Sri Lanka's argument at the United Nations Human Rights Council is unlikely to win it many friends since it insists that for the purpose of fixing accountability, the clock started ticking only on December 16, 2011 — the day a committee that probed the root causes of the ethnic problem submitted its report to Parliament.
Sri Lankan forces had overwhelmed the Tamil Tigers on May 19, 2009.
Sri Lanka says following the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee's report, three committees were set up to oversee the implementation of the recommendations — the subcommittee, the Cabinet committee, and a court of inquiry by the Army. Hence, it questions the need for international pressure .
Explaining the viewpoint at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies here, Foreign Minister and head of the delegation to the UNHRC's Geneva meet G.L. Peiris said hardly a month passed after the LLRC report was submitted before Sri Lanka had begun feeling the pressure from the Human Rights Council.
“Hostilities ended in May 2009. At that time the international community conceded that the local commission appointed by the President was the way forward. The report of the committee was presented to Parliament [on December 16, 2011]. Work on implementation began in January 2012. Notice for a resolution against Sri Lanka [at the UNHRC] was given on January 25,” said Prof. Peiris.
Refusing to detail the guarantees given to members of the international community that helped defeat the Tamil Tigers, Prof. Peiris insisted that it was the “adverse presumptions” arrived at by the international players that constituted the problem. These presumptions, a couple of diplomats who were at the lecture later explained, related to the grant of political powers to meet the legitimate aspirations of Tamils in the Northern Province. Sri Lanka had made the commitment to the United Nations, and to India. In fact, with India, there were joint statements, both by the Presidents of both countries and the Foreign Ministers, which based genuine reconciliation on implementing the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, in letter and in spirit.
While all the other provinces have elected councils, the North does not. This has been attributed to delay in preparing electoral rolls and the fact that people are still returning.
But even with the old, available electoral rolls, Sri Lanka had tested the waters and conducted the local body polls. And, the ruling UPFA government had conceded defeat at the hands of the Tamil National Alliance in most local bodies.
Glossing over the need for a political process in the North, Prof. Peiris highlighted infrastructure and other gains made. He said that the economy of the North was growing at 22 per cent while the rest of the island was hovering in the region of eight per cent.
Prof. Peiris made it clear that the international community should know where to get off: they had a role in the country provided the host country “requested assistance. How can you force us to accept”, he asked.
Sri Lanka was a proud nation, he said. “The natural reaction for a proud people is to resist. There is a groundswell building up in this country,” he claimed. Criticising the Human Rights Council for singling out countries, he said the question before the current session was not about winning or losing; “It is about who is right,” he said.