STATE OF THE NATION
‘MISTAKES MADE’ AND MAKE REPARATIONS
Wijith DeChickera urges Sri Lanka as a nation to get real about sincerely addressing its rights and responsibilities as regards all its citizens
Not to be so blasé as babble about the weather but there’s a chill in the air… and it isn’t that ‘the north wind doth blow and we shall have snow.’ There is a cold front in the West where Sri Lanka has been subject to a UN resolution for the umpteenth time…
This year, censure by the so-called ‘civilised world’ comes with threats of sanctions for alleged ‘economic crimes’ committed by a recent regime.
We’ve been there before – in fact, since 2012 – when our island nation’s sordid case first came up in the planet’s court of public opinion, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), for “horrific abuses” committed against its citizens from 2002 to 2011.
Since then, we’ve had to mount successive defences of our state’s execution of a protracted and violent war especially in its closing stages.
Our arguments have ranged from the right of countries to defend themselves by any means necessary against separatist terrorism, through high dudgeon at ‘interventionist internationalism’ by non-impartial nations whose vested interest ridden electorates have axes to grind against the majoritarian ethic that dominates our security forces to a ‘zero civilian casualties’ stand.
Being blithely agnostic to the irony of committing hara-kiri as the supreme act of self-defence, Sri Lanka even cosponsored a UN resolution – bringing up a lively but practically pointless debate about whether such a motion was ‘on,’ ‘for,’ ‘with’ or ‘against’ our once embattled state.
The bottom line... Geneva’s UNHRC and the Damocles sword of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) being suspended over our heads continues to keep the position insecure and successive administrations at home on tenterhooks about a now bankrupt nation’s trade prospects in the year ahead. Sri Lanka has only managed to buy itself time – year after year – and it is painfully obvious that despite the hypocrisy entailed at the warmongering West teaching the miscreant military machine of our terrorism beating government a lesson, the persistent global scrutiny of the United Nations’ member states won’t go away.
The government of our beleaguered island nation has done little to plead its case convincingly and close the matter to everyone’s satisfaction. Despite agency in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) of 2010 and salutary findings of two thorough commissions of inquiry – the Udalagama and Paranagama reports – we’ve dithered over implementing recommendations while blathering about needing time...
Have we learned any lessons about our decades long misadventures murdering one another?
How much more time do we well and truly need to go about earnestly setting our house in disarray right?
And is the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) and Office of Reparations (OR) all that we could do?
CRIMINAL Our crimes are legion in international eyes. Not only have we not kept our promises as regards transforming from a postwar into a post-conflict society, we’ve blatantly violated our solemn oaths to partners in international progress among cooperative nations.
One prime example is the chronic use of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to arrest, detain, question and incarcerate low-key agitators in the erstwhile aragalaya on the flimsiest of pretexts.
This despite our vow to place a moratorium on the employment of the PTA – given in Brussels by our then prime minister (Ranil Wickremesinghe – in 2017), who is our president now, smacks of cynical diplomacy: preaching democracy abroad while practising despotism at home...
So today, GSP+ – at the very least – hangs in the balance... again.
CONTENTIOUS Our contention that Sri Lanka needs more time simply doesn’t wash well in the global laundry of the UN where other nations’ dirty linen is hung out to dry even in the face of its powers that be not abiding by their own ethics.
Best get our act together on the home front then and begin implementing some of the recommendations set out in the findings of the afore-mentioned commissions.
It is enlightened self-interest – taught by the Tathāgatha and known to the more discerning inhabitants of Theravada Buddhism’s last refuge – that will win the day, not spurious appeals to Sri Lanka’s constitution, which is more honoured in the breach than the observance!
Or blandly dismissing the right of sister states to insist that we observe human rights norms and seek belonging in global confraternity.
CULPABLE Our culpability in playing games of delay and defer is plain to see – and it’s not unpatriotic to call out politicians on all sides who think fine words and fancy concepts postpone the inevitable. How much longer can we deny those who lost everything in our pointless, shameful, devastating war their due justice and healing?
We do well to remind ourselves of at least one UN resolution on/for/with Sri Lanka – 30/1 of 2015, which was adopted without a vote, that there needs to be promotion of reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka.
If we’ll not permit foreigners to interfere in our domestic affairs, we owe it to ourselves – as participants in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – to do so expediently and ensure we remain not an insular island race... but a human and humane one allied to the rest of civilisation.