Western agenda comes into sharp focus – Editorial, Sunday Observer
The Western agenda came into sharp focus with the controversial remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navaneetham Pillay at the end of her week-long tour of Sri Lanka last weekend.
Though she made a desperate attempt to prove that her conduct as the UNHRC chief is neutral and transparent by claiming that she began her tour of Sri Lanka with an open mind without prejudice, the cat was out of the bag during her final news conference.
It is crystal clear that her statement at the last press conference was carefully worded. While trying to debunk the widely-believed allegation that she is a Tiger sympathiser labelling the LTTE as a ruthless terrorist organisation, she overstepped her mandate as the UN Human Rights Chief saying that the Government is heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.
There is no doubt whatsoever that Pillay had transgressed her mandate and the basic norms which should have been observed by a discerning international civil servant, by making a political statement.
It also runs contrary to the many assertions, the High Commissioner made about the unfettered access she was provided. The freedom people enjoy today compared to her last visit to Sri Lanka in 2000 and the vibrant political debates and election campaigns which she witnessed and acknowledged reflected the political pluralism enjoyed by the people of Sri Lanka.
It goes without saying that the judgment on the leadership of the country is better left for the people of Sri Lanka to decide, rather than being caricatured by extraneous forces influenced by vested interests. Does she have the right to give a political twist to her visit by passing judgment on the political leadership of the country, which had received an overwhelming mandate from the masses at successive elections?
It is an open secret how Pillay made sweeping statements that pampered the LTTE during Sri Lanka’s 2006-2009 battle against terrorism. Knowing only too well that it is a conflict of interest on a person who has roots in South India to pass international judgments on Sri Lanka, Pillay labelled the LTTE as a terror outfit and that there should be no place for the glorification of such a ruthless organisation.
What is most baffling are Pillay’s double standards which are not in keeping with the status of a person who holds the high office as the UN human rights chief. The wily efforts by her delegation to pay a floral tribute at Mullivaikkal where the LTTE leadership was vanquished by the Security Forces in May, 2009 came a cropper.
If Pillay and her OHCHR delegation wished to pay tribute to those who had perished during the LTTE’s three decades of terror, it should have been done at a venue common to all victims and certainly not at the spot where LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran met his waterloo.
At no point of time when the UNHRC chief’s itinerary was drawn up, that a visit to Mullivaikkal was indicated. When the unscheduled visit was brought to the notice of the local authorities, within a matter of hours, it was duly turned down by the Government. More intriguingly, it became evident that the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, who represents the UN Secretary General, was unaware of such an event being planned. On the other hand, it is clear that international media coverage for the controversial event had been arranged behind closed doors with three international television agencies invited directly from Geneva by the spokesperson of the High Commissioner, well in advance of her arrival in Sri Lanka. This amply demonstrates the selective manipulation of the media in Sri Lanka.
Pillay’s unbecoming conduct in Sri Lanka also included an unscheduled meeting with a prominent Christian priest in Trincomalee. Her pow-wow with Rev. Fr. Y. Yogeshwaran, a prominent human rights activist of a non-governmental organisation, Jesuits Academy-Foundation for Nonviolent Communication, at Inner Harbour Road, Trincomalee, was made known to her local security personnel only at the eleventh hour.
Though the UN had always waxed eloquent on national reconciliation after the dawn of peace, Pillay’s abominable conduct seems to be an attempt to dig into old wounds and rob Sri Lanka of its hard-earned peace. It would have been far better had she given more recognition to the Government’s efforts to usher in a better tomorrow for the people in the North and the East. Although the Government has spent approximately USD three billion on reconstruction and rehabilitation in the North and the East, the international community seems to be reluctant to acknowledge the development efforts for reasons best known to them.
If one were to carefully analyse the incomprehensible conduct of Pillay during her stay in Sri Lanka and what she had told the final news conference, it is abundantly clear that she had toured Sri Lanka with a hidden agenda.
The West is hell-bent on having a Government here which would dance the fandango round it. It does not favour the national leadership which does not fall in line with it. Western elements with vested interests are doing their damnedest for a regime change in Sri Lanka so that they could have a leader who could be remote-controlled from Washington.
As Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has pointed out, certain Western powers yearn to have a Sri Lankan Government that is closely aligned with its interests and may seek to influence the country’s destiny. They also seek to influence Sri Lanka’s destiny so that it would not pursue the independent course it is now following.
The interim report she produced is indicative of a prejudiced mind and in no way shows the fairness and open-mindedness of an official undertaking such a mission, the longest she has spent in any country. Pillay acknowledges progress and positive developments half-heartedly. What is disturbing is the tone and substance of her report and the lack of fairness and balance.
Pillay has no empirical evidence whatsoever to support her claim that Sri Lanka is moving towards authoritarianism. Perhaps, this had been a statement that Pillay had planned even prior to her arrival in Sri Lanka.
People in Sri Lanka had elected four governments and four presidents under the present Constitution. Elections to various bodies had been held almost every six months, thereby permitting people to exercise their democratic right. Most importantly, the masses had reposed implicit faith in President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Government at successive elections.
The leadership of President Rajapaksa and the UPFA Government have been increasingly endorsed by the public demonstrating their deep confidence in the government. This, no doubt, is the essence of a vibrant democracy – permitting people to express their views freely. The democratic right of people in the North, which had been suppressed by the LTTE through the bullet has been restored. They exercised their franchise at the last Local Government election in the North. But strangely the UN Human Rights Commissioner had turned a blind eye to it.
The prejudice and lack of fair-mindedness was further shown in her talk of numerous alleged war crimes. Pillay also made references to the presence of the military in the North and the fear instilled in the people and women there. This runs contrary to the UN officials’ reports in Colombo who belie this claim, having themselves interviewed over 200 people, chosen by the UN itself, 90 percent of whom said that they were comfortable with the living conditions there. Why does Pillay turn a blind eye to such evidence produced by the UN itself? What is her justification to ignore such positive reports by the UN mission in Colombo?
Countries should be objective when viewing Sri Lanka and moreover, the voting pattern in the UN Human Rights Council which did not seem to be based on the merits of the case, is highly questionable. Pillay’s initial report lacked the fairness, open mindedness and balance that were expected of her.
The UN human rights body should by no means be used as a platform to intimidate countries which do not fall in line with what the West dishes out.
Sri Lanka has a fearless leadership which does not sing hosannas to the West, but only works for the betterment of the people who elected them. The democratically elected leadership in Sri Lanka is only accountable to the people who voted for them and not the LTTE sympathisers who had elected certain Western politicians elsewhere.
President Rajapaksa’s political sagacity has won true friends across the globe who would stand tall and protect Sri Lanka from all overwhelming odds.