India on Tuesday abstained from a crucial vote on Sri Lanka’s rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The resolution on ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ was, however, adopted after 22 states of the 47-member Council voted in its favour.
Colombo rejects move
Sri Lanka, which had earlier deemed the resolution “politically motivated”, was quick to reject the UN move to collect and preserve evidence of war crimes in the country, committed by the armed forces and the LTTE.
“Without the consent and acceptance of the country concerned, it cannot be implemented,” Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said at a media conference in Colombo. The statement made clear Sri Lanka’s resistance to the process envisaged in the resolution to prosecute war criminals through an international evidence gathering and investigation mechanism.
The money allocated — an estimated $2.8 million — for the effort would find better use towards providing housing for the war-affected people, the Minister said, even as scores of Tamils continue seeking their lands, new homes and jobs from his government.
Ahead of the vote, both the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which sought the exact opposite outcomes on the resolution, had expressed hopes of obtaining India’s support.
On Tuesday, both sides appeared sympathetic to India’s abstention that effectively amounts to support for neither party. However, in an indication that Sri Lanka had construed abstentions as support, Mr. Gunawardena in a tweet thanked the 14 countries, including India, Japan and Nepal, that abstained from voting.
He also extending a “warm thank you” for the “solid support” shown by the 11 countries, including China, Pakistan, Russia and Bangladesh, that voted against the resolution, and in support of the Sri Lankan government.
On the other hand, welcoming the Council’s adoption of the resolution, the TNA said India must have decided to abstain after “careful consideration” of various factors.
“We are, however, greatly encouraged by India’s statement ahead of the vote,” TNA spokesman and Jaffna legislator M.A. Sumanthiran said, pointing to India’s reference to “two fundamental considerations” — of supporting the Tamils for equality, justice, dignity and peace, and ensuring the unity, stability and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka resolution was the first to be voted on using the extraordinary e-voting procedures established for the UNHRC 46th Session, which has been held virtually.