Dismissing UNHRC resolution categorically, Sri Lankan presidential candidate commits diplomatic blunder before election

Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

Sri Lanka People’s Party presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dismissal to follow up with the resolutions of the present government with United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appears to be pushing the island back to diplomatic crisis, if he elects to the presidency in the presidential held in November.

Translations by Creative Content Consultants

At his first press briefing held on October 15th, Gotabaya Rajapaksa categorically rejected going ahead with the Geneva process on human rights. Prof. G.L. Peiris, another leader of the party, intervened at that moment to complement saying the agreements were contrary to the constitution of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka co-sponsored UNHRC resolution 40/1 in March 2019 that urged the country to implement the human rights undertakings it made before the international community in September 2015 as per resolution 30/1.

Resolution 30/1, also co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, seeks a number of measures implemented by the government of Sri Lanka including accountability on serious human rights violations by the end of the war, promotion of reconciliation and looking into the issues of the missing persons. In 2017, further two years was granted to fulfill the undertakings and Resolution 40/1 is extension of the period by two more years further but with a frown.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa says he will abrogate this procedure and start from the point he says the Mahinda Rajapaksa government stopped before the collapse of the regime.

Immediately after the end of war, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Sri Lanka on an invitation from President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In the joint statement issued at the end of the visit, Sri Lanka promised to undertake a local investigation regarding the human rights violations in Sri Lanka and provide a solution to the ethnic problem that caused the civil war.

While the delivery of the promise was delaying, in 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a tri-member committee chaired by Indonesian politician Marzuki Darusman to investigate the human rights violation in Sri Lanka. After recording evidence from about 2,300 witnesses, the report accused Sri Lanka of using cluster bombs to kill civilians, assassination of journalists who criticized the government and shelling hospitals and other restricted areas. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), now defunct after the total annihilation of its leadership and the majority of the cadres, was also accused of very serious human rights violations and war crimes.

The government of Sri Lanka rejected Darusman report and proceeded with Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) which released its report in 2011. As per a recommendation of the LLRC, Sri Lanka government appointed a commission headed by Maxwell Paranagama to investigate the war crimes allegedly taken place at the end of the war. The commission estimated 7,000 – 7,500 people had died due to war. Offices for missing persons and reparation implemented by the current government are actually the recommendations of Paranagama Commission.

The government that elected after 8th January 2015 also proceeded with the recommendations of the LLRC and Paranagama Commission through Resolution 30/1.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, if elected, vows to discontinue the process of five years but he will still have to adhere on the bases of Paranagama Commission and the LLRC his own government appointed. He vaguely said all incidents in the history, not only the incidents of the time of his brother, should be investigated.

It is very easy to say that they will re-start but will they be successful in terms of negotiating with UNHRC a total revamp of a process of five years.

Has Gotabaya committed a serious diplomatic error even before elected to the post of President of Sri Lanka? What are his plans to handle this extremely fragile affair which can directly impact on the politics and economy of the island nation which shoulders a severe burden of debt.