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You are right, but be prepared! - Editorial

26 November 2013 04:48 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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One of the upshots of the recently concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was the renewed international concern over the human rights situation in Sri Lanka which had irritated the Sri Lankan leaders.

The boycott of the summit by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mauritius Prime Minister Naveen Ramgoolamor drew considerable attention. Meanwhile, the non-attendance of Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, without calling it a boycott, showed that he did not want to hurt the Sri Lankan leaders as vociferous British Prime Minister David Cameron did, on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation, which even overshadowed the absence of the leaders of Canada, Mauritius and India.
Cameron, in keeping with the statement made by his Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, prior to the Commonwealth summit that his Prime Minister would take a tough message to Sri Lanka on the Island nation’s human rights record created a big show that might suffice for his Conservative Party to draw a considerable number of votes from the British- based Tamil diaspora at the next parliamentary election. According to Sri Lankan authorities, Cameron had breached the protocol by not accepting the dance reception accorded to him upon his arrival at the Katunayake airport. He dodged the first executive session to go to Jaffna where he created a big show meeting refugees and relatives of the missing people.

The Sri Lankan leaders are now rightly questioning Britain’s moral right to raise the human rights situation reminding the latter of the carnage it created during the Uva-Wellassa rebellion in 1818. After the rebellion led by Monerawila Keppetipola was defeated, history saw one of the most savage and racist suppressions of a community by an armed force in the world. The British confiscated the properties of the people involved in the uprising; they killed the cattle and other animals belonging to the people, burnt their homes and property and even the commodities such as salt they had in the their homes during the repression in the present- day Badulla and Moneragala districts. Paddy fields in the area of Wellassa were all destroyed. The irrigation systems built by the Dutch in Uva and Wellassa, which had formed the rice-bowl of Sri Lanka , were systematically destroyed. History has it that the British rulers went even as far as massacring men above 18 years of age in the Uva region.

Taking the stark facts of history into account, the Sri Lankan leaders are right when they question the moral right of the leaders of a country that has a heinous history of which the very Commonwealth is a remnant symbol. President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a press conference during the Commonwealth summit said people in glass houses should not throw stones.

The same sentiments were expressed by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa when the US- sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka was brought to the UNHRC last March.  He questioned as to what moral right the US that violates human rights in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan has to move such a resolution. He was correct. But these  arguments are good only for domestic  consumption.The reality is that these “human rights violators” are capable of doing many things in the world arena like many human rights violating governments in various countries bringing in laws to penalise criminals within those countries. The US and Britain are among the countries that in a way control UN bodies such as the UNHRC. Hence it is prudent for the Mahinda Rajapaksa government to prepare for its defence at the next UNHRC meeting in Geneva in March next year, where Cameron vowed to propose an international investigation on the human rights allegations against the Sri Lankan government,  which naturally raises the question of what moral right western powers have to do so.
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  • sarath Tuesday, 26 November 2013 06:22 PM

    Cameron's behaviour displays his ignorance and immaturity. There are ways to convey to a foregin Govt ones opinion. THis was simply a show for the benefit of SLkan Tamils in the UK, especially the terrorist supporters.


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