – UN HRC was over, I wrote the following: “In the opinion of some analysts – Ranil as Prime Minister with a fox’s cunningness; Prof. G. L. Peiris as Foreign Minister and Ms. Aruni Wijayawardena who is currently serving as the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – may be able to avert the impending difficulties in the 51 session……. Let’s wait until September.” 

Since then, the situation in Sri Lanka has been changing rapidly. Ranil is the present Executive President and Prof. G.L. Peiris was replaced by Mr. Mohamed Uvais Ali Sabry, a Muslim Foreign Minister to influence Islamic countries.  

Now Sri Lanka has an Executive President who co-sponsored the UN HRC resolution 30/1 on Sri Lanka in 2015 – making commitments to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. In other words, he agreed to every word in the UN HRC resolution. Whether right or wrong, good or bad, the establishment of the ‘Office on Missing Persons – OMP’ was his brain-child and everyone knows it’s fate. When Ranil co-sponsored the resolution and established the OMP, many veteran human rights activists said these were just to brain-wash the international community. 

However Ranil as the Executive President of Sri Lanka cannot turn his back on the UN HRC resolution which he himself co-sponsored. At that time, we told the international community that this was another Sri Lankan tactic to buy time and space on accountability and reconciliation. The members of the UN HRC and the international community have eventually realised this. 

Two weeks remain before the 51st session begins. Members of the UN HRC, the international community, international NGOs and others are closely observing what Ranil and his collaborators are doing in preparation for the 51st session. 

The expectation of these institutions and organisations is that Ranil should do something different from the ‘runaway’ President Gotabhaya and ‘lies-king’ and opportunist G.L.Peiris. The latter’s recent statement regarding the Prevention of Terrorism Act – PTA is based on opportunism. He was one of the persons who justified the use of the PTA in Sri Lanka. 

Lobby against any further action  

What we gather from the media and privileged information is that Ranil, his collaborators including a group of Tamil political apprentices; some seasonal diaspora Tamil activists and some in Colombo are preparing to lobby against any further action on the resolution during the 51st session. It’s a crying shame that Ranil openly says to the media: ‘The UN HRC session will not be a challenge to Sri Lanka’. 

The action of the government team is totally unacceptable but understandable – it is the way they work….! But the action of Ranil’s collaborators, in the name of human rights, is utterly shameful. They have no feeling, no knowledge of the victims’ suffering. In fact, they only work for their ‘name and fame’ and material benefits. 

Ranil’s tokenism such as: lifting the ban on diaspora organisations and individuals; establishing a diaspora office in Sri Lanka; allowing the singing of the national anthem in Tamil in certain functions; and periodical bogus promises on removing or bringing charges against persons arrested under the PTA etc – are simply to fool the UN HRC, international community and people of the North and East. 

In the recent past, many including international experts have said that the main reason for today’s economic crisis in Sri Lanka was the ethnic conflict which resulted in thirty years of war. Has Ranil ever realised this crucial fact and the urgent need to address the deep-rooted causes to bring durable peace and harmony in Sri Lanka? Ranil is putting the ‘cart before the horse’. 

Therefore, during Ranil’s Presidency, I mean another two years or less, the UN HRC and the international community cannot expect anything different from what he has done previously, especially during the period between 2015 and 2019.  

If this reality cannot be understood by the UN HRC, especially by its members, the international community and India – once again everything will come to a dead end: the same as it did in the past. The Sri Lankan government will be freely allowed to do whatever it wishes – no scrutiny. 

It is sad to say that Ranil’s task or actions in the coming days will be no different to those of the runaway President Gotabhaya. But of course he will manipulate everything through his soft voice, speech and quit activities. 

Tokenism will not bring peace and harmony 

The 51st session is going to be a challenge to Ranil’s Presidency but he expects the international community to turn a blind eye on Sri Lanka.  To ease this process, some Tamil stooges have once again been put in action, as Ranil did during 2015 to 2019.

During that period, these Tamil stooges celebrated birthday parties, wedding anniversary and enjoyed nice holidays with Ranil and Managala Samaraweera – completely ignoring the suffering and grievances of the people. 

In other words, the tokenism and cunningness of Ranil will not bring peace and harmony to Sri Lanka. Now thirteen years have passed and no progress has been made towards accountability and reconciliation, except some bogus promises and statements with the idea of buying time and space.

Regarding the ‘disappearances’ in the North and East, the families, parents and kith and kin of disappeared have very recently initiated their 2000 days of protest, looking/searching for their loved ones. But it reaches the deaf ears of the government.  

This reminds us about the 1987-89 ‘disappearances’ in the South. Then, Members of Parliament – Mahinda Rajapaksa, late Mangala Samaraweera and a well-known leftist Vasudeva Nanayakara came to European countries,  to the then UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva and to the EU in Brussels with affidavits and submitted official complaints about the disappearances of youths that took place in the South in the late 80s. These political leaders called for international pressure on Sri Lanka. Abroad, they organized meetings, lobbying against Sri Lanka to find justice and financial help to address the issue of disappearances

Surprisingly, when all these three got their high-profile positions in the government, instead of bringing the culprits to justice, they were associating with those who caused the disappearances. Until today nobody raised a voice against the extra-judicial killing in November 1989 of Rohana Wejeweera, founder of the JVP – Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front). 

Once again, I would like to ask from the two living leaders – Mahinda Rajapaksa and Vasutheva Nanayakara, considering their brave humanitarianism regarding the disappearances in the South – what is their contribution to seeking justice for the disappearances in the North and East? How do they see the struggle of the mothers of the disappeared in the North and East?  

Here, what is worse is that some who carried out international lobby on the disappearances in the South, under-estimated and even justified the disappearances in the North and East. In other words, for them, whoever ‘disappeared’ in the South was human, but not so, those who were ‘disappeared’ in the North and East. Is this the result of their education, culture, civilisation, etc? 

When we consider reconciliation – the international community, India and the UN HRC resolution repeatedly demands Sri Lanka to fully implement the 13th amendment. As far as Ranil is concerned, he was/is against the Indo-Lanka accord which gave birth to the 13th amendment. Some Sinhala Buddhist leaders publicly showed their opposition but right from the beginning Ranil silently opposed it. So, the full implementation of the Indian initiative, the 13th amendment, is not going to happen during his Presidency.  

Regarding this matter, he played a smart move from 2015-2019, by fooling the Tamil leadership into believing that a Federal solution would be found. President’s Counsel (PC), who is a political apprentice, never asked the question: ‘How could such a solution be possible without a two third majority in parliament’?  

What can a Tamil political party achieve in the Sri Lankan parliament, even if it wins in all the North and East electorates? It is sad to note that none of the Tamil politicians ever realised the importance of this question. I agree that if there is a parliamentary election in North and East, it should be contested by Tamil parties rather than allowing any Southern party to win in these regions and carry out strange propaganda internationally. 

Peaceful demonstrators

We must seriously consider that if Sri Lanka can fool and cheat the regional super power India and the international community, the people in the North and East are treated as worth nothing. Regarding the Chinese ‘spy ship’ Yuan Wang 5, everyone knows how India was cheated by Ranil’s cunningness and Rajapaksa’s influence in the present government. 

It’s a pity that the diplomacy of the regional super power India, never succeeded with Sri Lanka! It is strongly believed that some Indian decision-makers on Sri Lanka give priority to their ‘dine and wine’ engagements rather than to their country’s vital interests. This is what has been happening since Indira Gandhi’s period. If this situation continues, India will lose its hold on Sri Lanka and China will become the dominant power. 

Whether right or wrong, the peaceful anti-government demonstrators over the last months have brought some reasonable changes in Sri Lanka. Ironically, despite the fact that they brought Ranil into power – unfortunately some of these demonstrators are now targeted, arrested and detained by Ranil’s government.  

The peaceful demonstrators in Galle Face Green and other parts made a serious blunder, when they gave up their agitation in various venues. Even though they had all sort of legal experts on their side, they neither asked for any sort of promise nor for general amnesty regarding any reprisal against them. In other words, assurances that they would not be arrested, harassed and detained for leading the protest and occupying certain venues. They simply trusted their opponents without realising the future consequences. A Tamil proverb says: “Inspire trust, but don’t trust others” (நம்ப நடநம்பி நடவாதே). Now it is too late! It’s a pity that those who brought changes in Sri Lanka are behind bars.   

Regarding further scrutiny on Sri Lanka in the 51st session, I ask: “Can Sri Lanka take up the challenge to have a debate in Geneva with audiences including diplomats, VIPs and international NGOs”? 

In conclusion, since 1948 every government in power in Sri Lanka has managed accountability and reconciliation purely through empty words: the verbal and written promises have never been implemented. It is a pity that many educated, civilised and cultured people in the international community and VIPs have not yet realised this.

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