India betrays Lankan Tamils again
In a major departure from its foreign policy, India dropped its demand to implement the 13th amendment to the Constitution by Sri Lanka, demilitarise the Northern Province and holding of election to the Northern Provincial Council in the working report of Sri Lanka’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on 5 November.
This about turn by India has shocked the diplomatic community based in Geneva. At the 19th session of the UNHRC held in March this year, India forced the USA to water down its resolution on Sri Lanka and made it toothless by inserting the words “with the concurrence of the Sri Lanka government.”
The effectiveness or otherwise of the UPR process hinged on the integrity of all the players and more so on India, known for bailing out Sri Lanka time and time again. India was playing a vital role in the review process as leader of the troika of rapporteurs together with Benin and Spain.
According to the UNHCR, 99 stakeholders had made submissions to the council on Sri Lanka’s UPR process. Canada, USA, Mexico, UK, Spain, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Denmark, in their submissions, had raised concerns over the delay in holding Northern Provincial Council election, dismantling of High Security Zones, threats against journalists and lack of progress in human rights violations.
The report prepared by New Delhi says: “India looked forward to speedy resolution of the residual issues in resettlement and rehabilitation and called for credible investigations into allegations in the LLRC report. It noted the action plan for time-bound implementation of LLRC recommendations.” India has betrayed the Sri Lankan Tamils again by not insisting on the implementation of the 13th amendment.
The impeachment of Sri Lankan Chief Justice, now under way in Colombo, clearly indicates India’s foreign policy failure. The impeachment is to get rid of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake who stood in the way of preventing Sri Lanka from going back on its commitment to India on the devolution of powers to the Tamil Provinces.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa had been promising and repeatedly reassuring India that he would go beyond the 13th amendment in his commitment to devolution of power. His duplicity became evident when he informed the media in Colombo that the people of Sri Lanka were not interested in having autonomous elected Provincial Councils, particularly in the Tamil majority North-East.
Meanwhile, his proxies have been saying that the 13th amendment would not work because it was a “foreign” imposed solution which was an affront to the country’s sovereignty.
By deciding to impeach Justice Bandarayanake for raising valid judicial objection to the Divi Neguma Bill, which would have effectively scuttled the 13th amendment, Rajapaksa has once again cocked a snook at India.
The lack of outrage in New Delhi reflects the Rajapaksa government’s success in embedding in the minds of India’s policymakers.
The total lack of desire in the Rajapaksa government to move towards an honourable political settlement to the Tamil question only adds credibility to the demand for an independent Tamil Eelam, which appears to be the only permanent solution to the unending ethnic crisis.