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Dinesh asks the Human Rights Council to hold the scales even

FILE PHOTO: Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunewardena / MFA handout photo

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena put up a stout defence of his country at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Wednesday, calling on the Council to “hold the scales even.”

He urged the Council members not to go “by hearsay, unilateral action or one angled doubtful sources but adhere to its guiding principles. Insistence on such ever-expanding externally driven prescriptions notwithstanding our continuous cooperation and engagement with this Council can pose numerous challenges.”

Sri Lanka is faced with a hostile resolution by the so-called “Core Group” of countries that include Canada and Germany which calls for the Council to ensure the prompt, thorough and impartial investigation and, if warranted, prosecution of all allegations of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law including for long-standing “emblematic cases.”

That was preceded by a report by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet which called for targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for gross Human Rights violations as well as progress on “emblematic cases” such as the murder of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga and the disappearances of journalists and Human Rights defenders.

The Resolution, according to the UNHRC Spokesman Rolando Gomez, also requests the Office of the High Commissioner to enhance its monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including progress on reconciliation and accountability.

The Resolution also asks that a written update to the Human Rights Council at its forty-ninth session be presented and a comprehensive report including further options for advancing accountability at its fifty-first session, both to be discussed in interactive dialogues.

Gunawardena said that Sri Lanka’s “heroic armed forces militarily neutralized the LTTE in 2009 after three decades of conflict. The Sri Lanka Government acted in self-defence to safeguard the unitary state, sovereignty and territorial integrity from the world’s most ruthless separatist terrorist organization.”

He pointed out that the “LTTE is the only terrorist organization in the world which has killed two world leaders: a serving President of Sri Lanka and a former Prime Minister of India extending its terror beyond the borders of Sri Lanka.”

“End of terrorism guaranteed the most cherished of all human rights – the right to life of all Sri Lankans – Sinhala, Tamil, and Muslims.”

He accused the countries proposing the resolution of being “hegemonic forces colluded against Sri Lanka in bringing an unsubstantiated resolution against Sri Lanka which was defeated by the support of friendly nations who remain by Sri Lanka’s side even today.”

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He said there was a history of resolutions that were presented to the Council on “purely political motives. In each instance, Sri Lanka presented the procedural improprieties, and how such processes could set a dangerous precedent affecting all member states of the United Nations.”

“The Government which assumed office in Sri Lanka in 2015, in a manner unprecedented in human rights fora, joined as co-sponsors of Resolution 30/1 which was against our own country. It carried a host of commitments that were not deliverable and were not in conformity with the Constitution of Sri Lanka. This led to the compromising of national security to a point of reviving terrorist acts on Easter Sunday 2019 causing the deaths of hundreds” he said somehow drawing a link between the resolution and the wanton act of terror by a small extremist group.

“The rejection of this resolution by the peoples of Sri Lanka was clearly manifested in the mandate received by His Excellency President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in November 2019. Based on this mandate I announced at the 43rd session of this Council that Sri Lanka would withdraw from co-sponsorship of the resolution. I also stated that Sri Lanka would remain engaged with the UN system including this Council,” he went on.

“It is regrettable that despite the spirit of cooperation with the HRC and its mechanisms, elements working against Sri Lanka intend to table another country-specific resolution based on this OHCHR Report. This rejected report by Sri Lanka has unjustifiably broadened its scope and mandate further, incorporating many issues of governance and matters that are essentially domestic in any self-respecting, sovereign country,” he added.

“As the Council is aware this is a critical time to the entire world in the last hundred years where we need to be united in our efforts to overcome the Covid19 pandemic and to revive battered economies. I appeal to the members of this Council to take note of our continued engagement and cooperation on its merit and support us by rejecting any resolution against Sri Lanka. We believe that the extent to which the resources and time of this Council have been utilized on Sri Lanka is unwarranted, and carries a discouraging message to the sovereign states of the global South,” Gunawardena said. (Colombo, February 24, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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