Lowest point in foreign policy management since end of war: Eran

Wednesday, 24 March 2021 00:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday slammed the Government for its foreign policy failures, saying yesterday’s vote at the UN Human Rights Council had demonstrated how few friends Sri Lanka had retained in the international community.

SJB MP Eran Wickremaratne, issuing a statement after the vote in Geneva, said the adoption of resolution marked the lowest point in Sri Lanka’s foreign policy management since the war ended in 2009. “Government was stumbling from one crisis to another. Poor economic management, dismal management of COVID-19, and now to disastrous management of foreign diplomatic relations.”

Wickremaratne claimed that the UNHRC resolution was heavily weighted towards the correction of the infringements of human rights of the past 16 months over the issues pertaining to the military conflict that ended over a decade ago. 

“The Government has compounded its policy failures by appointing the wrong persons for defined tasks. The COVID-19 virus containment should have been led by health professionals and scientists from the outset. Our diplomatic initiatives should have been led by foreign policy professionals,” he charged.

The SJB lawmaker called for a “fresh approach” that will implement human rights initiatives as identified in Sri Lankan commission reports, where investigations and accountability are dealt with by domestic mechanisms that meet the concerns of the international community. 

“Arriving at the truth is an essential part of the healing and reconciliation process. This coupled with a fresh diplomatic initiative could avert a further economic and financial crisis within the next couple of years,” Wickremaratne noted. 

Wickremaratne claimed that an urgent fresh appraisal was necessary to “minimise the negative economic consequences of the resolution”. “We must not risk legal battles in foreign jurisdictions, travel bans, economic and trade embargoes. The economic consequences will be catastrophic,” the SJB lawmaker said.

The UN Human Rights Council does not have legally binding powers to impose trade or economic sanctions on UN member countries and cannot impose travel bans or asset freezes even on individuals.  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on individual countries to consider bilateral targeted sanctions, asset freezes and travel bans specifically against Sri Lankans accused of major human rights violations. The UN has not threatened countrywide sanctions and the issue of UN sanctions do not arise from yesterday’s UNHRC resolution.