Playing politics with the UN Panel report

When the United Nation’s Secretary General (UNSG) Ban-ki-moon appointed a panel of experts to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said that the Panel was not a formal investigative body. However, now the Panel has submitted a report that resembles a report of an investigation.

One may argue that the members of the Panel had to obtain an amount of knowledge on the alleged human rights violations before they give any advice to the Secretary General and may justify any investigation by them. But given the Panel’s “findings” as they are called, it seems to have gone too far and it resembles an investigative body.

The reactions on the report of the Panel by political parties in Sri Lanka are interesting as almost all parties seem to address to their constituencies while Opposition parties attempting to justify their adverse views on the Government as well. The Opposition parties based in Colombo and generally critical of the Government on the human rights situation in the country are in a quandary with the appointment of the UNSG’s panel. They are attempting to get along with the public mood that is in favour of the Government while criticizing the same Government for human rights violations. The TNA also as a means to address its constituency has welcomed the report in the face of its ongoing talks with the Government. 

Euphoria on war victories was created among the majority of the people living mainly in the southern parts of the country since 2008 with the fall of the LTTE fortifications and more and more people have joined this bandwagon. No party including the UNP that did not have a positive approach towards the forward march of the security forces until the fall of Killinochchi to the troops, dares now to hurt the feelings of this triumphant crowd.

UNP in a statement on Wednesday said that it would be willing to extend its maximum cooperation to the government to deal with international pressure if the government made a determined effort to rectify its mistakes by restoring democracy and repealing the draconian laws used by the state to stifle dissent.

UNSG’s Panel report deals with the past and the UNP’s conditions to the Government could be fulfilled in future. Had the allegations of war crimes levelled by the Panel report really been committed in the past, then they cannot be justified just because Government treats the Opposition well in the future. Also had they not been committed by the Government it is the duty of the Opposition to defend the Government in spite of any ill-treatment of it by the Government.

The JVP in a statement says that it is the present regime that has allowed the UN Secretary General to act in this manner using human rights issues in Sri Lanka. During the two years since the end of the war the present regime totally failed not only to establish democracy in the country but also to protect human rights, it said.

No one would disagree with the UNP that the democratic/human rights of the people should be protected now and in future. Also the JVP’s contention that human rights should have been protected since the end of the war is incontestable. However, it is not through perusing those incidents after war that the Panel had made its “findings,” rather it refers to incidents took place during the last lap of the war in the Mullaitivu District.

The ruling party leaders, in spite of their fears expressed publicly, seem to be jubilant over the Panel and its report, given their overreactions with it, as they can again ride over the patriotic wave. President Rajapaksa referring to the UNSG’s Panel report said at a public meeting that he is prepared to face the electric chair, a declining execution method in the US, without any foundation of him being personally targeted. Unlike the Serb leaders of the nineties President Rajapaksa is in good terms with the West, the driving force behind the UN.

Now that the UNSG’s Panel had submitted its report, the UN has an obligation to cite examples of waging war without violations of human rights, especially with the help of the Western countries and the Israelis who are still at war in some parts of the world. A comparison of civilian victims of Gaddafi’s forces and those of NATO forces would be further helpful.

However, the most pertinent question here is whether the Panel would contribute to the much needed reconciliation or otherwise.   

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