Elements on both sides seem to have come to an agreement in placing the international mechanism above the domestic judicial process.
Pandemonium reigned on Tuesday in Parliament, when some Opposition members demonstrated in the the House against the Special Hybrid Court proposed by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince ZeidRa’ad Al Hussein in his report presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on September 16 to investigate into the allegations of human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the war.
The hybrid court proposed by the High Commissioner was later overruled by the US initiated resolution, which was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka as well, and adopted in the UNHRC on October 1. The resolution, which is going to be the operative guide to the UNHRC and the High Commissioner until September next year, has recommended a domestic judicial mechanism with the involvement of foreign judges and lawyers to address the accountability issues during and after the last stage of the war.
Hence it is the duty of these Parliamentarians to explain to the country the reasons for their demonstration against the hybrid court, which is no longer valid, though it was proposed by the High Commissioner in his report on Sri Lanka.
A similar question had to be raised, when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued a statement against the High Commissioner’s report. He called on the government to reject the report arguing that several high ranking Army officers have been named in the report as perpetrators of human rights violations.
However, one would have wondered as to whether he had gone through the report before commenting on it as he had quoted senior journalist D.B.S. Jeyaraj to prove his point.
He says “Some claim that this report has been watered down because no names have been mentioned in relation to any alleged incidents.....But a prominent journalist D.B.S. Jeyaraj has pointed out that the names of important military personnel and units have, in fact, been mentioned in the report in a manner designed to incriminate and direct investigations even though those names have not been linked to specific incidents.”
Mr. Rajapaksa must be the most concerned person in the country about the report as he has been claiming that the Western leaders were hell bent to send him to the electric chair over his victory over the LTTE, in the guise of violations of human rights in the country. But he does not seem to have taken pains to read the report.
The situation on the other side of the ethnic divide is no different. While the main Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had welcomed the High Commissioner’s report as well as the US initiated resolution, the extremists in the North and Tamil Nadu have rejected the resolution on the grounds that a domestic judicial mechanism for the investigation into war crimes and human rights issues was inadequate and insist on an international probe. It is the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that should be most concerned about the matter since they are the real representatives of the Tamil people in the country.
The Tamil Nadu leaders have been demanding an international investigation on Sri Lanka since the end of the war. However, when the first US sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka was presented in the UNHRC in 2012 they were competing with each other in supporting the resolution. In fact the 2012 resolution was a short resolution that requested the Sri Lankan government to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Thereby the resolution called on the Sri Lankan government to create a domestic mechanism to investigate into the allegations contained in the LLRC report.
Tamil politicians in Sri Lanka as well as all over the world calling for an international investigation were blind to the essence of that resolution as they had been obsessed with the antipathy towards the Sri Lankan government that was against the resolution. Only Sebastian Seeman, the pro-LTTE film director in Tamil Nadu, had rejected that resolution on the grounds that implementing the LLRC recommendations would amount to put in place a domestic mechanism to address accountability issues.
The point driven home by the actions of these politicians is that their political agendas overshadow the basic tenets such as patriotism and human rights which they claim to stand for.
A unique situation has arisen now where extremists on either side of the ethnic divide are up in arms against this year’s US initiated resolution on differing grounds.
The degree of foreign involvement in the domestic judicial process for the investigations into the allegations of war crimes and human rights violations has been the bone of contention.
The Tamil groups opposing the resolution want to maximise the foreign involvement and their Sinhalese counterparts insist on the other way around. In another interesting development some elements on both sides seem to have come to an agreement in placing the international mechanism above the domestic judicial process. For instance, NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa had said recently at a press briefing that a domestic probe would be far worse.
He argued that to be found guilty of war crimes or human right violations by such a judicial process would have a greater impact on the reputation of the country, in the international arena. Such a preconception on the rulings by a judicial process is nothing other than admission of the guilt.
It is interesting to note that many UPFA politicians, who had been agitating against the US initiated resolutions for the past three years are justifying the government’s cooperation with this year’s resolution, for the only reason that they have been offered ministerial portfolios, while powerful ministers of the past regime, who are still without such portfolios, are criticising the resolution.