The battle begins afresh

Saturday, 28 December 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

One of the biggest challenges that will face Sri Lanka in the first quarter of the New Year will be the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in March. Already steps are underway by the US to evaluate Sri Lanka’s accountability and human rights standards ahead of the event that could see a record third consecutive resolution passed on the Government. Ahead of the March UNHRC session, the United States will dispatch its newly appointed Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal to Sri Lanka next month to review the progress of implementing measures outlined in the previous resolution on Sri Lanka, according to local media reports. Biswal, a US diplomat of Indian origin, replaced Robert O’ Blake who previously served in this position. She was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs on 21 October, 2013. She is due here in the second week of January to hold talks with top leaders of Sri Lanka across the political divide. It is learnt that she will hold talks with External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris on the steps taken by the Government in the implementation of the measures outlined in the US sponsored resolution adopted by the UNHRC. Sri Lanka will be taken up again for review at the session scheduled for March, 2014. UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay submitted her report to the UNHRC based on her fact finding mission to Sri Lanka in September this year. Meanwhile, the Government will also initiate diplomatic action to brief the international community on achievements made on the ground in the implementation of the LLRC recommendations. For that purpose, Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga will head for Geneva during the latter part of January to brief the permanent representatives of different countries, ahead of the UNHRC session. Reports also indicated that a suggestion by UNP MP Sajith Premadasa to dispatch a trio of highly respected experts, namely former Ambassadors Dayan Jayathilake and Tamara Kunkunayagam who headed Sri Lanka’s fight at UNHRC in previous years along with international law authority Justice C.G. Weeramantry was shot down by the Government. The merits of this decision will likely be evident in March but the Government is also under intense pressure to push ahead with the implementation of the LLRC recommendations and begin credible investigations of the missing person’s commission. However, it is unclear how much of impact other measures such as the war damages assessment by the Census and Statistics Department will have and if the steps taken by the Government will be enough to stave off more censure from the international community. Britain, Canada and the US will continue to lobby for an independent investigation into allegations of deaths of civilians during the last phase of the war. However, with China, Russia and Saudi Arabia remaining on the UNHRC as well it is likely that Sri Lanka can stave off its detractors one more time. However, achieving real reconciliation and accountability at home as well as brushing up its reputation internationally will very likely remain tough challenges for the Government.