The United States has no genuine interest in accountability or reconciliation in Sri Lanka, but is seeking a strategic military base in Asia, says Tamara Manimekhalai Kunanayakam, onetime Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Holy See.
In a wide ranging interview with Ceylon Today, Kunanayakam said, the US would demand more concessions using the resolution as a tool and charged the UN Rights Chief as a ‘US instrument’ doing Washington’s bidding.
Kunanayakam also alleged the resolution was aimed at demonstrating Sri Lanka’s alleged failure to demonstrate accountability and to showcase the island as a failed State to maximize on concessions, including a demand to create a US military hub in Sri Lanka.
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.’
CHAIRPERSON-RAPPORTEUR OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT
68th session of the General Assembly Third Committee
Item 69 (b) of the provisional agenda Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
28 October 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour to address you in my capacity as Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development. It is the first time that the Assembly has invited me to present an oral report, instead of an update, of the 14th session of the Working Group, and to engage in an interactive dialogue with the Third Committee. I thank you for this invitation.
Estimating the number of civilian deaths in the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka is proving problematic.
By Kath Noble
The generation-long war in Sri Lanka came to an end in May 2009, with the military defeat of the the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by government forces. Tamil diaspora groups claimed there had been genocide, but the dominant narrative was of a bloody but essentially fair fight, as captured in the congratulatory resolution passed in the UN Human Rights Council barely a week later.
Even the United States, which backed an alternative and more critical statement, privately felt the same way—a cable published by Wikileaks quotes its Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues as having said at around the same time, ‘The Army could have won the military battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths.’
However, this near-consensus has gradually been eroded, and pressure is now mounting for an international investigation.
The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2011 – 2016 as well as the full series of Sri Lanka Rights Watch are available at the Peace & Reconciliation Website.
I was sorry last week to miss the Nandadasa Kodagoda Memorial Oration for two reasons. One was because of great assistance rendered by his son Yasantha Kodagoda to Dayan Jayatilleka and our Mission in Geneva at sessions of the Human Rights Council. He was a pillar of strength in dealing with the Working Group on Disappearances, when we decided, after I became Secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights, that we had to clear the backlog. Much of this related to the late eighties, and Yasantha had done much work on this in the mid-nineties when the Foreign Ministry had developed tried to respond systematically.