Get ready for Geneva Session - II

( January 31, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The revelation by the high profile US Government delegation only confirmed what many Sri Lankans have feared for awhile now. Yes, the three Assistant Secretaries of the US State Department, said, the United States would sponsor a resolution against Sri Lanka at the forthcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva, in March this year.

The resolution, as the headline story in this newspaper revealed on Tuesday, is expected to ask the Government of Sri Lanka to live up to its own commitments, including the implementation of the recommendations made in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report.

Obviously the decision stems from this government's failure to fulfil its pledges. The past years have seen many promises blithely kicked aside and forgotten, but last year's UNHRC recommendations, have proved to be a bit too sticky to be ignored. And now it has come back to not only haunt the regime, but also drag it through another resolution process.

The delegation, during an interaction with the local media on Monday, said the new resolution would be built on parts of the March 2012 resolution and that the 23 member states that supported the previous resolution believed that the Sri Lankan Government should fulfil the commitments it made to its people, in Geneva, in 2012.

Last year's US-sponsored resolution placed particular emphasis on the implementation of the LLRC recommendation, which was considered a home grown remedy to address post-war grievances.

The resolution refocused the international spotlight back on Sri Lanka, with many keenly observing how the government proceeded with the implementation promises. Certainly, it had things worked out pat on paper, but the reality was not only predictable, but also regressive. Many outsiders now see the country moving away from the democracy it pretends to be.

To its credit, the government has not pretended ignorance about the upcoming resolution, though how seriously it takes the issue is another matter. What is also interesting is that the government appears to have learnt its lessons from last year's circus, at least in terms of jumbo delegations. According to a report in this paper, an official of the External Affairs Ministry had said the size of the delegation to Geneva will be smaller than what it was last year. There are also talks of the government hiring a Public Relations firm to handle its affairs.

The message one could take from these actions is that the government would be much more particular about its delegation and its presence in Geneva this year, and maybe we will end up with some extra points for good behaviour.

However, points to ponder is the post-Geneva 2012 developments in the country which saw two brutal prison riots in Vavuniya and Welikada, both of which displayed not only gross human rights violations, but also government complicity in the violations. The riots resulted in the deaths of two prisoners in Vavuniya, and more than a score in Welikada.

The country also witnessed a series of trade union actions including the one staged by the Federation of University Teachers' Association (FUTA) demanding higher wages, high GDP allocation for education, as well as reforms in the education sector.

The prison riots and the trade union actions were followed by the crisis in the country's judiciary and the conflict between the Legislature and the Judiciary that truly helped place democracy in the endangered list. The impeachment and the subsequent sacking of the Chief Justice received large scale censure from the international community, jeopardizing the country's standing in the Commonwealth as well.

The appointment of former Attorney General Mohan Peiris, who was one of the delegates from Sri Lanka at the Geneva sessions last year, as the new Chief Justice, only serves to give notice of the government's intention to follow in the current autocratic course.

This is all the ammunition the world needs to put Sri Lanka on the docks once again. And the first salvo was fired by the US Government delegation this week.

The government, while preparing to answer questions on the implementation of last year's recommendation, may also need to prepare for some tough new questions it might not have answers to.

( The Ceylon Today Editorial)

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