Sri Lanka continues to be under international scrutiny for its lack of progress on human rights and reconciliation. The absence of any progress on implementing the excellent recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has meant that the international community to whom undertakings of post war reconciliation was promised, seeks to hold the government to its word. The UNHRC resolution is on Sri Lanka. It is not against Sri Lanka.
It fell on IGP N.K. Illangakoon, at a recent press conference to uncharacteristically speak out against those that sought to create social disharmony and incite violence on ethno -religious grounds. The maintenance and promotion of social harmony is generally a task for the country’s political leaders. However, when the political leaders fail, managing and dealing with the ensuring violence and social upheaval becomes the responsibility of the security forces, particularly the law enforcement agencies and accordingly such agencies are sensitive to situations that exacerbate conflicts and promote violence.
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce last week brokered a compromise on the issue of the Hallal logo on products. This compromise was given its blessing by leading members of the Maha Sangha, who made no bones about their opposition to a hate campaign against adherents of other faiths. In fact, Buddhism and Buddhist leaders have been historically very tolerant and indeed accommodative of other faiths and practices.
What is interesting from a political analyst’s standpoint is how much against the mainstream of the current public mood and popular sentiment, the current anti Muslim campaign is. This is not a campaign that has the backing of either the majority of the Sinhala community or of the UPFA government’s support base. Unfortunately though, what we have is a situation that those promoting communal disharmony and spreading a hate campaign have all the space and opportunity to pursue their bigoted campaign at will. Eventually, if not challenged and countered at every turn, through a monopoly of the public debate, opinion may begin to shift. What is unclear is exactly what the Rajapakse regime hopes to achieve for itself or its key personalities by enabling Sri Lanka and her society to be a fertile breeding ground for ethno- religious violence and conflict. Are any in the ruling elite nostalgic for the war years?
The UNHRC resolution
Sri Lanka continues to be under international scrutiny for its lack of progress on human rights and reconciliation. The absence of any progress on implementing the excellent recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) has meant that the international community to whom undertakings of post war reconciliation was promised, seeks to hold the government to its word. The UNHRC resolution is on Sri Lanka. It is not against Sri Lanka. To some extent it may be against the actions or rather inaction of the Rajapakse regime on reconciliation and implementing the recommendations of the LLRC. There is nothing anti -national or anti- government in the LLRC report. The LLRC is a Presidential Commission, its report is a government report, the pledge to implement it is a voluntary government pledge (anyone remember Nimal Siripala’s speech when tabling it in Parliament?).
Accordingly, the UNHRC resolution to implement the LLRC recommendation is very pro Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. Not implementing the LLRC is quite an anti- Sri Lankan action by the ruling Rajapakse regime. As for exercising international options and Geneva agencies of the United Nations, none other than President Mahinda Rajapaksa, when an opposition MP, fighting against the human rights abuses of the JR Jayewardene regime was the first to activate the Geneva option and go the UN human rights organizations with complaints about the then UNP regime’s abuses. What MP Rajapakse can do in yesteryear in defense of human rights, President Rajapaksa’s present day administration cannot fault, demonize and legitimize.
Today it falls on the families of Bhartha Lakshman, Prageeth Ekneligoda and the TNA’s MA Sumanthiran to take the case for human rights and reconciliation in Sri Lanka to the UNHRC, to an international community which by and large resonates with the need for ensuring human rights safeguards in Sri Lanka. It has been one of Sri Lanka’s tragedies in the past that dissent and redress for grievances was taken out of the non violent and democratic space and released violently and extra systematically. In our globalised and inter connected world, in the domestic context of an impeached (chief) justice system, Sri Lankan can and must have recourse to international forums, when the local domestic ones have failed and fallen
JHU and LTTE on common platform
It would quite shock the ultra ethno -religious nationalists of the JHU that they share a common policy platform with the rump LTTE (the non fighting Diaspora types who were not willing to die for the cause, just fund the killing) and those nostalgic for a separatist agenda in Sri Lanka. Both the JHU and LTTE sympathizers reject the LLRC recommendations and oppose the UNHRC resolution. The JHU oppose on the grounds that no reconciliation only reconstruction is needed, while the LTTE oppose on the grounds that no reconciliation is needed only separatism. Unsurprisingly the two extreme ends of Sri Lanka’s political spectrum, mercifully both marginal in terms of popular support but very influential amongst its community, the JHU tail wagging the UPFA dog and the international rump LTTE doing likewise to the Tamil community led post war democratically and moderately by the TNA and R. Sampanthan. When two extremist elements both reject something as being unacceptable, in this case the LLRC recommendations, which is perhaps its biggest endorsement, that it is in fact moderate, centrists, fair and commendable.