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TNA called upon to adopt constructive attitude :

Lanka expects integrity and impartiality from UN - External Affairs Minister

External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris told the TNA to shake free of the notion ‘that it is the international community that is going to frighten us, intimidate us and impose a solution on us.’


External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris

“I tell the Hon. R. Sampanthan on the Floor of this House that it will never happen,” the Minister asserted, wrapping up a debate on the adjournment motion moved by TNA Parliamentary group leader R. Sampanthan on the US-sponsored UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka, in Parliament last Tuesday.

Inviting the TNA for talks, the Minister urged them to adopt a constructive attitude and help the Government to find a lasting solution to the issue at hand.

“The international community is neither disposed nor able to impose a substantive solution on the Government and the people of Sri Lanka. That is a futile illusion,” he cautioned the TNA.

He said, “Let us resolve these problems within our shores”, adding that a direct dialogue is more promising to throw up solutions to the domestic problem - the problems facing the people of the North and the East.

Explaining the Government's decision to reject the US-sponsored Resolution which was adopted in Geneva in March this year, Prof. Peiris said the Resolution is never founded upon objective premises.

“The Hon. R. Sampanthan, moving this Motion, very early in his speech said that the ideas contained in the Resolution adopted in Geneva and his own initiative in proposing this Motion were not intended to inflict any harm on the country or its people. That, Sir, is the fundamental disagreement.”

He said, “The whole thrust of the speech of the TNA leader was that ‘this Resolution passed in Geneva is a good and proper Resolution; it embodies the truth; it is something that should be accepted without question and the principles contained in that Resolution should govern our conduct in the future.”

He said the contrary is very much the case.

The Minister said one important point was not mentioned by the TNA Parliamentarian.

“There was one very significant circumstance which my friend omitted to mention. It is this; I am sure he knows that. This Resolution was not proposed for the first time by the United States of America. That was not the case. It was originally brought up by another country. It was brought up by Canada. Canada actually submitted a draft resolution in Geneva. So, the initiative came, not from the United States of America, but from Canada. This happened in September 2011.”

Original resolution

Refuting the argument by Sampanthan that the influence and clout of the mover of the Resolution was totally irrelevant to the outcome, he questioned as to why the Resolution failed dismally in 2011 when Canada originally submitted it.

“When we were in New York, we were informed by our Permanent Representative in Geneva that this Resolution had been submitted to the Human Rights Council by Canada and a text of the Resolution was sent to us.”

After Canada's strong efforts to garner support for the resolution failed, a bilateral meeting was held between Prof. Peiris and his Canadian counterpart in New York on the request of the Canadian Foreign Minister.

“At that meeting, the Canadian Foreign Minister informed me that Canada was not proceeding with this Resolution on that occasion. The reason was that they did not have support.”He said what Canada could not do was taken over by the US and the superpower garnered the necessary votes with its might.

“It is quite idle and entirely disingenuous to suggest that the attitudes of countries have nothing to do with the economic, military and strategic influence of the United States.

“You cannot gauge the influence of the United Sates on those countries by simply looking at the bare figures relating to direct aid. Influence takes a variety of forms as my friend is very well aware. So, many countries did have a very substantial difficulty in saying 'No' to the United States.” He said the members of those governments have shared their individual sentiments to him personally.

“International relations are not founded upon unlimited altruism. Foreign policy is all about enlightened self interests. These countries are trying to protect and nurture their own interests. It is not their job to make a very clinical, objective and dispassionate appraisal of the situation. That is not how decisions are made with regard to the patterns of voting in Geneva.” Commenting on the attempts by the TNA leader to give the Resolution a humane face, Prof. Peiris said, “I do not think we should try to dress it up and give it a complexion that it simply does not have.”He said what happened in Geneva has ‘many unusual features'. The US came into the Human Rights Council in 2009 and they have a track record of being highly critical of country-specific resolutions. Many countries who voted for the Resolution have gone on record that they were in principle against such moves.

“They deviated from that policy, not because of great moral and ethical considerations, that is to live in a dream world.”

Practical dynamics

“It was the practical dynamics of the situation and issues involved in the bilateral relationship between the country bringing the resolution and the countries whose votes were canvassed that accounted for the result.”

Speaking on the EU vote, he said, “At any given time, there would be more than 10 countries belonging to the European Union that would be members of the Human Rights Council. Those countries, as I am well aware, cannot make an independent decision on how they are going to vote. They cannot. Because, that is a subject that is delegated to the Commission in Brussels.”

The Minister said that the the Human Rights Council today is the most politicised among all organs of the United Nations system. “It is a fact and that has very considerable consequences, not only for Sri Lanka, but for other countries as well.”

He opined that the implications of that situation far transcend the specifics of the Sri Lankan situation and are of far wider interest to the world community and in particular to developing nations. He said there is an acute reason for concern about the implications of the unfolding situation in the UNHRC with regard to Sri Lanka.The Minister said the manner in which the Human Rights High Commissioner has acted in relation to Sri Lanka is highly questionable.

“The report that the Commissioner submitted to the Human Rights Council seeks to incorporate into the formal documentation of the Human Rights Council, certain other documents and the whole purpose of that exercise is to sanctify those documents by being brought into the mainstream of the documentation of the Human Rights Council.“The Darusman Report, the virtues of which Sampanthan extolled eloquently, describes the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as the most disciplined and nationalist organisation; it was the same organisation that liquidated a member of his party who graced the Chair of the Leader of the Opposition in this august assembly.

“Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam was killed brutally by the LTTE and this is the organisation that is described as the most disciplined and nationalist organisation and that is a report which Sampanthan finds eminently acceptable.

“The Report further goes on to analyse the conflict in this country which raged for such a long period as essentially a conflict between the Sinhala and the Tamil people.

How come the LTTE liquidated most of the leadership of Sampanthan’s party, not to mention many other distinguished Tamil citizens of this country - professionals, academics, industrialists and business people?”

The Minister said this was a bizarre characterisation by the Darusman Report. “The committee has gathered information in a clandestine and furtive manner, and cannot possibly be held to be doing justice.”

Incredible feature

“There is also one other, absolutely incredible feature of that Report. If the Hon. R. Sampanthan would care to refresh his memory and read some of those passages, they describe in the most horrendous terms, events which are supposed to have occurred and then, believe it or not, they say that these should not be accepted as facts. They are not prepared to vouch for the accuracy of what they are putting into that Report.

“The African Union and the Organisation of Islamic Countries have unequivocally rejected the Darusman Report because it is incurably flawed and yet that is the report which the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights is incorporating into the formal documentation of the Human Rights Council and therefore, the United Nations system.

That is something which we vigorously and vehemently object to.”

As for the Petri report, which was mandated to examine the manner in which the UN system had operated in the country, the Minister said it has been exposed that they committed portions of documents used which did not support their pre-conceived conclusions.

Referring to the 40,000 casualty figures mentioned in the reports, the Minister said Sir John Holmes himself admitted that this figure was not based on factual information.

“This is why we say that this modus operandi spells disaster for the system as a whole, because it strikes at the very root of credibility and confidence.”

Speaking of the visit by a technical team from the office of the Human Rights High Commissioner, the Minister said, “We wrote to the Commissioner 11 months before the Resolution was adopted in Geneva, inviting her to come to this country to rely on the evidence of her own eyes and to see for herself the progress that was being achieved on the ground. She said she will come, but that she would like her visit to be preceded by a visit by a technical team from her office.”

Appreciation expressed

“So, that is how we received in this country, Hanny Megally, one of her officers who was accompanied by two or three other officials of the Commissioner.

We have in our Ministry a letter from the Commissioner expressing appreciation of the assistance which we gave her officer at every point. “What happened when Megally went back to Geneva? The first thing that happened was that he went to the residence of the United States Permanent Representative to brief selected invitees.”

The Minister said, “That is why we have every reason to expect integrity and impartiality of treatment. Countries big and small; powerful and not so powerful are all equal in the eyes of the United Nations and we reject this kind of behaviour as thoroughly unacceptable. So, these are the reasons why we think that the system is going wrong.”

Speaking on the 'motivation underpinning the extraordinary behaviour’ by the Canadian foreign Minister who called Sri Lanka ‘evil’, the Minister cited a Canadian newspaper, Globe and Mail, which reported a Cabinet member of the Harper Government, Peter Kent criticising the relationship between the Canadian Government and a gentleman called Paranjothy who had very close connections with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Kent has called the situation ‘outrageous'.

The Minister also reminded the TNA leader that although the LTTE is no more as a military outfit, the international threat posed by them is still there.

Commenting on the upcoming Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting in November, Prof. Peiris said, “Strong voices were raised in support of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s leadership of the Commonwealth for the next two years.

This is not simply a matter of a physical event that will take place within the shores of the island.

“It has far greater significance because this country will lead the Commonwealth for two years from November and President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be heading that organisation during that period.

This is what some people cannot stomach and that is the stark reality of the matter.”

 

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