Even as the U.S. submitted a draft resolution in the 19th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Sri Lanka stepped up its diplomatic offensive to ensure that it did not come in for adverse criticism.
The draft on Promoting Reconciliation and Accountability in Sri Lanka stresses on implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, set up to probe the conflict years, and suggest ways to prevent its recurrence.
Sri Lanka's main faces at the meet, Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam, Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris, and Special Envoy on Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe have stepped up efforts to win friends at the council. Sri Lanka believes that it has won enough friends to stave off an embarrassing situation. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was to attend the inauguration of an international meet on Ports here on Thursday, stayed away. One Minister told the audience that Mr. Rajapaksa was indisposed.
Prof. Peiris continued his “embrace Africa” campaign. Following his meetings with Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Foreign Minister of South Africa, he had discussions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pretoria, South Africa.
Ms. Kunanayakam sought to explain the motivations of the Western powers for pushing a resolution against Sri Lanka: “What, in fact, is the U.S. trying to tell us with their draft resolution? They are not saying that our LLRC report is bad. They are not saying that there is gross and systematic violations of human rights in Sri Lanka. What they are saying is that they don't have confidence that we will implement the recommendations. […] They are judging our intentions, not the ground reality! This is unacceptable to most countries, because it gives a role to the Council that was never intended. Moreover, there is a general feeling that Sri Lanka is being punished for cooperating,” she said, in an interview posted at the Geneva Sri Lanka Mission's website.
Another vocal Sri Lankan diplomat Dayan Jayatilleka said the U.S. resolution deepened the schisms in Sri Lankan society. “That resolution will have the same polarising function as did the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), in defining each political tendency in the popular mind for a while to come…The popularly elected government of Sri Lanka is not responsible in the first or last instance to any international forum or intergovernmental body comprised of governments responsible to their respective citizenries,” he said
Organisations such as the Asian Human Rights Commission are of the opinion that the festering problems in Sri Lanka can only be addressed with the suggestions proposed by the resolution to begin to deal with problems with the assistance of United Nations and the international community. “We see no basis for any alarm but rather a window of opportunity for constructive change for the betterment of everyone. We therefore call on everyone to participate in this debate in a constructive manner and support this resolution,” it said in a statement released here.
In a separate statement, the North East Women's Network called upon the U.N. and its member-states to help Sri Lanka on its road to reconciliation and peace through accountability and justice and to strengthen its domestic mechanisms by ensuring international monitoring. “We call upon the Sri Lankan State to view the proposed resolution at the UN Human Rights Council as a tool for the implementation of its vision for a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic community and for ensuring long lasting peace for the women who have lost so much and continue to suffer. The Sri Lankan government has been given an opportunity to make real its promises to the ethnic minorities, especially the women in this country who have suffered from three decades of war. We hope the government will fulfill this promise and make women real citizens of this nation,” it said.