West denied its Hypocritical Rights
win for Lanka at UNHRC
- UPFA divided over 13th Amendment
- TNA to revert to politics of TULF?
- Douglas to go it alone at Northern polls
Sri Lanka, which has been waging war both militarily and
diplomatically, given that the international community has been mounting
pressure on the government about the situation of civilians in the war
zone and the country’s Human Rights (HR) record, scored a massive win in
its secondary battlefield last week. Very like the conclusive defeat of
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the government of Sri Lanka
managed to emerge victorious at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in
Geneva on Wednesday. Western countries in the world have been carrying
out a massive campaign against the Sri Lankan Government, claiming that
its leaders need to be tried at the International Criminal Court for War
Crimes, and threatening sanctions. However, the government proved last
week that its good foreign policy practices were enabling it to win
diplomatic victories and overcome the obstacles being thrown in its way
by dubious sections of the world community.
The 11th Special Session of the UNHRC in Geneva had been convened to
discuss the HR situation in Sri Lanka. The Session was scheduled after
member countries Argentina, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, France,
Germany, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, South Korea, Slovakia, Slovania,
Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uruguay put forward a request
asking for a Session.
Tiger godfathers in the West
Sri Lankan security forces moved ever closer on the LTTE strongholds of
the North, the Tigers kept retreating from their defences, while taking
the civilians along in their areas. It was a hostage situation, with the
LTTE not allowing the civilians to flee to safety, keeping them within
the conflict zone for leverage. This enabled the Tamil diaspora
worldwide to stage massive protests and howl about the alleged massacre
of civilians by the security forces. As a result, several Western
countries, including the UK, US, France, the European Union (EU),
Germany and Canada, called on Sri Lanka to bring about a ceasefire, to
allow the civilians to go free. Sri Lanka was also being pressured by
organisations including the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
International and others.
Although several attempts were made by Western countries to put Sri
Lanka on the agenda of the UN Security Council, these moves were impeded
by Russia and China, permanent members of the Council, with veto power.
West avenging Prabha’s death
Last week, with the death of
Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman, Soosai, Nadesan, Pulidevan and Charles
Anthony, along with some 600 LTTE cadres, the 30-year-war in Sri Lanka
ended. The UN has issued reports that some 7,000 civilians have died in
the fighting. Another 280,000 civilians are living in IDP camps in
Although the UK, US, Norway and the EU attempted to stop the war, in
order to save the lives of Prabhakaran and his senior leadership, Sri
Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa refused to bow down to these
dictates. And so, in the end, these countries used the UNHRC as their
final trump card against Sri Lanka, and attempted to bring a Resolution
against the country, saying it was a nation that was a gross violator of
HR. These countries hoped that, since no nations held the power of veto
at the UNHRC, they would be able to get their Resolution passed.
When the UNHRC session opened, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Nadine Pillay addressed the session by video phone. Her address included
points about how Sri Lanka had violated the HR of the IDPs and that,
there was a need for an international inquiry into the abuses. The Sri
Lanka delegation at this session included Human Rights Minister Mahinda
Samarasinghe, Attorney General Mohan Peiris and Sri Lanka’s Permanent
Representative to the UN in Geneva, Dayan Jayathillake.
“Sri Lanka is an independent, sovereign State. The Sri Lankan
Government has taken steps to resolve the IDP issue. Independent
international inquiries are, therefore, not necessary” said a Sri Lankan
Resolution that was supported by Cuba, Egypt and several other
Echoing His Master’s Voice
Many HR activists in Sri Lanka
had also gone to Geneva, in order to attend this session. Sunanda
Deshapriya, former Convenor- Free Media Movement, who quit the project,
after he was accused of monetary fraud, addressed the session on behalf
of Fransiscans International. “The Sri Lankan Government displays a
gross disregard for HR. The military operations against the Tamils have
resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent Tamil lives. They aerial
bombarded civilian settlements. They blocked access to the war zone to
journalists. Today, the innocent Tamil civilians live like prisoners
inside government IDP camps. They have no food, no water or medical
supplies. The world community needs to intervene immediately, to secure
the rights of the Tamils,” Deshapriya told the assembly.
Several other western nations also urged that an inquiry be held into HR
abuses in Sri Lanka.
FOR & against
Following a lengthy debate, the vote was
taken. Anglo, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Berninopeso,
Cameroon, China, Cuba, Gibouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan,
Madagascar, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Phillipines, Qatar,
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Uruguay and Zambia voted
for Sri Lanka, giving it the 29 votes necessary to defeat the
Resolution. Voting against Sri Lanka were Bosnia, Herzegovina, Canada,
Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovania,
Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Argentina, Gabon, Japan, Mauritius,
South Korea and Ukraine abstained.
The International media have hailed Sri Lanka’s victory at the UNHRC,
claiming it was President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s undivided and accurate
foreign policy that had allowed it to emerge victorious over a
Resolution backed by powerful countries such as the UK, France, Germany
It was proved further at the UNHRC session that, while Western
countries adopt a hard-line stance against the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan
and Pakistan, it was taking a pro-LTTE line, when it came to the Sri
Towards a Political Solution
Having concluded the military operations
against the LTTE so successfully, it has now fallen to the government to
see to the needs of almost 300,000 displaced people in the North of the
country. They need to be resettled, and the areas returned to normalcy,
as soon as possible. The government has already commenced a massive
programme to this end. A task force has been appointed under Senior
Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa, to oversee development and
Meanwhile, the government also realises that, with the end of the
military operations, the time has also come for finding a permanent
political solution to the problems of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. India and
the US have constantly stressed the need for a final solution to be
provided through political means. At election rallies held in India, in
the last few months, Congress Party Leader Sonia Gandhi has constantly
stressed that, the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the
Constitution of Sri Lanka was a suitable solution to the country’s
The government appointed the All Party
Representative Conference (APRC) under the chairmanship of Minister
Prof. Tissa Vitharana, and the committee has held 60 meetings to date.
According to Prof. Vitharana, the final report of the Committee is in
its final drafting stages.
Newly appointed Indian External Affairs Secretary M. Krishna is
expected to arrive in Sri Lanka soon for discussions on a final
political solution. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is also expected to
undertake a tour to India shortly, where he is scheduled to discuss a
Opposition to 13th Amendment
Despite these moves, however,
coalition parties within the UPFA alone, remain intensely divided over
the implementation of the 13th Amendment. Hard-line Jathika Hela Urumaya
(JHU) members, including Ellawela Medhananda Thera, claim that, a
political solution is unnecessary, and have urged the government to
accelerate development in the North, thereby, negating the need for a
political solution. The Desha Hithaishi Movement also claims that a
political solution is unnecessary.
The Wimal Weerawansa led NFF has also opposed the 13th Amendment
being implemented in full, with the provinces being given power over
land, police and finance. And even though their members are represented
in the provincial councils (PC), the JVP has also opposed the
implementation of the 13th Amendment in full, and the devolution of
police and other powers to the PC authorities. The JVP’s Somawansa
Amarasinghe claims that, the government should abandon all plans to
extend the powers of the PCs and move to strengthen the unitary nature
of the State.
However, the main opposition United National Party has agreed to back
the government on the 13th Amendment issue. UNP Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe told a press conference on Thursday that, the final
political solution should be something over and above the 13th Amendment
and said that, his party was ready to support the government in this
…even within Govt. ranks
It became very clear at the
inaugural session of the Western PC last week that, the divisions within
Government ranks, about the devolution of power, were very clear.
UPFA alliance member and Communist Party MP Mahesh Almeida, who rose
to congratulate newly appointed Chairman of the Council, Sunil
Wijeratne, said that, the only solution to the problems of the Tamil
people of Sri Lanka was one based on Federalism. UPFA MP representing
the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party, Renuka Perera said that, the problem could
be addressed through the PC system. MEP member Sisira Jayakoddy said
that, at a time when Eelamists had been defeated, there were still those
remaining who were intent on dividing the country, and it was these
elements who were bringing such proposals. JHU member Udaya Gammanpila
meanwhile rose to vehemently oppose Almeida’s statements on Federalism.
It is likely that the battle which has already commenced within the PC
will spill over to Parliament, in the very near future. It is also a
fact that, finding a political solution, when such divergent and diverse
views exist, will be an even tougher ask than defeating the LTTE
Following the defeat of the
LTTE, it is likely that several changes will take place on the political
front in the North. For one thing, the proxies of the LTTE so far, the
Tamil National Alliance is hoping to get directly involved in democratic
politics in the near future, according to reliable sources.
The first step towards this political revival in the North will be
the Municipal elections in Jaffna and Vavuniya. The TNA has decided to
contest those polls. TNA MP Mavai Senadhiraja has claimed that, a group
of TNA MPs are to visit Jaffna and Vavuniya shortly, in order to hold
discussions about possible candidates for these elections. Furthermore,
the TNA is also trying to recall all its members who have currently gone
overseas, in a bid to get more involved in Parliament. According to
reliable party sources, the party rank and file are pressuring the
leadership to get these MPs down. Many of the MPs who have travelled
overseas in this manner, are believed to be waiting for their six-month
leave of absence from Parliament to expire, and then remain in the
countries they are visiting. The TNA is hoping that such a thing takes
place and the party can then fill those vacant Parliamentary seats with
moderate Tamil politicians, in a bid to revitalise the Tamil United
Liberation Front (TULF).
Meanwhile, EPDP Leader Douglas Devanada, who is a government
minister, has indicated that his party will go it alone in the northern
elections. Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem has
indicated that his party will contest the elections in the North, if the
Muslims of Jaffna, displaced and still living in Puttalam, are allowed
to vote at the election. These Muslims were forcibly evicted from the
North by the LTTE in 1990, and have remained displaced in the Northwest
ever since. Both Dinesh Gunewardane and Nimal Siripala de Silva have
agreed to allow the Muslims to vote, and hope to speak to the Elections
Commissioner about the matter. However, since June 4 is the final date
for Nominations for the Northern Municipal elections, it is uncertain
whether the Elections Act can be amended beforehand, to allow the
displaced Muslims to vote.
The UPFA and the UNP are yet to make a decision about contesting
elections in the North.
Meanwhile, the Northern and Uva PC elections are likely to be held on
August 8, shortly before the Advanced Level examinations are scheduled
Palestinians differ on US promises
(Al Jazeera) – Palestinian Fatah has said it was “encouraged” by the
meeting between Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and his US
counterpart in the White House, while Hamas said the encounter would
lead to nothing.
“Palestinians are encouraged by the commitment President Obama and
his administration have shown to Middle East peace,” Saeb Erakat, a
Fatah member and the Palestinians’ top official said on Friday.
Erekat said the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and a
just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem would make the region
more secure and stable.
But, he warned “the peace process lives on borrowed time,” saying it
would not survive another round of failed negotiations.
“Israel’s failure to implement its obligations under existing
agreements has eroded its credibility, while its continued settlement
activities are undermining the very viability of the two state
solution,” Erakat said.
Hamas, however, called the meeting a continuation of Abbas’ “way of
begging” to the US and the “Zionist entity.”
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said the meeting would “accomplish
nothing but more pressure on Abbas.”
He said the US administration would fail to take “any action on the
ground” to halt Israeli “aggressions” and realise Palestinian rights.
In the meeting on Thursday Obama called for a stop to Israeli
settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and emphasised the
However, Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused to
openly endorse the two-state solution during a meeting with Obama on May
He also rejected the US and Palestinian demand for an absolute freeze
in settlement activity.
Netanyahu promised not to build new settlements, but vowed to continue
construction in existing ones to accommodate for “natural growth.”
Pakistan on alert
(Al Jazeera) – Pakistan’s major cities are on high alert
following a series of explosions and shootings that killed at least 12
people in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).
Heavy security was deployed in the capital, Islamabad,
and other cities on Friday as people braced for further violence in an
apparent backlash to the military offensive in Swat valley.
Three bombs exploded on Thursday in Peshawar, the
provincial capital of NWFP, while another was detonated in Dera Ismail
Khan, about 300km south.
The bombings came just hours after the Taliban claimed responsibility
for a suicide attack in the city of Lahore, a day earlier.
Hakimullah Mehsud, a deputy to Baitullah Mehsud, the
Pakistani Taliban chief, said that Wednesday’s suicide attack, that
killed at least 27 people, “was in response to the Swat operation where
innocent people have been killed”.
“I appeal to people of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and
Multan to vacate their cities as there will be more such massive
attacks, more dangerous than this and we will target government
buildings and places,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Islamabad, said that the capital
had been on “red alert” for a number of weeks, but that warning had now
been spread to other cities.
“These type of attacks were expected, they have not come
as a surprise to the public or the government,” he said.
“There are attacks in the north and the south of the country, there are
different kinds of attack, and all of this has immense impact on a
public that to-date has been utterly supportive of the government in its
ongoing offensive in the Swat valley.”
On Friday, the residents of Peshawar said that people
were afraid to leave their houses because of the fear of more violence.
“Things have come to such a pass that from morning till
evening there is a sense of foreboding,” Shah Gul, a shopkeeper, said.
“When a person leaves his house in the morning, his wife, his sister,
his parents are not sure if he will return in the evening.”
Thursday’s attacks began with two explosions in a market
in Peshawar. Armed men on rooftops fired at policemen as they arrived in
the narrow lanes below.
At least 70 people were injured in the two blasts.
Shortly after, a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint on the outskirts
of the city, killing a police officer and a civilian and injuring 15
In addition to the fatalities, the suicide attack on a
police checkpoint in Dera Ismail Khan left 13 people wounded.
Some people criticised the government for launching its military
offensive to drive the Taliban out of the Swat valley, Lower Dir and
“Our rulers should get some sense into their heads and change their
policies,” Mohammad Ishfaq, a local businessman, said.
“They are sitting in their palaces while poor people are
dying in the streets. What is their fault.”
Tasneem Quresh, Pakistan’s interior minister, told reporters that the
battle against the Taliban would continue.
“We cannot have any compromise with those who are
against the solidarity and security of the country,’ he said shortly
after the Peshawar attacks.
About 15,000 Pakistani troops are battling up to 2,000
Taliban fighters in the Swat valley, the military says. More than 1,200
Taliban fighters have been killed, it says.