By Dayan Jayatilleka –
“Practically nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are basically within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall need the Members to submit such matters to settlement below the present Charter but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.”- UN Charter Chapter 1, Post two
Did you consider that as a unitary state, there is only a single, single Government in Sri Lanka, though there are a quantity of Provincial Councils to which a measure of power has been devolved by that one single government? Effectively, not according to the United Nations and the current (unelected) Sri Lankan Government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe! Did you know that there is a “Northern Provincial Government” in Sri Lanka, and not merely a Northern Provincial Council and its administration/Cabinet? Did you know that the United Nations will be assisting that “Northern Provincial Government”? Have you ever heard of a Southern Provincial Government or a Wayamba or Western Provincial Government in Sri Lanka– and if not, why (only) a Northern Provincial Government?
When Varadarajaperumal’s administration placed an advertisement in the newspapers and signed as the North Eastern Provincial Government, a furious President President Premadasa and Minister Ranjan Wijeratne exclaimed that “there is only one particular government in Sri Lanka!” It is the self-perception of itself as a “Government” that led the NEPC to its threat of a UDI, and President Premadasa to dissolve it. What is worse today is that the UN refers to a “Northern Provincial Government” and the Government of Sri Lanka has gone along, not minding in the least!
If the United Nations refers to and assists a Northern Provincial “Government”, how long will it be just before the latter regards itself as a proto state, and the former recognizes the latter as 1?
The proof comes not from a supply hostile to this government, these processes or to Sri Lanka but from an official statement by an affable friend of this nation, UNDP Resident Representative Subinay Nandy, who says: “…Third, to give technical assistance to the Northern Provincial Government to far better strategy and undertake improvement applications, create revenue and reach out to communities, for consultation and feedback. This component is to be implemented by UNDP.”
Sri Lanka beneath ‘Yahapalanaya’ is a penetrated state.
The UN is now engaged in the deep and sensitive internal political processes of this country processes which are not only deep but have the most wide ranging legal, constitutional, security and strategic implications. It is hugely unlikely that President Sirisena is aware of this and it is practically certain that the Cabinet does not know or has not granted its assent. Surely the parliament has neither been informed and nonetheless much less has endorsed this hazardous new shift.
If the readers consider that I am overdrawing the image of UN involvement in Sri Lanka, let me merely quote from the UN Resident Representatives statement as authoritatively reproduced in the state’s flagship newspaper the Every day News:
“The UN is therefore engaging comprehensively with the Government, by delivering technical assistance and monetary support to advance reconciliation and create sustainable peace. In particular, we are operating with our counterparts – coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – and finalizing an initiative for assistance from the UN Peacebuilding Fund. The Peacebuilding Fund will help Sri Lanka, initially with $ three million, to establish and operationalize processes for constructing peace through reconciliation and accountability by addressing the vital core grievances of minorities in an inclusive and consultative manner. In particular, with the assistance of the Fund, the UN is searching at supporting the Government in 4 locations:
*First, technical support to establish an inclusive and credible domestic mechanism to address human rights violations and accountability and provide redress to victims and conflict affected groups, including families of the missing, in line with international standards. This element will be led by OHCHR.
*Second, to initiate inclusive, broad-primarily based mechanisms for inter-ethnic trust constructing, reconciliation and social cohesion working with the recently established Workplace for National Unity and Reconciliation. This component will be implemented by UNDP with technical tips from the Reconciliation and Development Adviser primarily based at the UN Resident Coordinator’s Workplace.
*Third, to offer technical help to the Northern Provincial Government to far better strategy and undertake improvement programs, produce revenue and reach out to communities, for consultation and feedback. This component is to be implemented by UNDP.
*And finally, to implement fast influence resettlement initiatives strategically targeting conflict affected and vulnerable internally displaced persons in the North and the East. This early implementation component will be done by UNHCR and UNICEF.
On this final point, support for resettlement of internally displaced persons, the UN will companion with the Ministry of Resettlement providing catalytic support to the return processes in Jaffna and Trincomalee, by way of a $ 1.2 million project.”
So the United Nations will play a part, through UN’s Peacebuilding Fund, which will initially allocate $ three million, “to establish and operationalize processes for developing peace through reconciliation and accountability by addressing the essential core grievances of minorities in an inclusive and consultative manner.”
Furthermore, the so-referred to as ‘domestic inquiry’ into accountability will be according to unspecified ‘international standards’ (decided by whom?) and have unspecified technical help from the UN, led by the OHCHR, i.e. the very Office of the Higher Commissioner of Human Rights, which is spearheading the international inquiry into Sri Lanka!
The UN is becoming drawn in to the search for a resolution to the core troubles of majority-minority relations on the island as well as the search for accountability and reconciliation.
This has deadly critical implications. If it can aid it, no country makes it possible for the UN a role in such sensitive domestic processes. For instance India wouldn’t hear of any UN involvement in the Kashmir question.
UN involvement in domestic politico-legal processes in two exceptional sets of situations: the country concerned is a failed state or has been defeated in war and is put beneath de facto UN trusteeship or there has been a negotiated end to a civil war in which the UN has played a role or a UN part has been agreed upon as component of the peace settlement.
Sri Lanka fits neither of these categories.
If the UN gets involved in such domestic processes, specifically in an ethno-lingual or ethno-regional context, it generally ends with a single side making use of the UN as leverage to move towards independence or the West employing the UN to do so. Kosovo is a case in point.
Our finest Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar famously quipped that the only role for the UN in Sri Lanka was to aid in the eradication of Malaria by the spraying of DDT. As his parliamentary speech slicing and dicing Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Ceasefire Agreement (published in the Sunday Instances) showed, the cornerstone of Kadirgamar’s foreign policy was a strenuous recommitment to national sovereignty. He was eliminated by an LTTE sniper ten years ago this August. Had he been buried rather than cremated he would have been rolling in his grave at the dangerously intrusive role that his successor and former cabinet colleague Mangala Samaraweera has arranged for the UN to play.
Although we now know what to anticipate in terms of a UN function in Sri Lanka if Ranil Wickremesinghe is elected PM and Mangala Samaraweera and Chandrika Kumaratunga continue to hold essential roles, we also know with no significantly less clarity what we can anticipate from on the Northern and Eastern ethnic front. The TNA agenda has been laid bare in an interview given to the Daily Mirror, by Mr. Sumanthiran M.P. It has three points: (A) the quick release of those he calls political prisoners, (B) the promulgation of a new Constitution to resolve the ethnic concern along the lines his party sees fit and (C) the recognition that genocide of some selection took spot against Sri Lanka’s Tamils. Let Mr. Sumanthiran do the speaking:
“The second situation of course is of the political prisoners. Some measures have been taken to release political prisoners but nobody has been released as however. So we know that those steps have been taken. But we want to see the actual release taking spot. The President recently stated that there was no political prisoner and nobody would be named a political prisoner. That is unfortunate that he says that. The phrase political prisoner has a distinct meaning. Those are the people who are involved in crimes probably, but not for their own advantage but to accomplish political objectives. It is accurate that they are held beneath particular laws. All of these people are held beneath the Prevention of Terrorism Act. And all of them had been accused or suspected of obtaining to have committed offences in achieving political objectives. So the President and the government must realise that they are political prisoners and the phrase has a meaning globe over. Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner. If you had asked the white South African rulers, they would have stated that there are no political prisoners. He was convicted beneath a section of that Act. But the planet recognises that he was a political prisoner. So there are political prisoners and these are political associated detentions. And the President also should use the correct phrase and admit that there are political prisoners and release them now.”
Here Mr. Sumanthiran is engaging, as his party – and Tamil nationalism in general–usually does, in trickery and dishonesty. In his advocacy of the instant release of hardcore Tigers, he shamelessly invokes the name of Nelson Mandela, who by no means consciously targeted or authorized the targeting of a single unarmed, innocent civilian in the liberation struggle—which incidentally was against a minority regime and for democratic majority rule (just the opposite of the LTTE’s struggle). By contrast the tigers engaged in the savage butchery of unarmed civilians of innocents.
Mr. Sumanthiran cannot be unaware that Nelson Mandela was convicted by the courts of a regime internationally condemned as illegitimate an apartheid regime of a white minority state, not a democratic State which represented the majority of its citizens as was and is the case in Sri Lanka.
Sumanthiran’s definition is characteristically deceitful. Even a Nazi fascist war criminal or a butcher of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge perpetrated his savagery, not for “their personal benefit” but precisely for collective political objective! That did not make them mere “political prisoners’ who need to be released!
If there is any individual in a Sri Lankan jail, not because of an act of violence but due to the fact of his or her political views, then such a person is indubitably a political prisoner and ought to be released.
But if a particular person has been convicted by a duly constituted court of law, particularly in an elected democracy, for lethally violent offenses, then they can not be regarded as ‘political prisoners’ who need to be instantly released!
Sri Lankan can, nevertheless, expect precisely such persons to be released back into society, if Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP wins the upcoming election.
That is not the only factor we can expect. Mr. Sumanthiran discloses that the UNP has promised a new constitution if elected one that will ultimately resolve the ethnic issue.
“…But at the exact same time, there is a large national issue that we are concerned about and that wants to be addressed. We agreed with this government that it want not be fully addressed till the basic elections are more than, but thereafter that situation must be provided priority. The government has currently spoken about the passage of 19th Amendment. The Prime Minister said it in Parliament, the Foreign Minister and Minister of Justice as well had voiced that a new constitution would be enacted and the next Parliament must be converted in to a Constitutional Assembly. And the Foreign Minister specifically mentioned in his speech that in that constitution the ethnic situation also would lastly be resolved…”
Mr. Sumanthiran is disclosed at a ‘Managers meeting’ in Jaffna, a report of which appeared in the Thinakkural of May possibly 18th, that there is currently an agreement with the UNP, according to which a new Constitution which is non-unitary in character will be promulgated right away soon after the election.
Finally, Mr. Sumanthiran seeks to legitimize and spin the term “genocide” and seeks recognition for its use. He says:
“The genocide concern is a political slogan. What I said that about NPC resolution was that it was an expression of the individuals. It doesn’t mean the crime of genocide is proved for the international crime of genocide. There must be a tribunal and there should be numerous ingredients of that offence that have to be proved. Now I don’t think that is what the NPC had mentioned. The NPC says that from 1947 these issues had happened and these all are intended to diminish the Tamil people’s states and Tamil people’s lives in this country either by driving them out of the nation, killing a group of individuals, a periodic violence against the Tamil and so on, and they known as it genocide. That may possibly not match with the international crime of genocide, it is not. In truth at the finish of the resolution says the international neighborhood has not accepted this sort of events as genocide. Now you need to recognize that this is also as genocide. So it have to be noticed in total context of people saying that the Tamil people have been suffering for 60 years of protracted violence. And they are saying that is genocide.”
Provided all these public disclosures, it appears to me that the single most important factor about the upcoming parliamentary election is the opportunity it offers to unplug the insidious project of the Ranil-Chandrika-Mangala troika and flush out the trio, thereby halting the massive long term damage they are undertaking to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka to its future as a strong, independent, united nation.