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Sunday, 3 March 2013

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Undue pressure will harm peaceful coexistence

Western countries and key international organisations seem to be preoccupied with Sri Lanka's internal matters. Notwithstanding many world issues such as climate change, food security, global economic recession, terrorism, sanitation and water, most of the world fora are hell-bent on Sri Lanka's internal matters.

Certain Western countries seem to be more inclined to discuss matters pertaining to Sri Lanka at almost every international summit rather than finding solutions to problems in their countries such as the economic crisis and unemployment. Despite these challenges, most Western countries and international organisations seem to have a penchant to dig into old wounds in an attempt to intimidate Sri Lanka rather than find solutions to more pressing problems.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is no exception and allocates time lavishly to discuss the human rights of terrorists killed when confronting a legitimate army of a sovereign State rather than speaking in favour of the hundreds of thousands of civilians who had been killed due to the LTTE's indiscriminate terror attacks.

Some Western countries which exert pressure on Sri Lanka are masquerading as saints. In the event they are really keen on human rights and accountability, the Western nations which invaded countries such as Sri Lanka, killing hundreds of civilians and held the land forcibly as their colonies in the past, must examine their conscience and look into the accountability of what they did during that time.

Had any of these Western nations even tendered an apology for the lives of civilians whom they massacred when they invaded countries such as Sri Lanka? Moreover, has anybody talked about the human rights of civilians being killed by drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

But these self-same countries now pontificate to us on accountability and display extraordinary concern on the human rights of LTTE terrorists killed in action. It is deplorable that those international organisations which had been set up to protect human rights are extremely biased. Is this due to the fact that several Western politicians depend heavily on the Tamil Diaspora vote for their political survival?

The Tiger cohorts and LTTE sympathisers have colluded with some key figures in international organisations and their conduct is highly questionable, to say the least. Contrary to what they often preach on transparency and accountability, they do otherwise.

UN Human Rights Council chief Navaneethan Pillay is better known for carrying out her own agenda while holding that exalted position. As Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe quite rightly pointed out at the UNHRC sessions in Geneva last week, Pillay is behaving in an irresponsible manner with a secret agenda of disparaging Sri Lanka.

In the guise of preparing the groundwork for a future visit, Pillay sent officials to Sri Lanka to gather information for her highly controversial report that was released recently.

It is now evident that Pillay's team was sent purely to collect material for her present report and by no means to help prepare the groundwork for her visit.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his Independence Day address to the nation in Trincomalee last month, called upon world leaders to visit Sri Lanka to find out the real ground situation. Is it fair for them to make wild accusations based on LTTE propaganda without gaining first-hand experience?

Regrettably, Pillay who has shown such extraordinary interest in Sri Lanka's internal matters had failed to visit the country for quaint reasons. Perhaps, she may be reluctant to visit Sri Lanka as that would induce her to give up her long-standing presumptions.

Although the Government had extended an invitation to Pillay to tour Sri Lanka in April 2011, she put it on hold until May last year and said that she could undertake such a tour to Sri Lanka only after an advance visit by her team of officials to explore possible areas for cooperation. However, when Sri Lanka complied with the request in good faith, it was used purely to gather material for Pillay's report and level fresh allegations against Sri Lanka.

Moreover, considerable attention has been paid to Sri Lanka in the High Commissioner's statements within and outside the UN fora. Be it in the UN Security Council or successive sessions of the Human Rights Council, democracy conferences or comments from her on incidents or events in Sri Lanka ranging from economic migrants to the judiciary, the High Commissioner had invariably made negative observations from around the end of the battle against terrorism in May 2009.

Are Pillay's vitriolic remarks on the eve of each UNHRC session an attempt to mislead member countries? As Minister Samarasinghe highlighted at the UNHRC Sessions, Pillay's barrage of comments to the media, ahead of the Council's sessions, could tendentiously influence delegations, especially when there are Resolutions being contemplated.

It is needless to state that such bizarre conduct runs counter to the detachment, objectivity and impartiality expected from the holder of such an exalted office. Sweeping generalisations using terms such as "massive violations" of human rights and the constant targeting of Sri Lanka, based on unsubstantiated evidence founded on conjecture and supposition, only supports the impression of a lack of objectivity.

It seems that the UNHRC chief cares two hoots for Sri Lanka's Herculean efforts in eradicating terrorism and the progress made so far in development and reconciliation.

Had the UNHRC been sincere in protecting human rights of those in every corner of the globe in equal manner, we would certainly endorse Pillay's strong voice on behalf of alleged human rights violations during Sri Lanka's battle against terrorism. Strange as it may seem, she did not utter a word when Sri Lanka was at the receiving end and tens of thousands of civilians were brutally massacred by LTTE terrorists. The UNHRC had never discussed about the lives of hapless civilians killed by NATO and the US drone attacks.

Are there two types of definitions to terrorism? As President Rajapaksa had told the UN General Assembly almost five years ago, there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists. Terrorism in any part of the world would unleash the same devastation and should be eliminated in like manner. Hence, Pillay cannot adopt two different standards on terrorism - one for Sri Lanka and another for the West.

It's mindboggling as to why Pillay and those who bring resolutions against Sri Lanka are unable to see the tremendous progress in the country after terrorism was eradicated. Are they averse to the peaceful coexistence of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims in all parts of Sri Lanka? Else, do they wish to see a nation grappling with problems and being overdependent on the West?

Reconstruction work is going on apace in the North and the East, apart from the restoration of physical and social infrastructure, strengthening of civil administration, provision of livelihood support and housing facilities. This resulted in a 27 percent growth in the Northern Province while Sri Lanka's overall GDP recorded around eight percent growth in 2011. Doesn't this prove that the nation is marching towards prosperity triumphantly?

As a peace-loving nation, the masses in one voice strongly object to any unfair, biased, unprincipled and unjust approach that may be adopted by the UNHRC as far as the protection and promotion of human rights in Sri Lanka are concerned. We strongly believe that the UNHRC would not embark on or encourage either a debate or any country-specific resolution by virtue of a selective process as it would run counter to the Council's founding principles.

If the UNHRC were to do so, it would not only reflect its double standards, but it would also seriously affect Sri Lanka's development and reconciliation.

Targeting Sri Lanka unfairly would only serve to further polarise those affected, especially considering the fact that there is no threat to its citizens or international peace and security.

The eradication of terrorism has given a new lease of life not only to those in the North and the East, but also to all Sri Lankans who now live in peace and harmony. The West should by no means try to harm the country's national unity that has been built with renewed hope.

The structures and procedures of multilateral organisations should be uniform and consistent and devoid of any discrimination. As we have pointed out earlier, there are no short cuts for a nation which is recovering after terrorism was wiped out. Sri Lanka must be given adequate time to complete its development and reconciliation.

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