Blending security and development
Jordan's Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid
al Hussein, a seasoned human rights campaigner, will take over from Navi
Pillay as the UN High Commissioner for Human rights from September 1.
It is earnestly hoped that the new United Nations Human Rights
Commission (UNHRC) chief would act in an impartial and transparent
manner while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all
UN member countries.
Prince Hussein has a huge responsibility to restore the UNHRC to its
pristine glory and protect the original principles of the UN human
rights body. It is a pity that the UNHRC sullied its image due to the
controversial conduct of the outgoing UNHRC chief Navaneethan Pillay.
Her stance on Sri Lanka had been more often than not been questionable,
making sweeping statements during and after Sri Lanka's relentless
battle against LTTE terrorists.
Her high-handedness had a direct bearing on the UNHRC to take several
unfair decisions against Sri Lanka. She not only entertained three
US-led resolutions against Sri Lanka but also overstepped her mandate as
the UNHRC head to meddle in Sri Lanka's internal affairs.
In this scenario, her successor will face a gigantic task to restore
the image of the UNHRC and win the confidence of UN member countries.
The UNHRC should no longer dance to the tune of a few powerful nations
against which Pillay appeared to be a toothless tiger.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa had pointed out recently that some
leaders of powerful Western countries who talk glibly about human rights
violations had today apparently forgotten their violent past and human
The colonial rulers had brazenly violated these basic rights and at
times massacred locals who fought for their inalienable rights. These
rulers at one time had even imprisoned some local freedom fighters in a
cave at the nearby Madulla village and sealed the cave, causing their
Despite Pillay's attempts to exert undue international pressure on
the eve of her retirement, Sri Lanka had shown its unwavering commitment
towards national reconciliation by conducting a credible local
investigation on alleged war crimes in the final phase of the battle
The President has empowered the eminent panel of experts by adding
two new members - Avdash Kaushal and Ahmer Bilal Soofie, who would
advise the Presidential Commission on Disappearances. The new
appointments, raising the membership of the panel of advisors to five,
have been made following a request by the Chairman of the Commission
Maxwell Paranagama who said that it would be useful to secure the advice
of international experts for the proper functioning of the Commission.
The term of the Commission investigating disappearances in the North and
the East has been extended until February 15, 2015.
The Commission has already received nearly 20,000 complaints and is
perusing them. The President has already made it abundantly clear, that
a domestic inquiry and the mandate of the Advisory Committee is to
advise the Commission as and when requested. Sri Lanka has rejected
Pillay's investigators and the Government would not cooperate with the
panel as the controversial probe is questionable.
The President last month named a three-member international advisory
panel comprising Sir Desmond de Silva (QC), Sir Geoffrey Nice and Prof.
David Crane to advise the Disappearances Commission. The members of the
panel Desmond Silva and Geoffrey Nice are from Britain while David Crane
is a US national. The Advisory Committee had been broadened as it could
get legal advice from the South Asian region as well. Undoubtedly, this
is another step to strengthen the domestic inquiry mechanism.
Many serious allegations were levelled against some members of the
investigation panel appointed by the UNHRC which had already shown its
bias, going by the recent statements by the outgoing High Commissioner
External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris had said that the decision
not to disclose the names of persons who give evidence before the panel
is totally unfair as Sri Lanka would not get an opportunity to
cross-examine them. They are judges in their own causes and Sri Lanka
does not recognise the jurisdiction or authority of such investigations.
In this context, Sri Lanka could not accept such a prejudiced
investigation. The UNHRC is known for its inconsistency and it changed
decisions due to political reasons. Many member countries are
disillusioned over this situation. By conducting its own investigations
outside Sri Lanka, Pillay's controversial panel has proved that its
report would be one-sided.
Sri Lanka stands out as a model of how nations could blend security
and development to provide a better life for its people. Nevertheless,
the UNHRC has failed to understand this stark fact due to Pillay's
After LTTE terror was eradicated a little over five years ago, the
Security Forces had made a tangible contribution in national
development, thereby strengthening the confidence of people of all
ethnicities in Sri Lanka. Army Commander Lt. General Daya Ratnayake told
the annual Defence Seminar 2014, that employing the defence sector for
additional capacity to national institutions, leading national
development, is one of the many areas that could be beneficial to other
The benefits of urban regeneration were proof when they visited
Colombo during the three-day conference. Using the defence sector to
further these aspirations, remains Sri Lanka's top priority.
The three-decade LTTE violence had taught Sri Lankans many valuable
lessons, among them the value of national security and the will to
pursue it at any cost.
The dawn of peace after the successful completion of the humanitarian
operation and prosperity within reach, has strengthened security. This
does not mean letting down our guard as national security is today
stronger than ever before - smarter, more vigilant, and has a greater
responsive capability to deal with threats pertaining to national
Sri Lanka strongly believes in national security which focuses on the
State and human security on the individual. Its battlefield experience
should be used as a model for intellectual discourse with development as
a dividend of peace and security. It focuses on the interaction between
security, development and prosperity and their inseparable partnerships.
Restoring trust among communities, rebuilding Social Capital and
thereby enhancing personal and collective productivity to bring lasting
peace and prosperity, and improving the quality of life of every citizen
is the aim of the Government.
Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga had quite rightly
pointed out that positive peace is filled with positive content such as
restoration of relationships, the creation of social systems that serve
the needs of the whole population and the constructive resolution of
conflict. It is the nation's strong belief that this positive peace
would create a conducive environment to further develop Sri Lanka and
achieve its cherished goal of becoming the Wonder of Asia.
Economic progress could not be achieved when there is a conflict or a
terrorist threat as the resources for economic development will have to
be channelled for defence and military purposes.
Those who point an accusing finger at Sri Lanka should realise that
the country had recorded remarkable GDP growth even during its 2006-2009
battle against terrorism. No sooner the country was liberated from the
clutches of LTTE terror, than it gained a massive eight percent growth.
Sri Lanka's achievements should be taken into account, not merely in
monetary terms, but also people's development and growth, strengthening
social networks, and as some countries do, even to the extent of
developing a Gross National Happiness Index. The essence of the
philosophy of this index is the peace and happiness of its people and
the nation's security and sovereignty.