fter much intrigue, which naturally made for speculation that ranged from intelligent to insane, finally the Government has produced a cogent and clear articulation of position with respect to the US sponsored UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka.
At a meeting with media heads at Temple Trees on Poya Day, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe outlined for the first time Sri Lanka’s approach to the vexed issue of possible censure at the UNHRC, over allegations of war crimes and other violations during the final stages of the war.
It was always clear that the US-led Western initiatives against Sri Lanka had less to do with whatever happened or did not happen on the ground. Just the other day, the USA openly armed an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria simply because the ISIS was the common/bigger enemy.
Happens everywhere, where there’s armed conflict. Now if these friends went on a rampage killing civilians you wouldn’t see Barack Obama being hauled to the Hague.
Sri Lanka fought a ruthless terrorist. Various governments had various strategies. In the late eighties, the IPKF and not the LTTE was considered the ‘bigger enemy’. The government helped the LTTE. When Karuna broke ranks with the LTTE the government used that faction. Happens.
Whatever happened, however, certain acts cannot escape investigation, for example rape and summary execution. It is not a UNHRC call but a call from all civilized human beings, especially in Sri Lanka.
The USA and any reasonable person knows that dealing with a ruthless terrorist organisation in a hostage-rescue operation would involve costs. The USA knows that if it goes heavy on the overall operation it would give terrorists a licence to use populations as human shields.
Outside the dynamics of power politics (which naturally has little patience for truth, balance, equality in application of statutes and context) there’s no case against the command chain in executing military action. And now that the US is dealing with a ‘friendly disposition’, the dynamics of engagement have changed.
By no means has Sri Lanka been let off the hook, though. And indeed, if there were gross rights violations as alleged perpetrators should not be allowed to go scot free. The issue, then as now, is sovereignty, marked obviously with the ability and will to carry out a domestic investigation that is credible.
In this, the government has come up with a remarkable model, which puts the emphasis on reconciliation rather than what could turn out to be a witch-hunt given long standing antipathies. The commitment to obtaining the truth but less with the intention to hang, is also commendable.
The Prime Minister was also very clear that a broad definition of ‘victim’ would be adopted, pointing out that the LTTE was responsible for destroying political society, especially in the North. The proposed approach would no doubt find those ‘truths’ also being recorded which would naturally mention (and not in footnote) the complicity of certain Tamil political parties.
Most importantly, he has pledged that the preamble of the draft resolution would be contested (amicably of course). This is a positive development from what Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera articulated a few weeks ago when the UN report was released.
The previous regime was high on pledge and slugging on delivery. The challenge for this government is to see this difficult process to conclusion without compromising either sovereignty or the chances for reconciliation.
The Prime Minister has to be lauded for clarity. This alone would facilitate meaningful engagement from all sections of society.
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