09 November 2014

Mr Zeid’s integrity gripe

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is upset with the Government of Sri Lanka. He said, ‘The Government has refused point blank to cooperate with the investigation (into allegations of human rights violations in the last phase of the war); such refusal does not undermine the integrity of an investigation set up by the Council – instead it raises concerns about the integrity of the government in question.’  He then asks, ‘Why would governments with nothing to hide go to such extraordinary lengths to sabotage an impartial international investigation?’

What he has not mentioned (why not?) is that the Government has explained ad nauseam its position on the matter detailing the lack of consistency, impartiality, rigor and integrity on the part of his office and especially his predecessor, Navi Pillay.  He is correct though when he says such refusals don’t undermine the integrity of the said investigation.  It is not the refusal that questions integrity but the pathetic track record of his office, especially with respect to its dealings with Sri Lanka.    

This was abundantly apparent in the collusion of his office with the inglorious machinations of the United States of America to insult, humiliate and in other ways harass Sri Lanka in multiple sessions of the UNHRC.  The US Embassy in Colombo as well as senior diplomats representing countries that have consistently sided with the USA in these moves have been interfering in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka for years and especially in what can only be called ‘the manufacturing of “evidence” to support a conclusion that has been desired’.  

Sri Lanka has every right to object.  Sri Lanka has every right to question Zeid’s integrity when his office, so ready to unleash invective on Sri Lanka, indulges in scandalous navel-gazing when certain countries have rejected the commissioning of similar processes against them.  In the case of Israel, for example, the UNHRC has to contend with irrefutable evidence whereas in Sri Lanka’s case, Zeid is working with vague allegations made by persons of dubious repute citing equally compromised ‘witnesses’. 

This is why his last question is ridiculous.  He asks, let us repeat, ‘Why would governments with nothing to hide go to such extraordinary lengths to sabotage an impartial international investigation?’  The issue is, Mr Zeid, the absolute lack of integrity on your part and that of your office.  Simple.  If you have any doubts, try answering the following questions.

Why has your office not questioned the investigating team about ‘evidence forms’ getting into the hands of terrorists?  Does it not bother you that signatures have been collected on unfilled forms?
If the Government did nothing about such activity then indeed it would be supporting ‘interference’ in the UNHRC investigation, compromised though that process is.  Mr Zeid should be applauding the Government for acting swiftly on this issue and bringing to light something that clearly indicates that the entire investigative process has been compromised beyond rectification.
Mr Zeid dismisses the entire matter by saying that his team is equipped to detect fraud.  Collusion in fraud and a track record of selective targeting on the part of his office doesn’t really give credence to the claim, but let’s go along with it.  He ought to be concerned by the fact that some people are actively engaged in a massive fabricating exercise.  Worse, the agent of fabrication in this instance has had close relationships with certain diplomats in Colombo as well the Tamil National Alliance, the principal Sri Lankan political entity that had been supporting the patently flawed UNHRC exercise. 

It has to be mentioned that what holds for Mr Zeid holds for the Sri Lankan Government as well. If track-record is what we are going by then there is an integrity deficit on the part of the Government as well, not on the issues that bug Mr Zeid but things like the due process of the law.  There are murders (e.g. Lasantha Wickramatunga) that are yet to be concluded.  There are crimes that are solved within hours and others where there is clear foot-dragging on the part of investigating authorities.  Integrity is not something that can be claimed in part.  It's something you have or you don't have.  You cannot say for example, 'I can boast of 70% integrity but Mr Zeid's score is just 15%' and on that argument claim moral high ground.  

We have the right to take issue with both parties here.  Nevertheless, on this particular issue, it is clear that it is Mr Zeid who has got egg on his face.   Integrity is the issue in contention here.  It would be much simpler and so much more honest if Mr Zeid came out with the truth.  All he has to do is to put the following in Diplospeak: ‘We have, for reasons we don’t have to state but which you all know, decided on the conclusion that is convenient to our purposes, we are in the process of manufacturing evidence to support this and so Sri Lanka can go fly a kite!’

Malinda Seneviratne is the Editor-in-Chief of 'The Nation' and can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com


Sylvia Haik said...

It is probable Sri Lanka has legitimate grounds to object to the UNHCR investigations, but denying them access is not the answer. We could challenge the integrity of the investigators and name our own to join their team. Incidentally, your mentioning the "Evidence Forms" is a bit mischievous and the UN High Commissioner has already said they are forgeries and did not originate from his office.