(The following is the text of the statement issued by M M. Zuhair PC, former MP, Latheef Farook, Journalist and Author, Mass L Usuf, Attorney-at-Law and Advocacy Columnist and Mansoor Dahlan, Theology Scholar)
“We as a country may not be happy about the outcome of the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) resolution adopted on 23rd March 2021. Indeed the government must explain the serious implications of the ‘anti-Sri Lanka resolution’ to all Sri Lankans without attempting to save face on deceptive technicalities. We need to explain how and why the development and economic recovery of the nation will be adversely affected, unless the early warnings are heeded. The government must, as a necessary preliminary step, take the lead in encouraging all ethnic and religious groups to come under the umbrella of a united nation, eschewing all divisive rhetoric.
Neither the contents of the UNHRC resolution nor the detailed report of the High Commissioner that preceded it, has received the coverage they deserve, particularly in the country’s Sinhala media. On the other hand the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the 21/4 Easter Sunday attacks (COI) had however received ‘anti-Muslim coverage’ excessively in sections of the country’s mainstream Sinhala media over a continuous period of two years. This has regrettably created unwarranted new lines of hatred and divisions instead of unitedly overcoming the 21/4 tragedy. We appeal to the Sinhala media to give reasonable coverage to Muslim responses, which only sections amongst them have done.
Primarily the COI report is faulty, ignores geo-politico-strategic implications and in addition Sinhala media coverage on the subject is mostly one sided. What is required today is a fair, balanced and robust public discussion on the UNHRC report and resolution, followed by remedial action on the issues, the UN-HCHR was tasked with on 23/3 by the UNHRC. That will help avoid Sri Lanka’s economy plunging down any further.
We need to make a passing reference to the deceptive technicalities. We have been told that the UNHRC resolution is illegal! But have we not signed UN treaties and covenants over the past several decades including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 23rd March 1976? Did we not sign the 2009 joint statement with the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon agreeing to many matters? Can the Sri Lankan State now argue that we are not bound by the UN treaties and joint statements that we had signed?
If we as a country behave inconsistently, can we blame the promoters of the resolution, arising from the resolution or otherwise, imposing at the minimum individual country level travel bans on Sri Lankans who in any capacity such as minister, parliamentarian, investigator, prosecutor, judge for having violated or aided, abetted or conspired in the violation of Sri Lankan human rights laws, international human rights and humanitarian laws? What prevents those countries from extending the damaging restrictions to the families of the alleged violators, as was done to the family of the present Army Commander though wrongfully? Commercial restrictions too can be later on imposed on Sri Lanka by countries using the resolution as a weapon.
Let us remember that in 2009 Sri Lanka received 29 votes in its favour at the UNHRC but dropped to 15 in 2012, 13 in 2013, 12 in 2014 and 11 in 2021. The trend is very clear. We should change gear! We requested at the highest level, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the OIC comprising 57 Muslim countries for support at the UNHRC. Not one Muslim country did vote against Sri Lanka, though four countries voted for Sri Lanka, notwithstanding utterances by sections in the government violative of the human rights of the Muslims. In 2012/14, Arabic conversant Muslim delegations visited Geneva and successfully canvassed for support for Sri Lanka from Muslim member states in the UNHRC. According to the evidence at the Easter Sunday Commission, at the same time BBS admittedly was in Norway, a prime supporter of several anti-Sri Lankan moves, getting brainwashed in Oslo against the Muslims of Sri Lanka! Muslim bashing need to stop but Easter attackers need to be punished or rehabilitated and not brainwashed.
The simple truth is that there was no need for Sri Lanka to plead with any country if it would honour its constitutional obligations, treat all its citizens particularly the minorities as equal citizens without discrimination and not abuse 21/4 to marginalize the Muslims or any other minority. There is an urgent need, from now onwards for the government to take the public into confidence and encourage free and transparent discussion as the first step.”