Geneva 2014: Is the government falling into a trap?

The exclusion of intellectuals and their input in the making of public policy — foreign policy in particular — and the consequences thereof, was a recurring theme at a recent public discussion on the upcoming UN Human Rights Council session in March 2014.  Nativist, xenophobic tendencies were coming to the fore and “We don’t know how to converse with the world anymore,” warned Dayan Jayatilleke, the keynote speaker.  Dr Jayatilleka is best known as the former UN ambassador in Geneva who led the team that defeated a hostile resolution brought against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council Special Session in May 2009, soon after the military defeat of the LTTE.   Sri Lanka lost two subsequent US-led resolutions in 2012 and 2013.

The discussion held at the auditorium of the Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) was organised by the Liberal Party and moderated by its leader Rajiva Wijesinha, a National List MP and Secretary to the (now dismantled) Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP). Prof Wijesinha noted the absence of input from independent think tanks in foreign policy decision making, and lamented the failure of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute and the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in this regard.

Jayatilleka has been arguing consistently in the media that the cold war the country faces is an intellectual battle. A bibliography on Sri Lanka has developed over the years with a number of documents being produced, but though these were studied in the West there was no significant discourse in Sri Lanka he said, on his fortnightly TV talk-show ‘Vantage Point’ aired Thursday on ‘MTV Sports.’ “We are going into battle without knowing the history.” He said it was unthinkable that the GoSL did not respond to the flawed report of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel (the ‘Darusman report’). There were two brilliant critiques of it that had been disregarded. One was by the Marga Institute, a much respected independent think tank, and the other a study titled ‘The Numbers Game’ by a group of highly educated Western-based Sri Lankans. Listing some of the other literature on the subject he mentioned the Petrie report, Gordon Weiss’s book ‘The Cage,’ The Routledge Handbook on R2P, and a UK House of Commons research paper in 2009 titled ‘War and Peace in Sri Lanka,’ which traced the campaign against Sri Lanka originating much earlier than the ‘last stages of the war.’

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Our preparations for Geneva

946826684glBy K. Godage

Former Ambassador

I was happy to read that Mr. Lalith Weeratunge and Dr. G.L. Peiris would be going out to Geneva to brief missions of countries in the HRC, whatever briefing/ publicity we can give to what we have achieved so far and what we intend to do will not be a waste of time.

This approach is certainly what is called for, not sending a large delegation during the Sessions to lobby delegates as we did a few years ago; most countries decide on their positions on Resolutions such as those relating to countries such as ours, before the Session commences. Former Ambassadors such as Jayantha Dhanapala. Pallihakkara, Nihal Rodrigo {who is an Advisor to His Excellency] and Bernard Goonetilleke would bear me out.

I have often wondered as to what the government’s strategy is to counter these anti-Sri Lanka Resolutions. In the first instance, as the government is already doing, we need to continue to reach out to the Tamil people in a meaningful manner and encourage the Tamil people to reach out to the Sinhalese and Muslim communities. The Tamil community in particular, along with all other communities of our country must continue to enjoy the hard won freedom in every sense of that word; they also need to feel secure and have opportunities to pursue livelihoods of their choice; another important value for the Tamil people in particular is Education, in this regard I am, aware that those who take the trouble to find out about the progress within the country are more than happy with what the government has done since the war ended, to improve the education facilities in the region. In this regard I would urge the government to continue its good work in spite of attempts by pro LTTE elements to divert its attention and create a rift between minor communities and the government.

The government, I presume, has prepared Documentaries that can be shown to the international community. Such Documentaries, perhaps prepared by foreign companies under our supervision of course, would have greater credence and acceptance. We should also establish a Reconciliation Commission which should be headed by a committed person such as Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, the Advisor on Reconciliation to the President, who is well informed and has worked tirelessly to challenge the baseless accusations made by the pro LTTE individuals and organizations. We should without further delay also establish a local commission with three retired judges of the Supreme Court to inquire into what happened in the last days of the conflict, when we saved the lives of over three hundred thousand civilians.

We could then without doubt, give the lie to the horrendous charge that 40,000 were killed in the closing stages of the war on terrorism. Let us call upon those who are making this wild accusation to come up with proof before the Commission, giving the names of those whom they claim were killed. We could also commission an independent body, comprising respected Sri Lankans from a range of professional fields, to document the history of the war and record the deaths that have resulted from targeted terrorist activity – this needs to include the support lent by any organisations and certain countries to the terrorists, which has enabled them to continue their war against the State. Continue reading

Right to Development: Political will urgently needed to address rising inequalities

NEW YORK / GENEVA (31 October 2013) – The Chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development speaking to diplomats in New York has warned about the dramatic increase of inequalities within and between countries during the unprecedented current global economic and financial crisis.

The surge in inequalities has brought “countless victims, violating their human rights, and threatening the ecosystem upon which life depends,” said Tamara Kunanayakam, who currently chairs the Working Group charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the promotion and implementation of the right to development.

“We are lacking neither in the means nor in the resources to confront these historical challenges through international cooperation and solidarity. Problems of a global character can only be resolved through collective action,” Ms. Kunanayakam told the UN General Assembly during the presentation of the Working Group’s latest report.* “The question is: Is there the political will to do so?”

If any progress is to be made in the realization of the right to development, then social justice and equality, as well as national and international justice, must be given the prominence they deserve in today’s development discourse.

Ms. Kunanayakam urged Governments worldwide to implement the Declaration on the Right to Development, calling it “an instrument that provides a framework for building a human society based on justice, equality, non-discrimination and solidarity.”

The Working Group was established in 1998 by the then Commission on Human Rights to monitor and review progress made in the promotion and implementation of the right to development in the world.

Tamara Kunanayakam (Sri Lanka) took up her functions as Chairperson-Rapporteur of the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development in 2011. Ms. Kunanayakam has worked as both international and national civil servant, inter alia as Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva. She has also worked for civil society organizations and as independent researcher and is a recognized expert on the right to development. As Chairperson-Rapporteur she serves in her personal capacity. Learn more, log on to:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Development/Pages/WGRightToDevelopment.aspx orhttp://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Development/Pages/DevelopmentIndex.aspx

(*) Read the full report: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session24/Documents/A-HRC-24-37_en.pdf

The UN Declaration on the Right to Development:http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Development/DeclarationRightDevelopment_en.pdf