Peer Pressure: Will Another U.N. Resolution Change Sri Lanka?

A draft U.S. resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council aims to pressure Sri Lanka to implement recommendations made by the postwar Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. But it may not work

  • Share
  • Read Later
ISHARA S.KODIKARA / AFP / Getty Images

Supporters of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa hold placards during a protest over the U.N. Human Rights Council's annual session on Feb. 27, 2012, in Colombo

It was an easy decision. When Bangladesh and Vietnam offered cheaper labor, the foreign investors behind Crystal Sweater Lanka, a garment factory, closed shop and moved out. Company officials in its silent factory in Nittabuwa, about 40 km from the capital, Colombo, told TIME they could not compete after the E.U. suspended a concessionary tariff agreement — the Generalized System of Preferences Plus — in August 2010. The suspension of the tariff agreement was part of the E.U.’s efforts to penalize Sri Lanka for human-rights violations.

Now a draft U.S. resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva seeks to tighten these terms in an attempt to implement recommendations made by the postwar Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, or LLRC, and to pressure Sri Lanka’s government to grant eight U.N. officials access to the country. The commission investigated allegations that the government slaughtered civilians in the final months of its 2009 campaign to crush the Tamil Tigers. Though the resolution is likely to be ratified, there is no consensus on whether it will be effective.

(VIDEO: Civilians Caught in the Final Days in Sri Lanka’s Civil War)

Sri Lankan officials insist the island can weather the financial storm. Finance Secretary P.B. Jayasundera told the press that if returns are attractive enough, investors won’t be too bothered about human rights. “We are talking to the U.S. on business deals, we are talking to the E.U. on business transactions — they are going on,” he said.

Others are less sure. Economist Muttukrishna Sarvananthan concedes that U.S. investors are the largest stakeholders in Sri Lankan stocks, but he believes that direct foreign investment will likely to be affected by ongoing diplomatic pressure. “Potential investors from these countries [supporting the U.S. resolution] will be reluctant to invest in a country against which their government has instituted diplomatic action,” he says.

The U.S. has been one of most vocal critics of Colombo’s rights record. On Feb. 26, Robert Blake, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific that the U.S. was disappointed with the Sri Lankan government’s delay in holding regional elections in its northern province and its lack of action on the LLRC recommendations, and he said there was a backward movement in strengthening democracy. After the January impeachment of Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We have also made very clear our view that actions undermining an independent judiciary would impact on Sri Lanka’s ability to attract foreign investments.”

(MORE: Casualties of War: Helping Sri Lanka’s Female Soldiers)

By alienating the U.S., Sri Lanka risks against relying too heavily on Chinese support, Sarvananthan said. Since the end of the war, China has become Sri Lanka’s largest lender, handing out loans over $4 billion. It has also supported the government, effectively shielding it from international scrutiny. Some Sri Lankan officials have shrugged off talk of the upcoming resolution, arguing that any economic fallout could be erased by Chinese support. At present, however, China only accounts for 1% of the country’s total exports.

India is likely to support the resolution, but analysts predict that New Delhi will water down any attempt to impose economic sanctions. In 2012, after it supported a previous U.S. resolution, India publicly said it had worked to introduce a sense of balance into the document. This year, however, New Delhi is under renewed pressure from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, with its majority Tamil population, to get tough on Sri Lanka. On Tuesday, in a dramatic move, a key partner pulled out of India’s ruling coalition over the government’s expected support of the U.N. resolution without toughening up language to include the word genocide, among other things. (The government, for now, remains stable.)

R. Hariharan, an Indian political analyst who in the early 1990s served as the intelligence head of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, said that India would try to persuade Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa to devolve at least some power to the Tamil minority. “I expect India to engineer a middle-of-the-road solution,” he said.

Indian influence was apparent in the latest draft of the resolution that was circulated on Monday night: the document welcomes the Sri Lankan government’s announcement of provincial elections in the north in September, a move that is seen as a starting point for power devolution.

For the time being, even Sarvananthan feels that economic repercussions will be minor, whatever form the resolution takes. There is unlikely to be any major changes in policy or action on the part of Colombo, at least in the short term. Top finance officials like Jayasundera were more worried about the impact of a long drought and oil prices than the impending resolution. In the end, it may be places like Crystal Sweater Lanka, not the government, that feel the pinch.

MORE: Why We Should Be Talking About Sri Lanka

20 comments
davidR
davidR like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

The Sri Lanka conflict is very complex and involved numerous undefined actors (Pillayan, Karuna factions) as well as two standing armies (SL govt and LTTE) in a theater of war where combatants (child soldiers included) were intermingled with numerous civilians that were coralled and held captive by the retreating rebels. Under these circumstances the actions of the conflicting forces have yielded loss of life and thus is prone to criticism. However it is important to distinguish this aspect of human rights violations and not lable the Sri Lanka Govt forces exclusively for all the blame, a lot is the responsibilitiy of the other groups also. It is also important not to use human rights allegations to punish the Sri Lanka govt for taking away one of the only voices of the Tamil peoples in Sri Lanka, namely the LTTE. 

Despite numerous oppurtunities to give up arms, stop terrorist acts and enter the political main stream of that country, Pabarkharan took the Tamil people down the path of a violent struggle. In the end 30+ years of violence, at the loss of countless lives the objective of creating a nation for Tamils in Sri Lanka is over, Tamils dont have a single inch of land to make a case for and above all no political voice except for a bunch of people that live in Europe that claim to know what is of the best interests of Tamils living in Sri Lanka. 

No amount of international pressure will ever take away the soverignity of Sri Lanka as a nation, and nothing will allow for the establishment of a Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka. However, this is ultimately the cause of a lot of Tamil grievances and needs to be addressed. A resolution at the UN should help in that way. The best place for such a Tamil nation is actually in the largest tamil state in the world, where the largest population of Tamils live, and where historically all Tamil culture and history began and continues to grow, in Tamil Nadu, India. Tamil Nadu by defenition means 'Tamil Country'. In the escence of true self determination and offering aspirations for all Tamils in the world to live under self governance under its own internationally recongized boarders would solve all the problems faced by Tamils in the wider world. 

ShivaForJustice
ShivaForJustice

@davidR - If Tamil nadu is a Tamil nation it would have invaded Sri Lanka and attacked it when the war took place in 2009. When Rajiv Gandhi ordered Indian Air force to fly over Jaffna, your Sinhala Apartheid forces were hiding in sheer fear. When the IPKF was in Tamil areas, don't forget the attack in Trincomalee and Ampara, Over 100 million Tamils are living over all the world, progressing very well academically, professionally, politically. Tamil is an official language in Singapore, several senior Ministers are Tamils and Tamils are considered nations builders in Singapore whereas the Sinhala leaders are war criminals and Sinhala Buddhism is full of sexual abuse, hate crimes and violence. You can't hide the Sinhala criminal past and it is matter of time when regime change takes place in India or Tamil Nadu exposes its muscle, there will be an action against the Sinhala Apartheid regime. Someone wrote that the Sinhala also came from India but Sinhala is not a language in India as all were criminals and chased out of India. Is this true?

davidR
davidR like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ShivaForJustice @davidR If Tamil Nadu was a nation, there would be no war in Sri Lanka, Prabhakaran would have lived happily in Southern India and he would likely have entered the political mainstream in that nation. Tamils from all over the world would have flocked to that locale and life would be considerably simpler. You speak of nation builders what do you think the DMK is doing now except building a nation for Tamils in India?

Tamils in Sri Lanka have fought and died for nation hood, and to remain relevant when 80% of the population is Sinhalese, with large portions of mulsims and burgers co-existing as well. It is difficult to make a case for a minority at the expense of a larger population in a single sovereign nation controlled by a single govt. India has achieved this by allowing for statehood. Singapore is a tiny island with strict control over its ethnic and racial compositions, Tamils living in that country are simply second rate to the Chinese majority. Do you think that Tamils in Singapore will ever be able to partition that country for its own as they want to do in Sri Lanka?

The IPKF achieved nothing in Sri Lanka, except leave 1200 dead Indian soldiers on Sri Lankan soil, the LTTE eventually thanked Rajiv Gandhi for this excursion with a garland filled with explosives.

Your bias against the Sri Lanka govt fails to acknowledge the mistakes of the Tamil peoples in Sri Lanka and also the diaspora of Tamils living overseas. You are right that there are strong elements of the Sinhalese community who are racist and act accordingly, but there are also large numbers by far the majority of Sinhalese that care for and live alongside Tamils everyday in Sri Lanka. At the same token you can argue that Tamils are also intrinsically racist and that the LTTE, having ethnically cleansed all muslims and sinhalese from the north for 30years should be held accountable. Those who funded and supported (and continue to support) should also be held accountable, people like Adele Balasingham should be jailed for sending thousands of female Tamil children to their death with a cyanide capsule around their necks. Lest it be forgotten that the LTTE exterminated thousands upon thousands of Tamil moderates that were against their idealogue, have all these diaspora 'human rights' enthusiasts forgotten about this? 

An apartheid is a term given to the segregation of people based on race. I think you will find that there is no such place in Sri Lanka today. There was when the LTTE commanded parts of the north, where only Tamils were allowed to live in that part of the island. Sri Lanka today allows for people of any ethnicity to move freely and reside in any part of its sovereign land irrespective of their ethnicity. Sri Lanka is one nation where many different ethnic groups are trying to survive, where the needs of the many are far more important than the needs of the few.  The government may come and go, leaders will die and be forgotten, but the idea of a communal nation of Sri Lanka will always survive.  

sisiraa
sisiraa like.author.displayName 1 Like

Dr Sathyamurthy who is featured here in this video later admitted he was forced by the LTTE under death threats to falsely accuse the government forces and that LTTE the terrorists are the ones who indiscriminately killed civilians. Why do you not show that video as well?

We in Sri Lanka live now without fear of bombs unlike in Bagdad or Kabul

ShivaForJustice
ShivaForJustice

@sisiraa - Do you know how many Journalists have been under attack, threat, intimidate and murdered in Sri Lanka? Is the removal of the Chief Justice democratic and appointment of a liar as a Chief Justice correct?

Tamils are demanding for accountability and Justice! Sinhala regime and its people exposing their attitude of DENIAL, DENIAL and DENIAL to the world. This is what they have been doing since independence, denial of democracy, denial of rule of law, denial of human rights, denials of all rights...

Kosala2012
Kosala2012 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Israel - Palestine, Iran - Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Libya, Syria, Weapons of mass destruction, Chemical warfare in Vietnam, Hiroshima, Nagasaki,Panama, Unmanned drones killing innocent civilians, Separation of Bosnia, Splitting of Sudan, Forced eviction of the populace in Diego Garcia,Operation Ajax in Iran, Egypt, Illegal Occupation of Guantanamo bay the list goes on and speaks volumes of the destruction and mayhem left by the Human Rights preachers of the west. What did Sri Lanka do? Oh yeah defeated terrorism in its own land! What a massive crime!

MarkSouza
MarkSouza like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Isn't it ironic that on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the biggest war-crime committing nation in the history of humanity (ie The United States) want to  pass a resolution against a country which successfully defeated terrorists?

The US invaded a sovereign country, killed 1 million civilians, maimed and poisoned millions more, caused the death of 5000 of it own soldiers, damaged billions of dollars worth of infrastructure, and put its own citizens in trillions of dollars debt. All for what? The benefit of a few rich people - Iraqis are still suffering and its own citizens got no benefit.

In contrast, Sri Lanka ended a 30 year reign of terrorists with a swift war of 2 years through a disciplined effort, and made incomparable progress resettling civilians and rehabilitating the terrorist cadres. This is unprecedented in history - defeating terrorists totally, and rehabilitating them - even suicide bombers. 

Somehow the jokers in Washington, rather than learning from Sri Lanka, think it is their duty to impose a political solution to a problem that no longer exist. Please mind your own business and settle the problems you created before preaching to others.

Nagara
Nagara like.author.displayName 1 Like

US, UK, Norway and India directly and indirectly helped terrorists in Sri Lanka. India even trained terrorists in India. All because they wanted to see mayhem in a peaceful country and destabilize it for geo political reasons.  Now the same people are trying to fix the blame on SL for eradicating terrorism that plaqued the country for 30 years.  Indian govt. is trying to please its regional allies. Even Sonia who lost her husband to LTTE human bomb is pressed to make statements as if nothing happened. what a shame! All those protesting students in TN are carrying the placards of Prabakaran and LTTE where as LTTE is banned in India, but India is closing its eyes and allowing thugs to attack innocent SL pilgrims in TN with impunity. 

ShivaForJustice
ShivaForJustice

@Nagara Several nations collaborated with Sri Lanka to the genocide of the Tamils. LTTE was a product of Sinhala Buddhist State terrorism and state oppression and the world knows it. That is why UNHRC resolution each year, and the Sinhala modayas cannot understand it. Alleged War criminals are in power in Sri Lanka. 

When politics change in India Indian forces will be in Sri Lanka to maintain law and Order and also put the alleged war criminals at the docks of the ICC.

kandyrala
kandyrala

@ShivaForJustice @Nagara Keep on dreaming...! India is full of it.  They cannot even keep peace in their own country, let alone in another country.  Come to SL and see for yourself how Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims are living in peace & harmony after the elimination of your blood-thirsty Tigers.. Don't talk crap without knowing the reality...

Happierdreams
Happierdreams

@ShivaForJustice@Nagara 

Hi!

Why are U so dependant on India? I hope U realize Sri Lanka is not a state of India as Tamilnadu is? OR dont U?

There's a fine saying we reasonable Sinhalese Buddhist "Criminal Modaya" [thank U 4 the name] go by. Athulath gini pitata nodenna, pithatha gini Athulata noganna - ඇතුලත ගිනි පිටට නොදෙන්න, පිටත ගිනි ඇතුලට නොගන්න. It means to manage Ur own troubles, dont let them be known or managed by others, and just as same, dont let the external problems become Ur own. 

If, as U have the nerve to suggest, India leads forces on us, yea V will crawl under in sheer fear n let them rule. :) - well that's just one of Ur happier-dreams love. like some one told U before all I can say too is "dream-on!"

I like U, in this forum, U r holding up Ur side alone! I love C what U got to say next...

ShivaForJustice
ShivaForJustice

Sri Lanka is no longer domocratic and it is an authoritarian state. The regime has a culture of imputy to war criminals, human rights abusers and those who committed genocide. Recently the regime has interfered with the Judiciary and removed the Chief Justice and appointed a guy who lied about the disappearences of a Journalist. Independent Media and Jouirnalists are under attack, threat and killed.

The British colonialism has created so much pain and human sufferings to the Tamils as Eelam was not separated when the British gave independence. British has a moral responsibility to help the Tamils from Sinhala Buddhist state oppression and terrorism. 

Happierdreams
Happierdreams like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Hi!

 I am so glad U R for Justice. and I am sure U have hit the spot when U commented on the present dismal situation [ on the information available to U] of Sri Lanka.

BUT

Shiv, While U were away, busy with Ur credentials, taking care of Ur  parents & Ur children... 

My 10 year old went to bear fire arms to fight for a dream of an own land, of course,it was farthest from his own dream. My father fell in cross fire, and my mother lost a leg (yes, the bomb was planted by my own people ) My daughter died coz she played with something she thought was a toy - she never got to have a new doll. I went to my people, with whatever could be packed on my rugs, (I promise I never thought of Ur warm new coat) and they put me ahead of them not behind their arms shield. 

My neighbor, by best friend, deserted her house and took a bus. The bus was peppered with bullets on the way. and that was the last I saw of her or her child. The people told stories, and we listened, until the end, but we knew from them, we were not alone in suffering , or in fear, but it was all over, and some one might win and our people said it was us.  

But never for once I gave a thought to those in the far and wide lands of world I have never seen or I never will. All I see and saw, each day  are, the hole in the lifeless body of my baby, whom I caressed and held and fed, with roots n fruit, whatever that soothed his hunger. The little baby whom I dreamed one day will grow into a man. My little gal, in a pool of red sticky blood, whose mingled body I held, though I knew I can never give her back her life. I C what I have lost and I can C nothing else, all that I lost for a dream of another.

Of course, all above is not my story. Its the story of those who suffered in the vanni.

Its not the story of tamils who left those areas, lived in other areas, n fueled the war with money, so if ever the war was won they will have safe passage. And coz they r learned in big schools and Unis, and have money, they will wield the power and influence over those rural ignorant masses, just like the Tamil Nadu politicians exploit the them masses.

I am a sinhalese, but I am human. I have no scruple with tamils, but I hate the LTTE. I hate them coz they lead people into war. I hate them coz they isolated and concentrated a common problem [Corruption and Poverty ] on the tamil community alone and lead our country to further doom.    

the last I got to tell U is this, U people, who abandoned our country and ran away when the troubles brew [ on the grounds of discrimination, etc too] has less to say in these matters than any of us on this soil. Coz it was us who went though the turmoil, the fear, the terror and the hopelessness.

When a war is won, it is the defeated that gets the spotlight and the sympathy. Its real and a fact of life. Like everything was in the past.

US has no love for U, or the EU or the UK who 'abandoned' sri lankan tamils. They are using U, just like they use everyone else. U r a learned person. Take off the lenses U r wearing and look around.

U GOT USED BY LTTE AND THE INDIANS ONCE. DON'T GET USED AGAIN.

:)

kandyrala
kandyrala like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ShivaForJustice 

Keep on dreaming...! Sri Lankans will NEVER allow a seperate Eelam, nor Tamil terrorism ever again.  Tamils in SL have more freedom and opportunities today than ever before, thanks to elemination of blood-thirsty LTTE who have killed more innocent Tamils.  Sri Lankans will never ever give into bogus western HR organizations that receive funds from the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora.  Get over your bias against SL, and open your eyes to the reality.. 

ShivaForJustice
ShivaForJustice

@kandyrala When the LTTE was showing its muscle, you were hiding in sheer fear. When the regime change takes place and now Tamil Nadu is boiling to show the Tamil Power sooner or later. Tamils know Sinhala criminals and nothing more!

kandyrala
kandyrala

@ShivaForJustice @kandyrala  Where is your mighty LTTE power today..? Toilet Nadu is full of corrupted Tamil politicians, trying to score points by bashing SL.  As LTTE learnt its lesson from the mighty SL Army, Toilet Nadu jokers should realise that they are playing with fire by trying to bully SL and its people.  We Sri Lankans will NEVER give into any foreing power, which includes India as well.  So, piss-off... 

LeelaLeelawar
LeelaLeelawar like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Sri Lanka has passed $3,000/- GDP per person. Therefore low cost garment industry is not sustainable any more. Hence, we must fade out such industry and move on to high priced garments or more value added and high-tech products.