Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The West is taking up East on SL HR matters

The United Nations Human Rights Council clashed Tuesday over two competing resolutions on how to provide aid to thousands of people displaced by the Sri Lankan military campaign against the Tamil Tigers.

The first resolution, tabled by Switzerland and supported by European countries, proposed that international aid agencies be given direct access to those affected by the long-running war, including more than 300,000 people housed in government camps. It also calls for investigations into possible war crimes during the conflict against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A counterresolution, tabled by Sri Lanka and backed by powerful allies including China, Russia, and India, calls for the UN to cooperate with the Sri Lankan government in providing humanitarian assistance.

During the session, Sri Lanka clashed with Western countries as it attempts to curtail investigations into allegations of war crimes, reports The Times of London.

Tuesday's special session on Sri Lanka was requested by 17 nations, including France, Germany, Britain, and Canada. A Human Rights Commission special session has been convened on only 10 previous occasions.

Observers at yesterday's preliminary meeting in Geneva, which was described as acrimonious, said that the 47-member Council was divided over the European resolution, with 18 countries for and 18 against. The other nine are undecided….

The two competing agendas clashed in the preliminary meeting when an Asian bloc led by India, Pakistan and Malaysia argued for today's special session to be abandoned altogether. India, China and Egypt walked out of the meeting after this was refused.

Sri Lanka went to the meeting backed by powerful new allies such as China, which provided much of the military hardware for the final offensive that defeated the Tamil Tigers last week after a 25-year war….

Several undecided countries, including Chile and Mexico, are pressing for a compromise resolution incorporating elements of both drafts.

International human rights groups are dissatisfied with the European resolution because it fails to call for an international war crimes inquiry and instead suggests that Sri Lanka launch internal investigations, reports Agence France-Presse.

Although the European-led text targeted violations during the conflict and backed investigations, the watchdog group UN Watch dismissed it as "a joke".

"Despite the call by UN rights officials for an international inquiry into possible war crimes, the proposal instead asks Sri Lanka to investigate itself -- it's a joke," said UN Watch's executive director Hillel Neuer….

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch said that the Council needed to examine the creation of an impartial commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of human rights violations committed by both parties as a matter of urgency.

But the Sri Lankan government denies such reports and insists it is in favor of a national reconciliation campaign. On the eve of the Human Rights Commission session, a Sri Lankan government official said international monitoring was unacceptable, reports The Nation, a Sri Lankan daily news paper.

The international community is welcome to provide Sri Lanka with assistance, but it should be according to the wishes of the people of this country, including the people of the North, Senior Presidential Advisor and MP Basil Rakapaksa said in a message to the international community.

"If they want to be our friends, then they should be genuine friends. We do not want 'monitors,' we need partners. Be our partners in this task to help our people," Rajapaksa said.

An opinion piece in an Indian newspaper, the Deccan Herald, argues that the Human Rights Commission's disagreement on how to tackle Sri Lanka is evidence of a global power play underway in the Indian Ocean.

In essence, Sri Lanka is the theatre where Russia and China are frontally challenging the US's incremental global strategy to establish NATO presence in the Indian Ocean region. The US has succeeded in bringing the NATO up to the Persian Gulf region. The NATO is swiftly expanding its relationship with Pakistan. But it is Sri Lanka that will be the jewel in the NATO's Indian Ocean crown. Russia and China (and Iran) are determined to frustrate the US geo-strategy. The hard reality, therefore, is that geopolitics is sidetracking Sri Lanka's Tamil problem.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government last Tuesday rejected the Tamil Tigers' offer to participate in the country's democratic process after being defeated last week, reports the BBC.

In an interview with the BBC, [Sri Lankan defense secretary] Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the LTTE rebels could not be trusted to give up "terrorism"....

He said: "I do not believe the LTTE can enter a democratic process after years of their violent activities." He added that there were "enough democratic Tamil political parties in the country" to represent the Tamil minority....

Mr Rajapaksa also said the work of government forces was not yet over as they had to recover weapons hidden by the LTTE in the northern and eastern regions.

Read More....


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