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Sunday, 18 September 2011

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Misfits sully good name of international bodies

The transparency and sincerity of some officials holding top positions in key international organisations are highly questionable, especially after last week's developments at the 18th regular sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)in Geneva.

It seems that certain countries and international bodies are still reluctant to come to terms with the reality that Sri Lanka was the only country to eradicate terrorism. Hence, they are making a shameful attempt to penalise Sri Lanka for the 'sin' of vanquishing the world's most ruthless terrorist outfit.

At a time the world mourns the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in the United States, with terrorism spreading its deadly wings into several countries, the entire world in one voice should commend Sri Lanka's singular achievement of eradicating terrorism. Regrettably, some so-called big countries are targeting Sri Lanka and exerting undue pressure by citing human rights as an excuse. It is most unfortunate that a developing country such as Sri Lanka which had spearheaded the worldwide battle against terrorism and won approbation all round is subjected to such indignity.

Unpalatable as it may be to certain organisations, terrorism has not been allowed to rear its ugly head in Sri Lanka since May 2009. Sri Lanka, like any other right-thinking nation, is not willing to create nurseries for terrorists from any quarter.

As Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN, Tamara Kunanayakam had pointed out at the Geneva sessions, the partiality of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has been manifestly demonstrated again in the Council.Referring to the UN High Commissioner's assertion that the combat against terrorism in Sri Lanka was designed with insufficient regard to human rights, Ms. Kunanayakam had said that the humanitarian operation was part of an act of the sovereign State and its people in the wake of terrorist aggression. It is indisputable that Sri Lanka had taken tangible steps, at great cost, to resettle and rebuild the lives of people who were rescued from the jaws of LTTE terror.

It is pertinent to state that in the wake of the 9/11 attack, the UN invoked the right of self-defence for a sovereign nation and called upon the international community to neutralise or combat such terrorism by non-State actors by its resolution 1368 and 1373 of September 2001. In the same vein, Sri Lanka's humanitarian operation was part of such an act of a sovereign State and its people in the wake of terrorist aggression.

As Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN had pointed out, the UN High Commissioner's characterisation is wholly misplaced as the community of nations was well aware that Sri Lanka was combatting one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world. This distorted position has been amplified by the reference to Sri Lanka in the present context, in crass disregard to contextual developments.Sri Lanka has categorically denied the assertion of the UN High Commissioner that the combat against terrorism was designed with insufficient regard to human rights and more particularly, with regard to the giant strides that Sri Lanka has taken in the reconciliation process, and the dividends of peace the rescued civilians are now enjoying. The defeat of the LTTE has opened a new chapter in the lives of over half a million people in the North and the East who had been rescued during the 2006-2009 humanitarian operation.

It seems that the UNHR High Commissioner does not have the courage even to acknowledge the paradigm shift in the Government's policy. She paid scant respect to the lifting of Emergency regulations and even failed to concede that they had been withdrawn in its entirety. At a time most countries are taking stringent measures to strengthen anti-terrorism regulations, Sri Lanka has set a shining example by creating a terror-free environment for all communities to live in peace and harmony.

Moreover, Sri Lanka's laws on anti-terrorism are by far less stringent than the legislation imposed by some other countries, which provide for the most Draconian measures against terrorism. The Government continues to remain dedicated to building a country based on the all-pervading unity, equality and justice.

The controversial Darusman panel report on Sri Lanka can by no means be taken up for discussion at the UN Human Rights Council sessions, according to UN procedural requirements. Hence, the report is not an official document but the mere findings of a panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to advise him outside the UN Charter, and cannot be discussed at the UNHRC or any similar body.

In the event such an informal document is taken up for discussion by the UN Human Rights Council, such an attempt would constitute a procedure that would affect other countries as well in the future. The manner in which the Darusman report had crept into the UNHRC is highly controversial and questionable.

Ministers G.L. Peiris and Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka's representatives, had a lengthy discussion with UN Human Rights Council President Laura Dupuy Lasserre on the eve of the UNHRC sessions in Geneva.

It so happened that it was during a question and answer session that the representative of the European Union disclosed that he had been informed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navaneethem Pillai that a decision had been taken by the UN Secretary General's office in New York to send copies of the Darusman report to the President of the Human Rights Council and UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Human Rights Council President had told the Sri Lanka delegation that she knew nothing about the matter.

Sri Lanka has vehemently protested against this unacceptable act because the country concerned - Sri Lanka and the President of the Human Rights Council had been kept in the dark. It was indeed a crying shame that the two parties had come to know of the news on this high-handed act from a third party - the EU, which had prior knowledge of it.

Such unbecoming conduct had emblazoned the fact that Commissioner Pillai had discussed the matter in private with the EU delegate- which amounts to a lack of integrity, transparency and impartiality in the dealings of the Human Rights Commissioner. Incidents of this nature occur not due to the fault of the UN or the UNHRC, but purely due to the few individuals holding office in those bodies which had been originally established with great principles and lofty ideals.

The controversial conduct of a handful of individuals has tainted these worthy organisations. It goes without saying that the UN Human Rights Commissioner must command the respect of the Human Rights community and act in a transparent and impartial manner.

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