16 June 2014

Rights and wrongs of the UNP position

Some may believe that it was a masterstroke by the Government to go to Parliament with the issue of the team appointed by the UN High Commission for Human Rights.  The ruling party has the numbers.  Secondly, the opposition (barring the TNA of course) would be caught in a bind because if they oppose the Government’s position it would amount to (or at least interpreted as amounting to) complicity in ill-willed, pernicious, selective action against Sri Lanka by sections of the international community which, in the end, would run counter to the ‘reconciliation-need’ in whose name these moves are being made. 
The United National Party (UNP) in a recent media statement has pointed out the obvious: the investigation will go ahead whether or not Sri Lanka cooperates.  The UNP points to ‘egregious errors committed and lackadaisical inaction displayed’ by ‘the ruling family cabal’ and blames this for inviting international scrutiny which, the UNP implies, is something the party is not happy about.
The statement thereafter elaborates on ‘egregious errors’ and ‘lackadaisical inaction’ throwing into that heady brew acts of commission and omission that have little to do with the matter at hand, the allegations regarding the final stage of the operations against the LTTE.  Pointing to promises about implementing the horrendously flawed and illegally constituted 13th Amendment serves no ‘national purpose’.  If the UNP was principled it would insert the relevant caveats even while emphasizing the error of ‘making pledges for the consumption of the international community’.  Instead the UNP happily indulges in Eelam-speak, throwing in the word ‘unified’ (not ‘unitary’, it must be noted) along with ‘free’ and ‘democratic’. 
 The UNP, interestingly, points out (legitimately) the fact that persons clearly involved in human rights violations are in or close to the government.  These violations of course did not take place during the period that is to be reviewed.  Interestingly, again, the UNP does not take the UNHRC to task for limiting inquiry to a few months when in fact a violation-ridden conflict (are there wars without any, the UNP does not ask) dragged on for close to three decades. 
The UNP is correct: investigations will proceed with or without Government approval (and of course with or without Parliament sanction).  The UNP calls the Government to ‘cooperate with the UNHRC’ even as the party opposes ‘international scrutiny’.  That’s a contradiction.  Moreover, it calls to question the true intentions of the UNP including its claimed patriotism. Indeed, if the UNP is so opposed to international scrutiny the party would not (as it has in the statement) sing hosannas to the same busybodies, the pernicious ways of whose movers and shakers Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot feign ignorance about.  ‘Credibility’ moreover is something of a joke in this day and age when the likes of known charlatans such as Navi Pillay happen to be sitting in judgment. 
On the other hand the UNP is absolutely correct in pointing out that the Government does not help Sri Lanka’s case by time and again thumbing its nose, so to speak, at the edifice of justice in the country, from the Chief Justice right down to your constable.    The statement has its strength, therefore, not in stated positions with respect to the UNHRC’s well-documented witch-hunt, but as explication of general ills of the day.
Thus, even while the Government can (as it probably would) tear to pieces the statement on account of its confused and contradictory content, it would do well to avail itself of the opportunity provided by the UNP’s pledge ‘to support the Government to restore the systems and institutions of democratic governance’.  The UNP wants as ‘price’ the restoration of the 17th Amendment (flawed, but still an important democratizing document), return to civilized values (nice wish, but hard to legislate for) and the rule of law (eminently ‘doable’).
All this needs to be done, not to satisfy Navi Pillay or any of the insatiable loud-mouths in the international community but to stop and reverse the erosion of democracy in Sri Lanka. If the Government so chooses it can call the UNP’s bluff on this, set up a mechanism to review the constitution and institutional arrangement and correct the flaws therein, with the support of the UNP, perhaps even with Ranil Wickremesinghe heading such a body.  The support of the TNA, the JVP and the DP, all of whom share the views of the UNP on this issue, can be solicited and even obtained.  After all even the most ardent SLFPer cannot morally oppose the correction of constitutional flaws and other deficits that compromise the rule of law. 



Nilooka Dissanayake said...

Malinda, can you change your options to include more than agree, disagree, beautiful and funny? That would be helpful.
Strongly agree. Especially the concluding para.