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Has Pillay Exceeded Her Brief in Sri Lanka?

| by N.S.Venkataraman

It is high time that the United Nations Secretary General should advice person holding sensitive post such as U N High Commissioner for Human Rights to be careful and responsible in utterances and not to put foot in the mouth.
( September 2, 2013, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) The seven days fact finding mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to Sri Lanka appears to have ended in a sore note. She could have certainly expressed herself better, befitting her position as the U N High Commissioner for Human Rights , at the press conference at the end of her visit . Instead , she was hard hitting, bitter in her remarks and unlike a peace activist. Her primary objective should have been to identify the positive aspects of the current situation in Sri Lanka with the objective of promoting peace and harmony amongst the people. She can certainly discuss about the negative aspects but she should have done it in a constructive way , that would encourage all sides to work together for better conditions. Instead of that, she spoke like a pledged critic of Sri Lankan government.

The press report says that Sri Lankan President apologised to her for certain remarks against her made by some ministers . While there can be difference of opinion as to whether the Sri Lankan President should have apologised to her particularly when she was so critical , she should have accepted this apology with grace and left it at that. But, it is surprising that she thought it fit to mention about the apology of the President in the press conference. What is she trying to gain ?

Sri Lanka have gone through turbulent times and a bitter war . People on both sides suffered and it is the duty of the Sri Lankan government to reassure the people who have suffered and are still suffering and do everything possible to rehabilitate them. There is no reason to think that Sri Lankan government is not doing this , though there may be short falls. The High Commissioner said that the reconstruction work in terms of new roads, bridges, houses, medical facilities, schools and improved electricity and water is impressive. At the same time, she accused Sri Lankan government for not bringing reconciliation, dignity or lasting peace. By building hospitals and schools, obviously the living conditions of the people would improve and it cannot happen over night.

She unnecessarily commented about the recent issues regarding the impeachment of Sri Lankan Chief Justice , which is unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

Those who expected that U N Human rights Commissioner would be objective , impartial and ensure that her role would be proactive and not critical, would have been disappointed.

Obviously, the appropriate course of action for the U N Human Rights Commissioner would have been to collect the details about ground realities, submitted her findings to the Secretary General of the United Nations and listen to his advice and then sent a communication to the Sri Lankan President asking for clarifications. Without taking the required time to study the details from various aspects , particularly considering the fact that the issues involved are complex , she just rushed to the press conference and have caused huge damage to the reputation of the Sri Lankan government and administration. This is unfair.

In today’s world scenario, United Nations has to play a much more responsible role concerning the human rights issue and should avoid taking sides. In all matters of conflicts , there could be mistakes on both sides and United Nations cannot take an extreme view. The primary objective of United Nations and its representatives is to promote amity between people and encourage all governments to work towards welfare of citizens with fair dealings. United Nations should not only be fair and straight forward in its approach but should also appear to be so.

In the recent past, United Nations itself have been accused of selectively targeting countries about violation of human rights, while ignoring massive destruction carried out by some countries in Iraq, Afghanistan and others. Many people think that U N has failed to protect its reputation as a strong and impartial agency , which is very unfortunate.

It is high time that the United Nations Secretary General should advice person holding sensitive post such as U N High Commissioner for Human Rights to be careful and responsible in utterances and not to put foot in the mouth.
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