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Apr-01-2012 16:11printcomments

Sri Lanka Under Pressure After UN Rights Body Adopts U.S. Bill

With pressure from within and outside, the government is yet to announce its road map to tackle the UNHRC resolution.

Images like this, of Tamil Genocide victims who perished during the government-orchestrated ethnic cleansing- create a difficult roadblock in Sri Lanka's future progress.
Images like this, of Tamil Genocide victims who perished during the government-orchestrated ethnic cleansing- create a difficult roadblock in Sri Lanka's future progress.

(COLOMBO, Sri Lanka) - The recently concluded 19th session of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva has brought Sri Lanka to a position where the country is under the microscope on accountability for its wartime conduct and steps it takes on ethnic reconciliation.

The United States -sponsored resolution was adopted with 24 out of 47 countries voting for and 15 against, despite heavy lobbying in the diplomatic circles and angry protests in the streets at home.

It is first major diplomatic drawback for the nation that has been celebrating its military victory in a decades-long civil war.

The main outcome of the resolution has been that the government will be expected to work on the implementation of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which reported on allegations of human rights violations by both Sri Lankan government forces and the defeated Tamil Tiger separatists.

It disagrees with a previous report by a United Nations panel of experts which said it has found credible allegations of war crimes against both sides to the civil war. It said up to 40,000 people may have been killed in the final phase of the fighting.

The LLRC admits there were civilian deaths but says they were not because of systematic attacks by the government troops. However it asks the government to investigate isolated cases of violations by its troops.

However it accuses the Tamil Tiger rebels of serious human rights violations.

Soon after the vote, Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris charged that voting at the Human Rights Council was determined not by the merits of a particular issue but by strategic alliances and domestic political issues.

While the world is watching what steps Sri Lanka would take in the aftermath of the resolution, government minister Nimal Siripala de Silva gave a new explanation that the government will not implement LLRC recommendations in full because the government- appointed commission itself has exceeded its mandate.

Nevertheless, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) has warned that the government should understand the gravity of the situation and act accordingly.

The opposition is of the view that all parties must unite to deal with the current situation and see the country through the international crisis.

The UNP has also charged that the government has taken an arrogant approach by saying it did not need the support of the opposition. The party also states that a mechanism needs to be created to deal with the resolution against Sri Lanka that was passed at the UNHRC and also implement country's war report.

The government's Sinhala nationalist allies on the other hand pressure the government from a different front. Jathika Hela Urumaya or National Sinhala Heritage party comprised mostly of Buddhist monks, which opposed the government's war report from the time it became public, is now recommending some drastic steps such as severing about cultural and historical relationship with India after it voted for the resolution.

National Freedom Front, another government ally has been calling on the public to boycott American products including " google" and "facebook".

On the other hand, Sri Lanka Marxist opposition party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has accused the government of having failed to protect country's sovereignty at the UNHRC.

The defeat at the UNHRC resolution reflects the political bankruptcy of this government which failed to restore peace and unity among difference nationalities after three decade war, JVP said.

Sri Lanka's main party representing Tamils, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has been supporting the UNHRC move from the beginning.

Representing the majority Tamils specially those living in country's war torn north and east, TNA is to play a key role in whatever implementation is done to solve the country's ethnic problem.

With pressure from within and outside, the government is yet to announce its road map to tackle UNHRC resolution. However Peiris reiterated that there is nothing to fear about the resolution as it cannot be used to impose any economic sanctions on the country.

Soon after the UNHRC adopted the resolution, the U.S. government reactions came through its Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who announced that "the United States, together with the international community, sent a strong signal that Sri Lanka will only achieve lasting peace through real reconciliation and accountability, and the international community stands ready to help."

She urged the Sri Lankan government to implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC and take the necessary measures to address accountability.

Sri Lanka seems to have taken the voting pattern at the UNHRC to decide its friends and foes in the international arena. Peiris said that the government plans to open diplomatic missions in many countries in Western Africa and Asia from which Sri Lanka had considerable support.

There are indications that the government might close down some missions in Europe.

Sri Lanka also feels that it has been let down by its closest neighbour India, which has historical and cultural ties for thousands of years with the island nation.

Despite protest and agitation over international pressure, Sri Lanka's official position is that it would continue to work with the international community.

Special envoy to the UNHRC session in Geneva Mahinda Samarasinghe said that the country would continue engaged in talks over the issue with the council.

Sri Lanka is getting ready to participate at the next sessions in June and September.

Sri Lanka's contention is that unnecessary haste would complicate matters and further polarize the society.

"We must collectively decide domestic process we can all agreed upon. We also have put roadmap on human rights issues. You have to give time for healing process," Samarasinghe said.

Special thanks to Xinhu News in China


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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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