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Sunday, 30 March 2014

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Resolution failed to muster the desired votes

The high-handed manner in which the US and its allies campaigned to pass the third successive Resolution against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sends a clear signal to smaller countries as far as their sovereignty and territorial integrity are concerned.

The US, United Kingdom and some of their allies in the European Union did everything within their power to exert tremendous pressure on the so-called smaller countries in the UNHRC to ensure that they support the Resolution.

Hence, most countries which voted for the Resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC did so merely to appease their Western masters. The West even intimidated some UNHRC member countries in the Commonwealth that possible sanctions and aid cuts would be imposed if they do not support the Resolution.

Some Western countries did not fully endorse the US-led Resolution, but had no option but to agree with the collective decision of the European Union. If these factors are taken into consideration, securing 23 votes for the Resolution against Sri Lanka is nothing extraordinary.

In point of fact, it was a great setback for the US and the UK. Had it not been for the extensive lobbying and the undue pressure on smaller countries which rely heavily on Western aid, the Resolution wouldn't have received even half the number of votes it secured.

In this scenario, Sri Lanka should be happy with its achievement as a Lilliputian which gave Gulliver a good fight. Despite, all the undiplomatic lobbying and undue political pressure, the US and its allies mustered only 23 votes as against 24 countries which did not support it.

If one were to analyse the voting pattern of the Resolution against Sri Lanka, it is crystal clear that even half the number of UNHRC member countries had not voted for it. This means while 23 countries voted for the Resolution, 24 countries had either voted against it or abstained from voting.

This indeed is a significant achievement for Sri Lanka, which was pitted against the superpowers which spared no pains to woo support for the Resolution. Another setback which the West suffered was losing the Indian vote. The US would perhaps never have imagined that India, having voted in support of the two previous US-led Resolutions, would abstain from voting this time. While 12 nations plucked up courage to ignore the repeated calls by the US and UK to vote for the Resolution, an equal number of countries, including India, abstained from voting.

The nation's tribute goes out to China, Russia, Algeria, Congo, Cuba, Kenya, Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Venezuela and Vietnam for extending their support to Sri Lanka by voting against the Resolution.

At the same time, the commendable roles played by Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Namibia, Philippines and South Africa by abstaining themselves from voting should also be hailed.

There is no doubt, whatsoever, that the US-led Resolution which calls for an international investigation on Sri Lanka poses a serious breach of international law. Moreover, it also poses a grave threat to the sovereign independence of the member states in the United Nations.

Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha hit the nail on the head when he said that there is no urgent situation in Sri Lanka which warrants the interests that were expressed at the UNHRC. The Resolution surreptitiously opens the doors for third party elements to interfere with internal affairs of Sri Lanka as its lingo was couched in ambiguity.

This sets a bad precedent as even greater action could be taken by the so-called big countries to tame smaller countries which do not dance to the tune of the West.

Rather than encouraging and supporting the ongoing reconciliation in Sri Lanka, and the constructive engagement Sri Lanka continues to maintain with the UNHRC, it was most unbecoming that the draft resolution reflects the same partisan politicised agenda through its request to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to undertake a comprehensive independent investigation.

Seeking mandatory assistance to such a process by third party 'experts' poses a severe threat to the sovereignty of member countries as the mandate and credentials of these so-called experts are mind-boggling.

The Resolution's deliberate exclusion of a significant part of the duration of terrorism that prevailed from the period under investigation via the introduction of a particular timeframe, is prejudicial to the interests of all UNHRC member and observer states in the future.

The Government had consistently rejected the previous resolutions on Sri Lanka proposed by the US due to convincing reasons. The resolutions emanated from a politicised process and mandate, sans the consent of the country concerned.

Sri Lanka has consistently reiterated that any action to promote and protect a country's human rights should have the consent of that country. Due attention should be paid to the trajectory that has emerged with regard to the recommendation contained in the Report of the UN High Commissioner which reflects the preconceived, politicised and prejudicial agenda which has been relentlessly pursued with regard to Sri Lanka.

The politicised process will only impede the delicate balance of the ongoing reconciliation in Sri Lanka and the constructive engagement the country has maintained with the UNHRC.

The overwhelming response that a small nation such as Sri Lanka has received at the UNHRC is a remarkable achievement and an eye-opener to the West. Several countries including Russia and China castigated the UNHRC report compiled by its chief Navi Pillay. Sri Lanka received tremendous support from Russia, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Venezuela, Belarus and Zimbabwe, which criticised the controversial report submitted by Pillay as 'imbalanced' and one that 'exceeded the mandate

granted by Resolution 22/1'. Representatives from Russia said that they did not agree with the report as it exceeded Pillay's mandate and interfered in Sri Lanka's domestic affairs. They drew home the point that the absence of 'explosions or civilian deaths' in the past five years should be duly recognised.

Russia put it quite succinctly that human rights should not be used as a means of settling political goals or gaining geopolitical advantage. A few Western countries should no longer be permitted to use human rights as an effective tool to intimidate countries which do not dance the fandango round them.

China said the report had undermined the basis of international cooperation on human rights - food for thought. The lesser-known countries should take serious note that the West could do anything to the regimes which do not sing hosannas to the US and UK at all times.

It is deplorable that Pillay's one-sided report does not acknowledge Sri Lanka's landmark achievements since the defeat of terrorism almost five years ago. It had totally ignored Sri Lanka moving towards reconciliation and reflects the imbalance in verifying human rights issues in countries such as Sri Lanka. As Pakistan had pointed out, Sri Lanka should not be penalised for rooting out terrorism from its soil.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the passing of the Resolution is a victory for the people of Sri Lanka. Cameron need not shed crocodile tears over Sri Lanka as the country's Head of State had already brought victory for the people by defeating terrorism under his illustrious political leadership. Cameron should address the burning issues in his country and bring victory for the Britons rather than showing extraordinary concern for Sri Lankans.

Sri Lankans are fortunate to have a fearless and forthright leader such as President Mahinda Rajapaksa who has worked tirelessly for people. No foreigner could feel for the people of Sri Lanka more than our leaders. If foreigners such as Cameron and his allies feign such concern, all those moves are being hatched with ulterior moves to rob Sri Lanka's hard-earned peace.

The West yearns to see countries such as Sri Lanka battling with never-ending problems such as terrorism and internal dissension so that they could reign supreme. No Sri Lankan would fall for Cameron's misleading statement. The nation would rally round the President with more vigour with every election victory.

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