"To us all towns
are one, all men our kin.
|Home||Whats New||Trans State Nation||One World||Unfolding Consciousness||Comments||Search|
Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Sri Lanka Accused at United Nations > UN Sub Commission 2004
UN SUB COMMISSION ON THE
PROMOTION & PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
56th SESSIONS: JULY/AUGUST 2004
- Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, Sri Lanka Representative - Exercise of Right of Reply Under Agenda Item 2: Question of the violation of Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms, 29 July 2004
Since this is the first time my delegation is taking the floor, let me begin by congratulating you on your election as Chairman. We assure you our fullest cooperation. We have sought this right of reply to the statement delivered by Asian Legal Resource Centre. We regret that the ALRC has attempted to submit a proposal on a country specific situation with the full knowledge of its inadmissibility in terms of the mandate of the Sub-commission. The Sub-Commission on Monday decided unanimously, in its wisdom, not to consider the ALRC proposal.
Mr.Gunaratne is right to point out that the Sub Commission decided not to consider the ALRC proposal. for an additional Agenda Item on the need "to conduct a study regarding the exceptional collapse of rule of law in Sri Lanka , on the ground that a consideration of a country specific situation was outside the mandate of the Sub Commission.
The Sub Commission was not persuaded that a detailed investigation of the 'exceptional collapse of rule of law in Sri Lanka' and the lessons learnt from such a study may have a general application and help the Sub Commision to fulfill its general mandate to protect and promote human rights.
Be that as it may, Mr.Gunaratne gives no reason for his additional allegation that ALRC proposal was submitted with 'full knowledge of its inadmissibility'. It appears that Sri Lanka's discomfiture at the matters stated in the proposal has led it to attack the good faith of the messenger. The words of Karen Parker in Australia, in 1996 come to mind: "One of the first lessons we learn at Law School is the following: If you have the law on your side, argue the law; if you have the facts on your side, argue the facts; if you have neither the law nor the facts on your sides, pound the table..." And, if you cannot pound the table, attack the good faith of the other side.
We fully share the views expressed by the High Commissioner Louise Arbour, that the defence of human rights is a shared responsibility which needs to be embraced with the utmost seriousness and commitment. Hence, we follow with greater attention the substantive discussion among the Sub-Commission members on further elaboration of international standards on the promotion and protection of human rights all over the world. We appreciate the need to engage others, especially those with different opinions, in a constructive and cooperative spirit.
It is not the wish of the Government of Sri Lanka to address the fictional issues raised by ALRC nor the NGO LIDLIP's confused references to the 1970's and 1980's. In fact their submissions contain no original research but selective extracts from various reports omitting all positive references, to suit a senseless purpose of slander. It must be pointed out that there is no 'exceptional collapse' of any situation in Sri Lanka.
Mr.Gunaratne exercised the right to reply to the statement delivered by Asian Legal Resource Centre. Having done so, he states that 'it is not the wish of the Government of Sri Lanka to address the issues raised by ALRC and by the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples. He prefers simply to label the issues as 'fictional' and the references as 'confused'. However, those more concerned than Mr.Gunaratne, with addressing the lawlessness that pervades Sri Lanka's administrative and political structure today, may conclude that the references to 1970s and the 1980's are not confused - and that they, in fact, help trace the collapse of the rule of law in the island. Many may be persuaded by the view expressed by the ALRC that -"...For over 30 years since the early 1970's Sri Lanka has gone through a period of violence which transformed the Sri Lankan police force from a crime detection and law enforcement agency to an insurgency suppression mechanism. The extreme forms of torture, which were used against the suspected insurgents, became a usual habit within police stations and extreme forms of torture are being used on persons suspected of petty theft or even arrested for mistaken identity....The courts, prosecution and other mechanisms have completely failed and justice is tainted taking away the literal meaning of the term.. The very meaning of politicization of police is that the politicians have begun to play a commanding role within the police force by their interference... The number of credible complaints of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment whilst in Police custody shows no decline.. "
Again, many may also be persuaded by the view expressed by International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples that
"..A general militarisation of society has taken place over the years helped on by the war.. Together with the rule by emergency, the rule of law has been superseded by the security forces increasingly out of civilian, including judicial control. Instead of eliminating violence as a means of regulating conflict within society, it is being resorted to by the government itself as well as by the political parties in the fight for power....There has been a widespread privatisation of violence..."
The issues concerning the arms supplied by Sri Lanka to politicians, to home guards, to para military groups and the arms held by 55,0000 deserters from the Sri Lanka army are not fictional issues. They are very real issues directly related to the 'exceptional collapse of rule of law in Sri Lanka'. To dismiss these concerns as 'slander' is to refuse to face upto the challenging task of creating a climate where the peace process may be taken forward.
"..The progressive destruction of the political process in Sri Lanka has led to both domestic and international tolerance of an enormous amount of violence by the government (regardless of party affiliation) against its citizens. Increasingly, it seems that the government of Sri Lanka is accountable to no one - not its citizens, and not its foreign counterparts who rubber-stamped the recent parliamentary elections. In Sri Lanka's current political climate, power seems to be determined by the number of thugs a given politician has at his/her disposal..." - Sri Lanka's Elections 2000: Fear and Intimidation Rule the Day - An Observer's Report - Laura Gross
"A shaken Deputy Minister Sripathi Suriyaarachchi talking to supporters who gathered at his Kelaniya office after yesterday's noon attack that killed two of his bodyguards." Sri Lanka Sunday Times, 6 June 2004
Rather, the international community has applauded unreservedly the recent positive developments in Sri Lanka following the signing of a Ceasefire Agreement on 21st February 2002, facilitated by Norway, aimed at finding a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Gunaratne may have taken care to advise the Sub Commission of some of the views expressed by the 'international community' on the 'recent positive developments' in the Peace Process -
"Mediators say they are not optimistic about the future of the island's peace process after a wave of violence..." BBC Report Norway fears for Sri Lanka peace, 27 July 2004
"For years the SLFP and the UNP have vied for control of the Government.. Competition for political power in Sri Lanka has made cooperation in pursuit of peace impossible.... In our view, resolution of the Sinhalese political party struggle is the top priority. ...The country is ready for peace. The LTTE is ready to continue negotiations. The world cannot understand why Sri Lanka does not move ahead to peace. All parties need to seize this moment, honor their constituents' faith in them, and settle their dispute immediately. The critical next steps we explore in this report will go unaddressed if this issue is not resolved immediately."...June 2004 - Securing Peace: An Action Strategy for Sri Lanka - A Report Prepared by Princeton University for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), June 2004
"Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga says there is no agreement yet with the Tamil Tiger rebels about how to resume stalled peace talks. She said she wanted to discuss plans for self-government in rebel areas. But, in a TV address, she stressed this could only be done as part of talks on a final peace deal..". BBC Report 14 June 2004
The past two and half years have thus witnessed an exceptional period of peace, which has enabled a number of positive developments in the political, economic and social areas as well as in the area of the promotion and protection of human rights.
Mr. Gunaratne may have wanted to inform the Sub Commission that the 'exceptional period of peace' and the 'positive developments in the political, economic and social areas' also included the following -
"...The plan is to destabilize the Tigers, bait the group into confrontation and ultimately launch an offensive aimed at destroying the fractured Tamil movement once and for all," the analysts at Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) said quoting unnamed sources inside the Sri Lankan government....Colombo probably hopes a renewed guerrilla war will be tempered by internal struggles and that, once weakened, the Tigers can be destroyed, the US analysts said..." US based think tank Stratfor 14 July 2004
"One journalist has been murdered, while a dozen others face death threats in the eastern part of the island : these are trying times for press freedom in Sri Lanka. Reporters without Borders is calling upon the President and her government to act swiftly to sustainably enhance the safety and freedom of the country's journalists..." Terror stalks journalists in the east says RSF, 13 July 2004
"..The North & East Provincial Ministry of Education estimates that there are nearly 94,000 children in the area not enrolled in school, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the physical destruction of schools has made it impossible for education to continue as normal. Nearly a quarter of the schools in these areas have been damaged or destroyed by bombing, or as a result of being commandeered by the military. In Mannar, over 85% of schools were damaged in the conflict, and in Jaffna two-thirds of the schools have had to move to different locations. With children trying to learn in the rubble, surrounded by bullet holes, not sure if classes will be held from one day to the next, it is not surprising that low morale is one of the factors blamed for the high drop-out rate.
..Despite the cease-fire, many children are still living their daily lives in a kind of permanent emergency situation. Tens of thousands of families have been displaced as a result of the conflict, and many have yet to find a permanent home. There are still 8,000 people living in government welfare centres in Vavuniya alone, and conditions are primitive. With a tarpaulin for a roof and a wood fire for cooking, for many of these families the priority is getting enough food for their children to eat, rather than getting them to school. And poverty is still a problem for families with homes of their own. Children who have lost one or both parents in the conflict work in garment factories, sell fruit, or collect bottles or iron in order to bring in money following the loss of a bread-winning parent..."Anne Henry in the Sinhala owned Sri Lanka Daily Mirror on November 18, 2003
In this regard, Mr. Chairman, I would like to request that the observations of the Government of Sri Lanka on the proposal by the ALRC, which was transmitted to the Secretariat for information of Sub-Commission Members, be retained in OHCHR files and made available to any interested party who wishes to learn more about the perspective of the Government of Sri Lanka and current positive developments.
The Government of Sri Lanka would like to reiterate its unwavering commitment for the promotion and the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka encompassing relevant UN human rights mechanisms and its treaty obligations. Our continued cooperation has been acknowledged and appreciated by all these bodies.
The government of Sri Lanka has for more than a quarter century reiterated 'its unwavering commitment for the promotion and the protection of human rights.' Its human rights record during the same period is a measure of its unfortunate failure to match its words with its deeds. A first step towards breaking with the past may be to admit to the 'exceptional collapse of rule of law in Sri Lanka' and begin to address the real (not fictional) issue of the lawlessness that pervades Sri Lanka's administrative and governmental structures.