Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said at least one thing that rings true in the minds of most Sri Lankan people. It is the lack of belief in the appointment of another Commission of Inquiry by the Government.
Her concern was about addressing impunity for past violations of human rights. Our objection is much wider. We seem to be the country with the world record for Presidential Commissions of Inquiry with the more important aspect of Commissions that achieve nothing; the reports of which are often kept secret. Commissions that have become a political joke in a country, where political humour is the stuff of the vulgar!
The current political mood, the mood of political power, is one of great joy and triumph; rejoicing at Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsoring the UN Resolution 30/1 that related to the postwar situation in this country, and especially the situation of the victims of the war, that of missing persons, and the wider postwar issues that relate to democracy and human rights.
Whatever thinking Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena may have had when talking of a new Commission of Inquiry (CoI) headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court, to review previous Sri Lankan CoIs on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, his mind may have had a block about the wider Sri Lankan attitude to such commissions, whether headed by a Justice of the Supreme Court or not.
Michelle Bachelet says the Sri Lankan State should work for “all its people and the needs of all communities, particularly the minorities”. Come on. She must know the political history of this oldest democracy in Asia. We are a majority-led nation. That has been the growing tradition from the time we obtained freedom or independence from colonial rule. We are today the proudest advocates of Sinhala-Buddhist dominance and power in our country. They are the majority voters, and how can one have true democracy, without the satisfaction of the majority?
By the way, does the UN High Commissioner Bachelet have no idea of how minorities are treated in the world’s two biggest democracies – India and the United States? The violence currently seen in India is proof of the majority power pudding. The rise of Hindu majoritarian power is making a mockery of the old values of freedom and equal rights that the founders of the Indian Constitution put down as the values of independent India. It has much more to do with the values that prevailed in Gujarat – when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister; the Muslim minority has nothing to do in such thinking.
Does Bachelet need any education and instructions on how the minorities, whether Black or Muslim, are actually treated in the United States? Does she not know how President Trump prevented the migration of persons from Muslim majority countries to be US citizens, a position not knocked down by the US Courts? Does she not know why the call for Black Power is a continuing political clamour by the Black Americans? She would learn more if she reads more of the current election campaign of the Democratic presidential candidates, and the pressures brought to curb the rising influence of Black voters.
She has told the UNHCR that Sri Lanka has still not addressed impunity for past violations, not undertaken security sector reforms needed to address their drivers and enablers. There is a fundamental reality that Bachelet must understand. It is that Sri Lankan or Sinhala – Buddhist traditions that are the trumpet call of our people today, are far older than the United Nations and its values, which can only date back to the 1940s. This is a culture that is more than 2500 years old, and as academics and historians of new ‘learned thinking’ say so much today, we cannot and must not be made to follow the traditions or current values of our colonial rulers.
Why must the present day people of Sri Lanka be bothered with any ‘past violations’ when their concerns have everything to do with current progress with majority dominance? How does she say we have not undertaken security sector reforms, when we have now moved to getting the security services to play their own roles in traffic control in the cities?
She must also understand that the ‘drivers and enablers’ of the security sector are now at the very height of their positions. Does she not read our media or even visit the Internet on Sri Lanka? How many key positions in governance and administration are now held by persons who are from the security sector? Today’s government, that is against co-sponsorship of the UN Resolution on Sri Lanka, is certainly in favour of the highest honours being bestowed on the uniforms of power and authority. A huge majority of the population has voted for a new political figure of the security sector to be the Head of State and National Leader.
It is time the United Nations itself, as well as the UN Human Rights Commissioner, began to realize that members of the UN and its Commissions have their own traditional values and standards, especially those that date more than two millennia, and traditions of monarchy and caste-based governance, which need recognition in a world that seeks to ignore the past. Post-colonial modernism must take note of the realities of monarchic and non-democratic histories, and work towards and coming together of the past with a modern revival of such past.
The United Nations can have its meetings in New York and Geneva, it can have interesting agenda for discussion, but it must never forget that member nations must have the right to follow their own traditions, that were nurtured and developed long before the concepts of Human Rights, Democracy and Minority Rights and Interests came to the political vocabulary.
Three hearty cheers Sri Lanka – for withdrawing from co-sponsorship of a resolution that will remain with no change in the agenda of the UNHRC!