|And ready to brain-fade again, by the looks of it!|
Way back when Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government was getting slammed left, right and centre by the ‘international (sic) community’, especially at the UNHRC, his detractors were thrilled. Little did they care that the accusers were tainted in ways that made Sri Lanka look pretty innocent in terms of (alleged) ‘war crimes’. Rajapaksa was accused of being moronic in his foreign policy. Dark stories were spread about impending sanctions. The removal of the GSP Plus facility was thrown in as evidence and a sign of worse things to come.
The previous regime resisted all moves to interfere in the affairs of the country including direct involvement in judicial processes. It was a foregone conclusion that Sri Lanka would time and again be bested in votes taken in the UNHRC, apart from the first vote with respect to the conflict when Dayan Jayatilleka was the Permanent Representative in Geneva. A good battle was fought and lost, as expected.
Rajapaksa didn’t do himself any favours back home. Corruption, wastage, nepotism, serious compromising of the Rule of Law and other such negatives slowly but surely brought just enough forces together to throw him out of office.
Today, the very same international community is going easy on the current regime. Why? Because they have this government has shown greater commitment to getting things right by way of reconciliation, transitional justice, transparency and what not?
What do have now? We have a regime that is same-same as the Rajapaksas with a key difference. They’ve adopted Rajapaksa Ways in record speed. Whereas it took the previous regime more than five years to lose the plot, it has taken this government less than 2 to lose it, if they had a plot in the first place that is. And this is best evidenced by the short-sighted, irresponsible and sophomoric thinking with respect to dealing with the international community (via the UNHRC) on human rights, transitional justice and so on.
Prince Zeid has not exactly patted this government on the back, but he’s not swishing any whips either, as was the forte of his predecessor. He is still calling for hybrid courts.
What do the President and the Prime Minister have to say?
The President has clearly said that there will be no foreign judges in judicial procedures to probe war crimes allegations. That’s a blatant snub on the Consultative Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms. Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene has said that the President and the Government have full confidence in the judiciary and legal processes. “We have extremely eminent and experienced judges and our judges have served in various countries and global organizations that have given much credit to the country,” he said. The issue of establishing a hybrid court does not arise, as far as that component of this coalition government is concerned.
As for the other half, the Prime Minister has said that a hybrid court was not politically feasible and as such a feasible alternative should be found. His words:
“Setting up a hybrid court is not politically feasible because such a move would need a referendum. Against this back drop, how can we fulfill the expectations of the international community? Let’s get together and think of a feasible alternative for such a court.”
And what do the strongest backers (and now approvers) of the forces that ousted Rajapaksa have to say? Jehan Perera, writing about the Governments performance in Geneva puts it well.
“During their stay in Geneva, the Sri Lankan delegation was able to meet with most important parties at the side events to the official conference. This included meetings with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and with UN Human Rights Commissioner Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein and with the ambassadors to the UN of various powerful countries. Some of those who are currently playing a decision-making role in UN processes have had previous engagements with Sri Lanka and are in a position to make a comparative analysis of the situation in Sri Lanka as against other countries. They tend to be impressed at the overall developments in Sri Lanka which they can compare with the deterioration to be found in many parts of the world.”
So now it’s about relative merits. Sri Lanka is better than Myanmar. One can’t help observing that Sri Lanka was always better than a lot of countries (including the USA, UK, Canada and the EU) in terms of dealing with terrorism AND, more importantly, in sorting out post-conflict issues such as reconstruction, settlement of the displaced, restoration of democracy and rehabilitating hardcore terrorists, people with a combat history and adjuncts in the cause of terrorism, from whose grasp, let us not forget, some 300,000 civilians held hostage were rescued. Try beating that!
But that’s not what this government did. The UNHRC officially recognized all this and then duly forgot, but then again, the likes of Perera never even acknowledged all this for reasons that are obvious.
The problem with the Government’s current position is what G.L. Peiris has pointed out. Prof Peiris asks, correctly, “who approved the UNHRC Resolution that Sri Lanka co-sponsored with the USA?” That Resolution clearly shows that Sri Lanka is amenable to the involvement of foreign judges. Didn’t the President and the Prime Minister know back then that a) Sri Lanka has competent judges and a credible judicial process (as the President now claims) and b) that such mechanisms are untenable (as the Prime Minister now claims)? Were they, like all politicians, merely playing the age old game of seeking the postponement of the inevitable in the absence of a coherent, pragmatic alternative approach?
it is clear that an international community that is sorely lacking in integrity should not be shown any respect. This Government was let down by the champions of righteousness (corrupt though they are in this respect). Today the Government is looking to a less-friendly China for help. Well, the previous regime appears to have got everything right in this respect. They knew what the international community was about. They knew who had the bucks and who had the swagger. They blew it domestically.
This government is close to blowing it domestically. And they’ve read the ‘international’ all wrong. In Geneva, they suffered a brain-fade. That’s putting it mildly. They’ve remained brain-faded since then and demonstrated the fact this year as well.
In the very least, the Foreign Minister has shown gross negligence, total absence of intelligence, and utter political immaturity. That’s only if he acted on his own steam, which again is hard to believe. That particular brain-fade buck floats upwards. And whether or not it is acknowledged, it sticks.
Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: malindasene