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UK opts to oust Mahinda of Commonwealth leadership

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(September 11, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Moves are under way in the UK House of Commons to remove the President as Commonwealth Head over his refusal to grant visa for the UNHCR investigative team. If the government has nothing to hide why should it preclude UNHRC investigators or the panel visiting Sri Lanka, hearing evidence from war victims and assessing independently what went on during the last throes of the war in 2008/2009.

Ravinatha Aryasinghe, the permanent UN ambassador at the UN, is sending out missives that Sri Lanka is a sovereign state ergo it will not co-operate with UNHRC. As an appointed diplomat and not a career one he is barking up the wrong tree and appeasing the President. The External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L.Peiris too is in a denial mode although he knows fully well the UNHRC probe is going ahead with or without his approval.

When Navi Pillay retired from her position it was rubbing its hands in glee the new UNHRC high commissioner would be sympathetic and support its sovereign stance. But alas it was not to be. UNHRC is beholden to abide by rules already in place and cannot placate individual countries at will.

The government was euphoric when Narendra Modi was elected premier that he would support it and thwart any attempts to bring it before international scrutiny. Given the history of Indian politics Modi will play by the rules of UNHRC and Sri Lanka is chicken feed to its large ambition as economic and political giant in Asia. Hence India does not stand to gain by appeasing Sri Lanka.

The EDM (Early Day Motions) 314 discussed against Sri Lanka on September 03, 2014 will not go un-noticed by the UNHRC. As intense scrutiny of War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity In Sri Lanka gets under way it is incumbent on the President to show cause for its stubborn refusal to accept that the security forces committed heinous crimes against Tamils and wiped out 40,000 or more civilians.

The following is the EDM 314

That this House expresses its serious concern at the recent decision by the President of Sri Lanka to deny visas to the UN team investigating allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sri Lanka;

condemns strongly the government of Sri Lanka's refusal to co-operate with the UN investigation or to heed the concerns of the international community on accountability and reconciliation; calls into question the timing and credibility of the President of Sri Lanka's decision to expand the mandate of the domestic Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances and to appoint a council of international legal experts to advise the Commission on war crimes allegations;

notes the poor history of Sri Lanka's domestic commissions of inquiry to adequately investigate cases of human rights violations; further notes that the actions of the government of Sri Lanka continue to undermine the accountability and reconciliation processes in the country;

urges the Government to reaffirm its strong support for the UN-mandated investigation and to condemn the President's denial of visas to the UN team; and calls on Commonwealth member countries, including the UK, to move to suspend the President of Sri Lanka from his position as Chairperson-in-Office of the Commonwealth, given his government is in clear breach of the values and precepts of the association.

Uva election will be the testing ground whether the Rajapakasa presidency could hold its mantle for a third term. Former attorney general Sarath N. Silva has said in no uncertain terms that the President cannot seek a third term. The opposition is in tatters and Tamils are torn between the TNA and Northern governor. The country is fractured politically and its economy is in deep disarray.

It goes without saying the family run leadership of the Rajapaksas is committing social hara-kiri by not feeling the increasing discontent of the populace who have had it up to their eye-balls the complacency of the government. The North Korean style dictatorship is isolating the country in the eyes of democratic nations which are becoming increasingly intolerant of its stance in foreign policy.

Sri Lanka needs to toe the line with its international obligations and not bury its head in the sand and hope it past mishandling of the war would fade away. It needs the chutz-pah to face up to reality that it is accountable to war crimes. Post-war the country is still militarised and its economy in tatters due to huge defence spending while there are no terrorist threats.

After all, presidents may come and go and President Mahinda Rajapaksa needs to be aware his term is nearing completion.

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)

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