Sri Lanka may consider being granted two years to implement outstanding matters from the previous UNHRC 2015 resolution (30/1) as a slight victory, but it has to sort out the tussle in progress between parties supportive of the commission’s recommendations and those opposing them, back at home.
President Maithripala Sirisena is clearly against the resolution co-sponsored by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and brought about by countries like Britain, Germany, Macedonia, Montenegro and Canada.
According to Sirisena the resolution was signed without his approval, hence the president stating that he rejects it. This leaves much to probe as to how a crucial signature was put on a document by the representative of the government without even the President’s knowledge.
Many unanswered questions still remain regarding the first resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka which called for the setting up of hybrid courts – a matter that was thoroughly rejected by the Government subsequently. The fallout from the first resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka still continues and therefore it could be argued that Sri Lanka is required to implement matters outstanding from that.
Detractors would say that President Sirisena is playing to the gallery by saying that those who agreed to co-sponsor the resolution had betrayed the people, the Government and tri forces. However, if the President was kept in the dark regarding the issue then it definitely is a matter of serious concern.
But it could also be said that Presidential Elections are fast approaching and politicians know that using rhetoric enhances their vote base.
Just the other day opposition members attended parliament wearing black bands. They protested against the resolution adopted on Sri Lanka and stated that the Government representatives in Geneva had betrayed the country.
But it has to be reckoned that Sri Lanka by co-sponsoring the resolution had also made commitments regarding it. A peep into the past shows that even past Governments had failed in this respect.
One area which makes the UNHRC concerned is land in the north not being returned to legitimate owners even after the war concluded. But President Sirisena has maintained that the UNHRC has been fed with false information with regard to this, hence no commission should be appointed to probe the matter.
Government representatives in Geneva on their return to Sri Lanka have said that they did not agree on a time frame to deliver what’s in the resolution. They also add that they rejected the idea to have a hybrid court which the UNHRC wants established to probe alleged war crimes which were committed by government troops and terrorists during the final stages of the civil war.
JVP parliamentarian Bimal Ratnayake recently summed up GoSL’s approach to dealing with the human rights issue beautifully. Ratnayake said that the country’s authorities have no intention of probing rights violations within the country and only targets the UNHRC when sessions approach.
In any case Sri Lanka cannot be taken before an international tribunal because the Government of Ranil Wickremesinghe declined to sign ‘the Rome Statute’. Another fact that had not been considered initially when the first resolution was adopted was the section dealing with foreign judges and hybrid courts. This clearly was an impingement of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and should not have been even considered in the first place.
While all this happens, President Sirisena has thrown the gauntlet to the UNHRC and said that Sri Lanka is ready to accept only what’s correct in the commission’s report. The President has stated clearly that the responsibility of the country’s international relations lies with the president and not anyone lesser down the hierarchy. This pops the question whether the UNHRC heard the ‘true voice’ of Sri Lanka at the last session held in Geneva?