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UNHRC: Partisan approach would not help - EDITORIAL

12 March 2019 12:30 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


ho is going to represent Sri Lanka at the 40th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) which is in session in Geneva?   
Do two delegations set to go to Geneva to attend the session on behalf of the Government?
The United National Front (UNF) Government and President Maithriapala Sirisena seem to have two different plans to encounter the world’s human rights body this time. According to a joint statement issued by the Prime Minister’s office and the Foreign Ministry last week, Government, as it did in 2015, is going to co-cosponsor another resolution on Sri Lanka presented this time by a group of countries headed by Britain. On the other hand, the President has assigned three of his associates with a different plan for Geneva.

The statement by the PM office and the Foreign Ministry said:
“Sri Lanka will continue to demonstrate its commitment and determination towards a steady and long-lasting reconciliation process through a co-sponsored resolution, and will seek an extension of the timeline of resolution 30/1 of October 01, 2015, through a co-sponsored roll-over resolution at the ongoing 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council.”
To sell its move to the Sri Lankan people the statement says:
“The current initiative is nothing but seeking more time for the GOSL to address the issues of reconciliation, peace-building and national integration. For instance, the Government of Sri Lanka was unable to finalize some of the required legislation due to the infamous Constitutional Coup of 26th October 2018.”

In short, the Government plans to co-sponsor this year’s resolution with a view of obtaining another two-year time, as it did in 2017, to fulfil the commitments thrust upon it by the resolutions adopted in the Council annually since 2012. 
This strategy would not ease the burden of fulfilling the basic commitments of the resolutions but might ease the hostile attitude of certain powerful members of the council towards Sri Lanka, as happened after the 2015 resolution.
However, President Sirisena who not only kept mum when Sri Lanka co-sponsored the US initiated 2015 resolution but also got the international acclaim as a result of it is now pursuing a different path, a path pursued by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

Instead of developing a joint strategy with his partner in governance, the UNF, he seems to be planning to handle the Geneva issue independently. Accordingly, he has assigned former Ministers Sarath Amunugama, Mahinda Samarasinghe and Northern Province Governor Suren Raghavan to attend the UNHRC Sessions. 
And it has been reported that his representatives are to request the world’s human rights body to leave the country to resolve its problems on its own, an approach made by the former President during his tenure.  

What would be the outcome of this conflict of strategies of the President and the Prime Minister? Will the President’s representatives campaign to sell their point to the leaders of the UNHRC in Geneva while the foreign ministry which is functioning under a UNP minister co-sponsors a resolution with Britain and several other countries? Won’t it be a ridiculous situation?
Going by the report presented by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet this year, one has to realize that the withdrawal by the United States from the UNHRC has not changed anything in the UNHRC, in respect of Sri Lanka. 
And everything that happened between the council and Sri Lanka thus far has been documented and the present and the future leaders of the council would act on Sri Lanka based on those documents.

Therefore the commitments thrust upon the country by the Council would always hang over Sri Lanka like the proverbial sword of Damocles. 
The former Government’s rejection of the UNHRC resolutions did not work. Instead it had stiffened the attitude of the UN leaders in such a way that the first Human Rights Council Resolution on Sri Lanka in 2012 wanted the country to implement only the LLRC recommendations whereas the latest resolutions pressed the Government to address a plethora of Human Rights issues that cropped up after 2012, besides the earlier commitments. 
Where would this end up? A partisan approach by the politicians of the country would not help. At least the Government leaders-the President and the Prime Minister-might be able to speak in one voice in this regard.  

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