The Government needs to be congratulated for taking the vote in its stride. It owes as much to the political leadership’s ready acceptance of political realities elsewhere. The criticism of the Government nearer home over the vote has also been muted, even where stated. There is now a need for the Government to acknowledge the political realities nearer home, as well. Such realities need to go beyond parliamentary majorities.
On the parliamentary majority should be built the political base and basis for the implementation of the LLRC Report. If this parliamentary majority cannot encourage the Government of the day to initiate imaginative, if not innovative schemes, aimed at implementing the LLRC Report, future governments, under changed electoral circumstances, cannot be expected to do any better.
It goes beyond the popularity demonstrated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa through his massive re-election victory margin in 2010. The Opposition could not have been more imaginative than pitting Sarath Fonseka against him. This was followed by a parliamentary poll, where again Mahinda shone. If President Rajapaksa cannot deliver on reconciliation the way it needs to be done, no future leader of Sri Lanka can dream of doing it. The question of his attempting to do it does not arise.
The LLRC is President Rajapaksa’s baby. Like the APRC before it, that is. The Government has disowned the latter. It cannot disown the former. It is linked to international commitments, and for all time to come. Independent of future governments and their positions on the LLRC, Sri Lanka is tied down to the commitments it has made to friends at the UNHRC vote, and otherwise, too.
A change of government in Colombo need not change that situation. But a change of government, well into the distant future, can change the Sri Lankan State’s commitment over implementation. States look at other States as continuing entities and hold past promises as continuing commitments.
They do not isolate fellow-nations in relation to changing political leadership elsewhere. Only the political climate, access to leadership and credibility change. Commitments remain. They cannot remain as commitments, any more.
The UNHRC is here to stay. It remains unaffected by the Sri Lankan position. It does not flow from the 2012 vote. It flows instead from the 2009 Geneva vote. Sri Lanka was very much a party to internationalising the issue then. It campaigned, then as now, and got a counter-resolution passed.
The 2012 resolution has sought a report on the implementation aspect. What flows from such a report could be more unpredictable than the vote now. The UNHRC can vote on it again. It can return the issue to the UN Secretary-General, who in a way had initiated the Geneva proceedings. It can go to the Security Council. It can also go to the General Assembly, too.
Interestingly, the UNHRC did not debate the Darussman report forwarded by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The vote referred to the LLRC Report, exclusively. There was and there still is certain unanimity over the LLRC Report. It was not so, on the Darussman report.
Explaining the nation’s vote in favour of Sri Lanka, China said it opposed country-specific resolutions. For long now, Beijing has insisted on time for Colombo to implement the Report. Russia, the other veto-member openly backing Sri Lanka, reiterated its call for the implementation of the LLRC Report, post-Geneva. Ambassador Vladimir P Mikhaylov has said as much since.
Sri Lanka has a problem on hand. The nation’s UNHRC adversaries, namely, the US and the UK from among the veto-members have violated their commitments to the UN. They have violated the UN mandates too. Friends in China and Russia have seldom done that in the post-Cold War era. They would expect Colombo to stick to its commitments to them. The commitment to the international community could follow. It would follow, nonetheless.
At the UNHRC, the adversaries did not take note of the presence of Minister Douglas Devananda. He was named by the LLRC. At this stage, the world does not seem wanting to penalise individuals named by the LLRC. Yet, the UNHRC failed to clarify the position. It is a burden on the Colombo Government, independent of whoever is ruling from there, now or years later.
Post-Geneva, the Government has been driven to ensuring the safety and security of Minister Devananda’s EPDP cadres. The world cannot look away from the causes behind such a need. The run-up to the UNHRC vote may have re-created the permissiveness of the LTTE era. It may soon re-create the justification for retaliation, in the name of self-defence. Post-war Sri Lanka may not be the same again.
The world seems keen on the post-war reconciliation process. Unlike what is being fed to them, most international observers have commended on the success story of the rehabilitation and reconstruction processes. Maybe, Colombo did not do enough to convince the world that it can be trusted on promised reconciliation, too. Today, a roadmap to such reconciliation, backed by a well-argued and well-articulated case, can make a difference. Sri Lanka would then have to keep those commitments, too - and, not just as commitments.