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SL rejects claim of Indian ‘helping hand’ in Geneva

By Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka yesterday strongly dismissed claims that India had intervened on behalf of the government  to thwart UN intervention by amending the US-sponsored United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution captioned ‘promoting reconciliation and accountability is Sri Lanka’, though it voted with the US-Norway grouping.

The resolution received the backing of 24 countries, while 15 opposed. Eight abstained, including Malaysia.

Authoritative officials told The Sunday Island that in line with the rules and procedures of the UNHRC, technical assistance was based on the principal that it could be given only with the consent of the recipient. They insisted that principle was part and parcel of the rules of procedure of the rights council and it would grossly inaccurate to say that India introduced changes to save Sri Lanka.

“We don’t deny that India revised the draft at the eleventh hour. What they introduced was what is contained in the rules of procedures of the HRC,” an official.     

The draft of the resolution was amended to replace phrase, ‘and the Government of Sri Lanka to accept’ with ‘in consultations with and with the concurrence of the Government of Sri Lanka’’. The revised section reads:

“3. Encourages the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide, in consultation with and with the concurrence of, the government of Sri Lanka, advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to present a report on the provision of such assistance to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-second session.”

Sources emphasized that Sri Lanka had nothing to do with the Indian amendment. “It took us by surprise. If it was on our interest, they could have discussed it with us. Instead the amendment involved the US, which moved the resolution and India. In fact many countries, including those supporting the resolution didn’t know about the US-Indian move until the evening of March 21.”

Bottom line was that the US didn’t go to such an extent to thwart a resolution prompting ‘right of the Palestinian people to self-determination’ also at the just concluded 19th sessions of the UNHRC. Of the 47-members, 46, including India voted for the resolution, leaving the US isolated.

Officials stressed that Sri Lanka could have definitely secured more than 15 votes if Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh didn’t throw his weight behind Western powers on March 19, four days ahead of the vote. They alleged the Indian statement made in Lok Sabha, the lower House of the Indian Parliament, was calculated to undermine Sri Lanka.

Had India simply pressed the green button at the UN rights parley in Geneva, we wouldn’t have minded. Although the GoSL could comprehend that domestic political compulsion made it very difficult for India to go against the US resolution, it shouldn’t have thrown a lifeline to the LTTE rump. But unfortunately, India caused an irreparable loss to GoSL’s campaign by making a pro-resolution public statement, which prompted many other countries to re-think their stand, they said. The majority of those who had abstained could have sided with GoSL if India didn’t provide what an experienced official called tacit support to Western powers.

Geneva-based sources described the oral amendment to the draft resolution done on March 21 a cosmetic change and stating the obvious. In fact the recommendation to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to present a report on the provision of assistance to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-second session (in March 2013) was in the original draft.

They emphasized that if not for China, which acted swiftly and decisively in the wake of Indian move, Sri Lanka would have experienced an unprecedented debacle.

Responding to a query, sources said that the LTTE rump and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) had conveniently forgotten the allegations they made against the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) during the Oct 1987-March 1990 period. Sources said that former Indian High Commission in Colombo J. N. Dixit in his memoirs called India’s role in arming Sri Lankan Tamil terrorists as one of the two major foreign policy blunders made by the then Premier Indira Gandhi.

India’s decision to throw its might behind the latest conspiracy in Geneva could be an equally costly blunder on the part of India, sources said. India never investigated atrocities committed by the IPKF, which former LTTE field commander turned ruling party politician, Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan, claimed prompted the LTTE to assassinate one-time Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Karuna is on record as having said that the suicide bomber had been raped by the IPKF.

Sources alleged that in spite of providing a range of assistance to those war-affected in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, India had failed Sri Lanka in Geneva. Interestingly, India had turned a blind eye to heavy criticism of its own human rights record by the UNHRC following its latest study, sources said.

The UN went to the extent of demanding India did away with key security laws, which the Indians say were imperative for their national security purposes.

Sources speculated that India could be closely working with the US on the issue due Sri Lanka’s close relationship with China, which the UPFA believed a traditional and unconditional friend.

India wanted to appease the US and the LTTE, while making the GoSL believe that the resolution could have been worse if not for their intervention despite backing the Western move, sources said.


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