31 August 2013

Taking stock of Navi Pillai’s ‘Worst’

The lady came. She saw.  She was honest enough to say that although this is her longest visit to any country as head of UNHRC, she didn’t see much.  That’s her problem though and she can’t complain, having sat on an invite for more than two years.  She came, she saw, and she released a statement.  What has she said and what should one make of it?

Well, it depends who is trying to make what of what she has said of course, but let’s take a stab at it anyway.  Let’s first state bias (something that ‘neutrals’ who are ideologically driven contrary to claim do not).  I am suspicious of Navi Pillay.  She is selective in her targeting of countries, plays pussycat to big name nations and acts tiger to nations that big name nations she’s terrified of want to target for censure.  
She is quick to pick up horror stories, slow to check reliability of source.  She has the gumption to talk about which department best fits which ministry and about constitutional enactments of her preference, as though she is Viceroy, but is tight-lipped about the US Patriot Act. Tokenism is her ‘out’ when it comes to Sri Lanka’s detractors, imply that allegation is proven crime her pat-line on Sri Lanka.  She doesn’t compare and contrast because that would amount to stripping in public.  Understandable. 

But what has she said? 
She says Sri Lanka is heading towards authoritarian rule.  Correct.  Not news.  That piece of ‘news’ is 35 years old (someone should give her a copy of the 1978 Constitution).  Can it be changed? Yes.  The Government has the numbers.  But do politicians have the will?  Are we naïve enough to believe that those with power will agree to have wings clipped?  Saying and doing are two different things.  Criticism is good, political activism is better, but regime-change projects are different from system-change projects.  Tougher. 

As for her enumeration of various ‘disturbing developments’ she is perhaps swayed by inflated versions of interested parties.  Inflation serves politicians and detracts from the aggrieved.  On the ground, there is disappointment, but is there widespread ‘horror’?  No.  That’s unfortunate of course, but Pillay can blame the inflators, for the people are not unaware of their track records during and after the long struggle to rid the country of the terrorist menace.
She has threatened Sri Lanka in no uncertain terms.  She has said that if Sri Lanka doesn’t set up credible (i.e. independent, comprehensive and transparent) processes to investigate allegations, then calls for international inquiry will continue.  Leaving aside that the ‘if’, if complied with, never really resulted in the ‘then’ of if-then clauses as far as the movers and shakers of the international community are concerned, there’s nothing to stop the Government of taking this as a positive and even friendly suggestion.  The downside is that we live in a world where once a country is targeted, nothing done is deemed ‘enough’. 

The most important part of her missive is the following:
‘The LTTE was a murderous organization that committed numerous crimes and destroyed many lives.  Those in the diaspora (sic) who continue to revere the memory of the LTTE must recognize that there should be no place for the glorification of such a ruthless organization.’

First, she should have mentioned those in Sri Lanka who ‘revere the memory of the LTTE’ to that note.  Secondly, she should understand that the human rights activists and journalists she is concerned about (and whose glorious lies have been repeated enough, expanded, believed and written as fact in reports she has read and which no doubt color her reading) are part of that group.  The Government can and must ask her to make the connection, with adequate substantiation of claim of course.  Fourth, Messers Suresh Premachandran, R. Sampanthan, M. Sumanthiran and Chief Ministerial aspirant Vigneswaran will now be required to explain their conduct vis-à-vis this ‘diaspora’, the diasporic-funds, moral support and so on.  
Whereas Pillay wants the Government to set up mechanisms to investigate allegations (note, ‘allegation’ is not the same as ‘proven charge’), she has squarely concluded that the LTTE committed crimes against humanity.  Now the Government can insist that she follows up, by taking to task the approvers, beneficiaries and glorifiers of those horrendous crimes.

The Government can and must take this as the base document for all future engagement with the UNHRC, with a permanent introductory note on all missives quoting Pillay’s LTTE take.  The Government can and must work out modalities for proper investigation, not because Pillay wants it, but the people need to know. 
She spoke of ‘truth, justice and reparations for people’s suffering during the war’. Excellent!  Can Pillay please use her friends in high places to get the ‘Diaspora’ to cough up on behalf of the LTTE?  And can Pillay please ask Dr. Manmohan Singh to compensation Sri Lanka for Delhi’s considerable role in causing untold suffering in Sri Lanka?  

As for authoritarian tendencies, Pillay must understand that it is our business and not the business of the international community.  Pandering to the regime-change lobby will only give further credence to the general perception that the UN and UNHRC are out of order.  That will strengthen regime.  That will postpone democratization and put constitutional amendment on the back-burner (without gas). 
Her piece disappoints Eelamists and their tag-along circus of internally displaced politicians and ideologically misplaced 'human rights activists' and 'journalists' more than it would dismay the Government.   Pillay has done a poor ‘worst’, the Government might conclude.

[You can write directly to Malinda Seneviratne at msenevira@gmail.com]