Survival, not solutions

Thursday, 30 January 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

It is now certain that the US will table a third consecutive resolution on Sri Lanka at the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in March. The Government ever aware of the danger has been preparing for the “worst case scenario” in the words of Government Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and will hardly raise an eyebrow over the latest development. But it will undoubtedly continue to cost Sri Lanka deeply in terms of its international reputation. The announcement of a third resolution comes days ahead of Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal’s delayed visit to Sri Lanka. She arrives on Friday to discuss the resolution and has on a previous occasion warned the international community’s patience was “wearing thin”. Special envoys of the President as well as President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself have been scurrying around the world lobbying enthusiastically to line-up votes in its corner. Traditional stalwarts such as Pakistan saw Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva engaging in convivial chats while new frontiers were explored by Rajapaksa himself during his landmark visit to the United Arab Emirates in a lightning visit that would surprise only those unfamiliar with Sri Lanka’s complicated dance at the UNHRC. Countries in the Middle East, Africa and even far-flung South America have been appealed to in the third quest to save face before the international community. The result of such elaborate appeals will be seen in due time but it is almost certain that India embroiled in its own election drama could have less interest in the UNHRC outcome than it did in previous years. However, this could be counterbalanced by the fact that Tamil Nadu remains a key swing State and its wily politicians will be sure to keep a beady eye on developments across the Palk Strait. The UK, regardless of Prime Minister David Cameron’s brave ultimatum, has admitted that gaining enough support at the UNHRC to push through a resolution with sufficient teeth will be an uphill task, especially since Russia, Saudi Arabia and effervescent China are very much sympathetic to the Sri Lanka. It has diluted its threat to push for an international probe by demonstrating that if Sri Lanka made a genuine overture to credibly hold investigations, the UK would “support” the island. Bolstered by strong friends as well as others with vested interests (Australia springs to mind at this point), Sri Lanka could repeat its previous record, which is to dilute the resolution so that it does not have a marked effect. Yet, Sri Lanka’s challenge as ever remains on not just maintaining but growing its international reputation and the Government remains inconsistent on this point. Outside of the flurry of high level hobnobbing sessions, little effort has been made to promote genuine reconciliation and peace within the country. The Government will trot out arguments of “needing more time,” but these ring more hollow each year, especially since key issues such as the Trinco student murders were announced as nearly completed five years ago. Increased attacks on minority communities, complete stagnation on meaningful power devolution and promoting reconciliation and human rights on a broad scale continues to elude the Government. Even maintaining a professional foreign service seems too much to achieve at this point and continues to cost the country its reputation. It seems that the Government’s only interest is in surviving to fight another year.