01 February 2013

There are Big Matches and 'Big' Matches

March is ‘Big Match’ time in Sri Lanka.  ‘Big Match’ as in cricket between rival schools, i.e. rivalries on account of long standing cricket encounters that mark the end and highlight of the season for the particular schools.  Since of late, though, as far as Sri Lankan politics is concerned, the big March-match takes places not at the Oval, SSC, the Galle Esplanade, Asgiriya or any such cricketing venue but in Geneva, Switzerland. 

It’s all about ‘Human Rights’.  It’s all about praise and blame. Well, more blame than praise, for only tokenism is reserved for the latter as in ‘You’ve done this and that’ followed by a thundering ‘BUT….’  Ladies and Gentlemen, we are talking about resolutions on Sri Lanka tabled and to be tabled at the Geneva sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.  ‘The Island’ correctly asks editorially whether it is ‘on’ or ‘against’, implying that it is probably the latter. 
The United States of America led a bunch of EU countries in a knuckle-rap resolution in March 2012.  Previously, Switzerland, a country which believes every country should be like Switzerland, regardless of wide differences in history and context, similarly moved on (against) Sri Lanka in a previous session. India backed the US position last year.  This year, senior US officials state that a follow-up resolution, marked ‘procedural’, is to be tabled in Geneva.

These are said to be ‘friendly’ countries.  That ‘friendship’ they articulate by ‘keeping Sri Lanka informed’.  That’s like declaring war on a country and claiming that the we-informed-you part of the declaration amounts to ‘friendship’.  When Country A tables ‘on’ Country B and Country B objects, then there is clear disagreement.  ‘Friendship’ is thereafter not a valid descriptive.  Country A can say ‘this is in your best interest’ but that would be infuriatingly supercilious. 
Sri Lanka is not an issue-free country.  Sri Lanka, however, is managing its various tumors far better than countries with far greater wealth in terms of handling post-conflict problems.  If ‘human rights’ is the (inflated) issue, then there are countries that have the right to point finger on account of track records that are of the eyebrow raising kind but nothing more, and there are countries that need an immediate and long mirror-check.  The USA and India for example, but not excluding Switzerland for its horrendous record of religious intolerance and of course the xenophobic and Islamphobic  countries of Europe. 

In Sri Lanka’s case there are allegations which are moreover made by people of highly dubious integrity.  If one were to take Israel, there are proven facts.  Same with the USA.  Now the USA is Israel’s ally and friend to the point where it is not clear who writes whose agenda.  That ‘friendship’ allows Isreal to give UNHRC the proverbial finger, with the full blessings of the USA. 
The USA for its part should be first friend to itself and turn the rights-abuse searchlight inwards.   Rev. Jesse Jackson said in Geneva on the sidelines of last year’s sessions that the owner of the Drones are criminals against humanity. That statement had to be squeezed out from him of course for the good US Citizen was until that point playing what appeared to be a Washington brief, castigating all and sundry except the President of the USA.  ‘Drone attacks’ are policy executions.  Innocent people die.  And drone attacks are but one of many crimes against humanity perpetrated by the USA.

And so the circus comes to Geneva again.  The same set of acrobats and clowns will do their routine numbers.   Resolutions will be passed.  Will it help Sri Lanka, though?  Well, considering the political preferences of the local support staff of such moves and their histories of complicity in moves to destabilize Sri Lanka including the whitewashing of terrorists who perpetrated monumental crimes against humanity, few would be impressed.  What it might do is to harden the hardliners and give them the moral high ground: ‘We have treated the enemies of the state as though they are the most innocent and most wronged in the country, and this is the reward?  Well, flower-that!’ 
The problem for Sri Lankans is that it also gives the regime the moral high ground simply on account of preposterousness and the fact that the US talking human rights is made for gut-wrenching guffaws.  It makes it that much more harder for those who truly want more accountability and transparency, constitutional reform that institutes more robust checks and balances, and better governance overall. 

And if this is what ‘friends’ do, then it is better to give Geneva a news-miss and go to see the Dharmasoka-Devananda Big Match in Ambalangoda.

['The Nation' Editorial, February 1, 2013] 


Anonymous said...

How strange that Israel and Sri Lanka seem to find themselves in the same corner as far as the UN and UNHCR are concerned?

No doubt our diplomats are now in close consultation with their Israeli counterparts on israel's latest strategy....