| by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne
( February 11, 2014, Montreal, Quebec, Sri Lanka Guardian) This essay is an impartial Socratic inquiry. It is not meant or intended to take sides, as to who is right and who is wrong; or whether the United States is hegemonic or Sri Lanka is obstinate and chauvinistic. It is not one sided nor is it argumentative and directed towards a conclusion, as it is neither an in-depth academic study nor an exercise in erudite reasoning. It is just a series of questions to provoke thought.
The points at issue are the third and fourth resolving clauses of the Resolution that was brought before the United States Senate on 6 February titled, "Expressing support for the internal rebuilding, resettlement, and reconciliation within Sri Lanka that are necessary to ensure a lasting peace" (a truly noble objective on the part of the United States) whereby the Senate in Resolving Clauses 3 and 4 respectively states "(3) ...urges the Government of Sri Lanka to allow unimpeded access for media, international aid agencies, and human rights groups into all regions of the country, as well as to detention sites that may hold political and war prisoners; and (4)urges the Government of Sri Lanka to end its media restrictions, including the obstacles to the flow of information in the North and East, and bring to justice those responsible for attacks on journalists and newspaper offices".
The Resolution also calls upon the President of the United States to develop a comprehensive policy towards Sri Lanka that reflects United States interests, including respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, economic interests, and security interests.
The operative and perhaps contentious issue in these clauses is that one sovereign State is calling upon another sovereign State to take measures that reflect the wishes or political philosophy of the former State. Is this hegemony, (as the definition goes): " influence or control over another country, or the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group "? and/or is it calculated to lead to cultural imperialism, (as the definition goes): " the creation and maintenance of unequal relationships between civilizations favoring the more powerful civilization"?
How is this Resolution placed against United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2131 of 1965 (Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty) which states inter alia that no State has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are condemned?.
Furthermore, what is the force of Resolution 2131 on the member States of the United Nations which goes on to state that no State may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce another State in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights or to secure from it advantages of any kind? Can one attribute such intent to the United States?
On another dimension, why is one member of the United Nations telling another member of the organization what its policy regarding the dissemination of information within a country should be? Is it because to ultimately go through the United Nations for the adoption of a resolution at the UNHCRC there must be an antecedent resolution in the local legislature? even if this were the case, would the United Nations, say the United Nations Commission for Human Rights or any other body adopt a resolution which has text specifically citing the interests of one single member State?
Speaking of the United Nations, aren't both the United States and Sri Lanka members? Since this is the case, would not both be bound by one of the fundamental and basic principles of the United Nations Charter, that all member States should achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character? why then would one State single out another State and call upon the President of the former to take action that would reflect the interests of the former? and what interests are we talking about? Why does the United States Senate Resolution identify those interests inclusively by saying such US interests are " including respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, economic interests, and security interests" in its plea to the President of the United States to adopt a policy towards Sri Lanka? What other interests is the United States talking about when they say "including"? Would this sweeping and wide reaching word be damaging to Sri Lanka at an international forum?
What if the legislature of Sri Lanka choose to ignore the request of a legislature of a State (such as the United States)? Would the United States Senate take any action or just live with the slight of being ignored?
What would have been the difference if the Resolution omitted the phrase " interests of the United States" and merely said to the US President that he should : " to develop a comprehensive policy towards Sri Lanka that reflects respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, economic interests, and security interests"? would this not have been sufficient?
And the final question: what are these United States interests? and why were they not spelt out in their entirety in the Resolution? How are the Sri Lankan people to know what these interests are in their totality? Are these interests based on American exceptionalism which proposes the principle that the United States is qualitatively different from other States? Is it an American interest that the United States is a global policeman which can step in unilaterally when there is perceived iniquity or adverse segregation of societies within a State?
Who determines the overstepping of sovereignty by one State? is it the community of nations as represented in the United Nations? What is the significance of the United Nations Charter when it says in its first chapter that the purpose of the United Nations is inter alia to " to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace?
Why is this not a collective issue to be addressed in accordance with the United Nations Charter?
And finally, what if the Sri Lankan Parliament were to formally resolve or declare that the Republic of the Maldives should refrain from attending to their internal security issues unless they accord with certain requests and "urging" of Sri Lanka? Is it not a fact that at the heart of the United Nations mandate is promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels? Should that now be given to individual States? Does not The United Nations attempt to resolve national and international conflict by establishing respect for the rule of law, with a view to achieving a durable peace both during and in the aftermath of conflict, which in turn is geared to protecting human rights and sustaining economic progress and development?
If the United Nations cannot intervene in the internal affairs of a State, as stated in Article 2.7 of the United Nations Charter- that nothing contained in the Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State - can an individual State do so?
Questions...questions, for the intelligent reader.