UN dimensions

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 00:05 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

EVENTS are moving apace in Sri Lanka’s relations with the international community, ahead of the United Nations (UN) General Meeting next week.

The comments by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay strongly urging the Sri Lankan Government to review all security and detention related legislation gives an indication of the expectations of the international community.

In response the Special Envoy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe made a strong defence for Sri Lanka based on the progress of resettlement and reconstruction that has taken place in the country since the end of the war.

He dwelt extensively on the progress made in resettling over 200,000 Internally Displaced People and reintegrating around 6,500 former LTTE cadres following the end of the conflict. He also insisted that the Government was doing everything within its power to reduce these numbers even further and that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) would formulate future strategies for achieving sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.

Unfortunately, most of this sounded like old wine served in new bottles. Outside of the spat that sprang from the controversial Darusman report being released to Pillay’s office as well as that of the President of the Human Rights Council, there were few new developments relayed regarding the reconciliation measures being taken by Sri Lanka.

It is true that there was an oversight in not informing Sri Lanka of the dissemination of the report done on the initiative of the UN Secretary General. However, this is mere protocol and unlikely to tilt the balance in favour of Sri Lanka, particularly since the contents of the report were made public months ago and it is realistic to expect that the members of these UN organisations have already been privy to it.

Perhaps more emphasis should have been placed on the Government’s plans to include all party leaders on measures taken to amend the Criminal Procedure Code. Similar mechanisms could have been outlined for other regulations that are in the pipeline to be introduced in lieu of Emergency Regulations. For after all this is one of the main focal points mentioned by Pillay.

The presence of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert O. Blake in the country gives added poignancy to the events taking place in Geneva. His meetings with the President and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), according to reports, have been positive so far. Using his visit to leverage a more positive response from the UN would also be timely.

Once the hurdle of the UNHCR sessions are over, Sri Lanka’s chances at the UN General Meeting are stronger. Nonetheless, there is a grave need to ensure that this process does not end with the UN sessions and is further strengthened within the country even after these events have wound up.

Lifting of the Emergency has been applauded by the world. Now Sri Lanka faces the challenge of keeping those positive overtures intact while formulating a progressive legal structure for internal use. The test is in finding a legal framework that secures the interest of all ethnic groups. In the face of such a challenge, UN input would be part of the foundation.