The Weekend Leader - Victory in sight

Diaspora Tamil groups smelling long awaited victory in Geneva

Paul Newman   |   Geneva


Vol 3 | Issue 11

Geneva is known for its sheer beauty and considered an expensive city to live in. The city is currently hosting a car show and the 19th UN Human Rights Council. Here, the Jumbo Sri Lankan contingent is trying its best to defeat the US sponsored resolution, which might be the first blow to Sri Lanka, if it is passed at the UNHRC.

Sri Lanka has deputed people, many of whom seem to speak excellent English – with little substance though. They have sent Tamil bureaucrats to make the world believe that Tamils are happy in Sri Lanka.

The UNHRC is likely to deliver the first blow to the Sri Lankan racist regime that has so far got away with gross human rights violations and a Tamil genocide

On the other hand at the council there are Human Rights NGOs who are coming out with facts and figures which cannot be refuted. Sinhalese human rights activists like Sunila Abeyasekara and Nimalka Fernando who are here have been specifically targeted by the Sri Lankan delegation with a vicious campaign against them.

But the Lankan delegation has a hard fight at hand. There are many speaking for the Tamils. Amnesty International spoke at length of the continuing atrocities on civilians in the form of enforced disappearances, torture and impunity.

Forum Asia expressed the need to provide security to the Bishop of Mannar who has appealed to the International Community present here to vote for the resolution as, in his view, accountability and independent investigation of war crimes are the only way forward towards genuine reconciliation.

In their statement, The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) welcomed the initiative of the United States of America to introduce a draft resolution on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. The time for assurances, commitments, plans and intentions had long passed.

The time now is for action by the Government of Sri Lanka, and time for this Council to take responsibility in the face of a Government that is clearly unwilling to comply with its international obligations to undertake prompt, independent and effective investigations into serious and credible allegations of gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law, including torture, unlawful killings and other crimes under international law.

It was also pointed out that the Government of Sri Lanka has a long history – since 1977- of using national commissions of inquiry as a means of circumventing the criminal justice system and of not implementing commission of inquiry recommendations.

This is compounded by the very recent examination of Sri Lanka by the Committee Against Torture, where the Committee referred to information from the Government of Sri Lanka that over 100 police and intelligence personnel had been indicted or were being investigated on allegations of torture. It transpires, however, that there have been only four convictions under Sri Lanka's Convention Against Torture Act since its inception in 1994.

The government of Sri Lanka too on its part organized a seminar titled ‘Reconciliation – the inclusive way forward for Sri Lanka.’ This was attended by about 40 people, among whom a large number were from the Tamil Diaspora.

In the submission by the International Buddhist Foundation, the organization stated that Sri Lanka, a small nation has been targeted by the west and went further claiming that there were no civilian casualties and not a single Tamil was hungry or harmed during their stay at the Manik Farm camps. One really wondered how Buddhism which speaks of Satya (truth) can speak Asatya (non-truth) to protect a regime whose hands are red.

Bangladesh is seen to be siding with Sri Lanka on the basis of their common SAARC affiliation. Thailand too is supportive of Sri Lanka as they do not want country specific resolutions, but it appears that the binding factor is Buddhism.

The Indian stand that the resolution would be counterproductive as it could further alienate the two communities from reconciliation had no takers other than Sri Lanka.

Responding to this statement the Amnesty International came out with a beautiful quote of a boy killing his parents and seeking sympathy that he was an orphan! Yet my personal feeling is that India should vote against or abstain from voting on the resolution so that the well built momentum over the last three years in Tamilnadu towards the Eelam cause and war crimes investigation keeps going.

The Diaspora groups are making their presence felt here. Representatives of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), the British Tamil Forum (BTF), the Tamil Centre for Human Rights (TCHR), and the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) have been lobbying with the various diplomatic missions of the 46 UNHRC countries. (It may be noted that Libya has been suspended from the UNHRC till a permanent government assumes office at Tripoli.)

Fr. S. J. Emmanuel, the President of GTF, appeared confident that the resolution would get the required numbers.

The US sponsored resolution has 22 assured votes in favour, which means it needs another 2 positive votes or 3 abstentions to give a long awaited victory for truth and justice and a little joy to the Eelam Tamils, who had lost faith in the functioning of International institutions.

Dr. Paul Newman holds a Doctorate of Philosophy on ‘Internal Displacement and Human Rights situation in Northern Sri Lanka from Bangalore University. He was one of the four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on War Crimes against Sri Lanka

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